Affirm Press Mentorship Award 2018


Thank you to the editorial team at Affirm Press for selecting the writers that will participate in the Varuna & Affirm Press Mentorship Award 2018. These writers and their manuscripts are:

The Things She Owned by Katherine Arguile
Flume by Amanda Robinson
I Shot the Devil by Ruth McIver

Varuna received 115 manuscripts from writers across Australia for the 2018 Affirm Press Mentorship Award. The manuscripts were each double-read in the first selection process, . and a shortlisted selection as well as the complete set of applications with manuscripts were sent to Affirm Press for their final selection. The Affirm Press editorial team made their decision partly based on the strength of the writing, and the potential of each book to connect with an audience.

This Affirm Press Mentorship Award includes a one-week residency at Varuna including the opportunity to work with Affirm Press editors Ruby Ashby-Orr and Cosima McGrath while in residence.

“After reading the quality of writing here I’m truly impressed by the Varuna assessors ability narrow a selection of 115 manuscripts to 15. It was a tough enough job for us to whittle the shortlist down to our final three but we’re delighted with our chosen winners. Cosima and I are very excited to meet and work with Katherine, Amanda and Ruth at Varuna in October.” 

Ruby Ashby Orr, senior editor.

Thank you to all of the writers who submitted, and we wish you the best with your writing. Thank you also to the Affirm Press editorial team Martin Hughes, Ruby Ashby-Orr and Cosima McGrath who were dedicated, thoughtful and supportive to our applicants throughout the process and to Varuna assessors Alex Craig and Mark Tredinnick.

Assessors’ comments:

Alex Craig

It was a privilege to be involved in assessing the submissions to the Affirm Press Mentorship Award 2018. My fellow assessor, Mark Tredinnick, and I read 115 entries over a period of weeks. To read so many works of literary fiction where the serious pursuit of craft balanced with a desire to tell a captivating story was a delight. There is no lack of ambition here, and the overall strength of this year’s submissions and dedication evident in the development of these novels is a wonderful indication of the health of Australian writing.

The shortlist Mark and I agreed on has an astonishing depth and range. The novels shortlisted traverse literary noir, historical fiction, crime, domestic fiction, novels of ideas and psychological thrillers. Some demanded to be chosen because of compelling voice, others for their brilliant execution of plot and world building. We agreed on the top seven, others were worthy of long discussion and debate about their inclusion. Ultimately all that made the shortlist are ready for the editorial process which the incredible opportunity of the Affirm program affords.

Thanks to Mark for his intelligent and insightful assessments, and to Amy and Veechi for managing the process with grace and aplomb. Most of all thanks to all of you who submitted. There’s many great novels in development among this year’s submissions. Keep writing!

Mark Tredinnick

We read 115 applications for the Affirm Press Mentorship Award at Varuna. It is humbling to encounter so much creativity and brilliance, and it is challenging to make decisions that favour some over others. There was so much craft and dedication, intelligence and imagination on display across these offerings from writers whose ages ranged from 20 to over 65. To read was to travel through hundreds of lives, troubled and blessed, like all our lives, and through cityscapes and outbacks, through pasts and futures, through hells and heavens, gardens and mean streets. Art carries civilisation forward; literature forgives us for being human—it sings out humanity, it cries our peril and it reminds us of all we have to endure, the mysteries that abound, the hope that endures all suffering. The works that stood out fashioned worlds and times and places and scenarios it was impossible not to believe in and enter into. Like the best literature they had attitude and they had place, and they were made of sentences rich and accomplished and various as ecosystems, the nourishing terrains that Indigenous ways of knowing speak of. They were cool, and they were moving, funny and sad. They made one’s life seem larger and more legendary; they made one feel smarter and wiser, reading them.

Affirm Press will end up with a shortlist of new manuscripts any publisher would kill for. My thanks to Alex Craig for her dedication, and for the grace with which she negotiated the many manuscripts on which our views, because of our tastes, differed. The first seven manuscripts on the shortlist stood out to both of us. It was harder to settle on the next five, and there were many manuscripts we had to, one or both of us, let slip, that were in many ways at least as strong as those we settled on. I’m glad that our shortlist represents the overwhelming percentage of applications from women writers. I’m glad out selection includes noir, literary fiction, short stories, historical fiction, psychological thrillers and novels of ideas. I’m glad, too, that the works we’ve chosen engage with issues that challenge us in our daily lives at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century, many of them issues that have always challenged us and always will, some unique to out times: belonging and alienation, love and desire, PTSD, addiction and depression, how to remember and how to forget, how to age and how to stay alive and how to marry innocence and experience to make a life that’s worthy of one’s suffering.

Thanks to Amy and Veechi for making this process as smooth as it was and for accommodating me when life got full and deadlines hard to meet. Thanks to everyone who submitted, You inspire me. You inspire us all.

Clive Jones