Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 10, 2018

2018 Deborah Cass Prize winner

The winner of the 2018 Deborah Cass prize has been announced.  This prize was set up to help emerging migrant writers towards publication: the winner receives $3000 and a three-month mentorship, plus an introduction to Black Inc publishers and an opportunity to be published in the Mascara Literary Review.

The Prize honours the life and work of the late legal academic and occasional writer, Deborah Cass. The granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, Deborah became a prize-winning professor of International Law at the London School of Economics before her death to cancer in 2013.  (Deborah Cass Prize for Writing website).

The following is from the press release, with thanks to Dan Cass and James Button on behalf of the Deborah Cass Prize committee:

The 2018 Deborah Cass Prize for migrant writing has been won by Karina Ko for her story, Things I Used to Believe.

Judges Christos Tsiolkas, Nyadol Nyuon and Tony Ayres described Karina’s story, a prose poem about the ghosts who stalk the lives of children and adults in a family divided between two cultures, as “coherent and captivating, the work of a natural writer.”

Karina, whose parents migrated from Hong Kong before she was born, is an arts-law graduate from Sydney who is working on a collection of short stories in her spare time from her job. Karina told us:

“As with most pursuits that we care about, I experience some self-doubt with my writing. This is one of the first times that I’ve shared my writing outside my little circle. It has also connected me with other writers so that we can encourage and motivate each other.

Thank you so much to everyone involved for making this prize happen.”

Second prize was won by Emily Sun for her story, ‘Dying’ from Maybe it’s Wanchai, and third prize by Su-May Tan for her story, The Origin of Things.

All three finalists received their awards from ABC presenter and Meanjin editor Jonathan Green at a well-attended and lively presentation of the fourth Deborah Cass Prize at Abbotsford Convent last Wednesday night.

The judges described this year’s shortlist of nine as the strongest of the four years of the prize’s existence. Unlike in previous years, when the winners and finalists seemed clear-cut, this year, little separated the top seven or even eight stories.

Many guests at the event were struck by the great goodwill towards this prize that exists among a growing and increasingly large body of writers and their supporters. Writers who have entered the prize are building an online alumni network to support each other and share opportunities to promote their work.

ANZ LitLovers is part of that groundswell of goodwill for this prize and I look forward to hearing more of these writers and those who were shortlisted too.  My previous experience with a Deborah Cass prizewinner was The Fireflies of Autumn by Moreno Giovannoni, which won in the first year of the prize in 2015, and has been noted as one of the Best Books of 2018 at the SMH.  (See my review here).

Watch out for these shortlisted authors in the future!

  • Shannon Anima (Canada) “Bread of the dead”
  • Lyn Dickens (Singapore) “The resurrection of Tuesday Goodman”
  • Zoe Ghani (Afghanistan) “Pomegranate and fig”
  • Karina Ko (China) “Things I used to believe”, first prize
  • Nasrin Mahoutchi-Hosaini (Iran) “Taking care of eggs”
  • Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga (Rwanda) “Fell our selves”
  • Marianna Shek (China) “The lady on the dark side of the moon”
  • Emily Sun (Malaysia, Vietnam, China) “Maybe it’s Wanchai”, second prize
  • Su-May Tan (Malaysia) “The origin of things”, third prize

If you value the work this prize is doing and are in a position to donate towards the continuation of the prize, click here.


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