Monash Prize winners announced at launch of EWF16

A huge thank you to everyone who entered the 2016 Monash Undergraduate Prize for Creative Writing. The prize is now in its fifth year, and we had a record 469 entries from undergraduate and honours students across Australia and New Zealand, which is incredible! The winners of the prize were announced last night at the Emerging Writers’ Festival Opening Night Gala by EWF Ambassador Chandani Lokuge.

The Emerging Writers’ Festival would like to thank Monash University for its ongoing education partnership with us, to help provide learning and career development to young and emerging writers. Thank you also to our excellent judges, Dr Mridula Nath Chakraborty of Monash University, Mandy Brett of Text Publishing, and Abigail Ulman, author of ‘Hot Little Hands’.

The judges loved reading your submissions: “Like any literary prize judges,” they said, “We have been tasked with ranking apples against oranges. We found quite different strengths in most of the pieces, such that it’s not strictly accurate to talk in terms of ‘better’ or ‘worse’. We have simply identified a range of qualities that each of us (bearing in mind our different tastes) found more or less persuasive. The judges all felt that it was a strong shortlist—so strong that, although we have managed to agree on a winner and runner up, we would also like to offer some honourable mentions.”

As announced last night at The Coopers Malthouse Merlyn Theatre, the winner of the $4,000 prize is Phoebe Chen, of the University of Sydney, for ‘Ghost Story’. The judges said of Chen’s work “the writing is intelligent and assured; the story has heft and the language commands attention. There is a slightly elusive, off-kilter feel that is ambitious and original—and takes a great deal of skill to pull off. The writer has gone for something unconventional and made it work.”

The winning Monash University entry is Lok Yiu Calvin Fung (pictured), for ‘The Beggar and the Glimpse’, awarded $1,000. The judges commended the piece for “successfully addressing the moral tug-of-war between political action and traditional family values, taking recent political history as the subject matter. The immediacy of the story and the depiction of unfolding events were compelling. Good writing in an unconventional (non-Anglo) idiom.”

The runner-up, for ‘Bustle and Hum’ is Sophie van Waardenberg, of the University of Auckland. The judges commented that the story is “immediately attractive. Crisp, energetic, evocative, moving. The writing is lovely, polished but fresh with a touch of humour. The structure and, particularly, the ending are strong.”

Honourable mentions were given to Morgan-Lee Snell of the University of Melbourne for ‘Albino’, and Jackson Freud of RMIT’s Bachelor of Creative Writing for ‘Far Northeast’. The judges commented “The interiority of [Morgan-Lee Snell’s] story was reflected both in the narrative voice and through the claustrophobic settings of backyard, television, bath tub. The stasis of the narration was an apt vehicle for the point of the story.” And of Freud’s they said “This story has a strong, clear narrative arc, with symbolism that elevates the story without becoming heavy-handed, and a heartbreaking ending.”

Congratulations to our winners and runners up, and congratulations to all those who entered. We hope to read your entries again next year, and see your work across Australia’s literary landscape in the years to come.

The judges:

Mandy Brett Mandy Brett is a senior editor with Text Publishing, where she has worked since 2002.

Abigail Ulman was born and raised in Melbourne. She has a Bachelor of Creative Arts from the University of Melbourne/VCA and was a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University. Hot Little Hands is her first book.

Dr Mridula Nath Chakraborty is the Acting Director of the Monash Asia Institute, Monash University, Melbourne. Her latest edited collection of essays, Being Bengali: at home and in the world (Routledge 2013), is an enquiry into the socio-intellectual history of this eclectic linguistic group from Eastern India and Bangladesh.