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Hachette Australia, along with the Richell family, is thrilled to announce that Aisling Smith, author of Petrichor, has been awarded the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers for 2020.

The award was presented today, in partnership with The Guardian Australia and The Emerging Writers’ Festival, as part of a virtual event premiered on Hachette channels.

The 2020 Richell Prize received over 800 entries and Smith’s winning submission was one of the five shortlisted.

‘The quality of this year’s shortlist was outstanding. I’ve laughed out loud, been moved beyond words and had to take a deep breath and ponder,’ said Louise Sherwin-Stark, CEO, Hachette Australia.

‘A huge congratulations to Aisling Smith and the four wonderful shortlistees,’ said Ruby-Rose Pivet-Marsh Artistic Director & Co-CEO Emerging Writers' Festival. ‘We are particularly proud that this year's cohort all hail from Victoria, which is a huge achievement in amongst the many challenges that this state, and indeed the wider community, has faced this year. We can't wait to see more of Aisling's work, and are so proud to champion the many exciting emerging voices that the Richell Prize continues to uncover each year.’

The judges said of Smith’s winning entry, ‘Petrichor announces an assured and evocative new Australian literary voice. Smith, using the disintegration of a marriage, explores powerful themes around communication, race, culture and family. Aisling’s writing is evocative and sophisticated, and the story is one all the judges want to read much more of.’

In accepting the prize Smith said, ‘It’s been a year of such widespread isolation for everyone. Certainly, that’s been my own experience of the pandemic. And this has been echoed in the experience of writing, where an already solitary activity has had to proceed with very little engagement with community, often feeling directionless or even as though you are writing into a void. Against this backdrop, winning the Richell Prize feels to me like a moment of real connection.’

The aim of the Richell Prize is to unearth, support and nurture new Australian writing talent. The winner will receive $10,000 in prize money, to be donated by Hachette Australia, along with a 12-month mentorship with one of Hachette Australia’s publishers. Hachette Australia will work with the winning writer to develop their manuscript with first option to consider the finished work and shortlisted entries for publication. As well as promoting the prize, The Guardian Australia will publish an extract of the first chapter of Petrichor and a profile on the winning writer.

The 2020 judging panel included Vanessa Radnidge, Publisher at Hachette Australia; Hannah Richell, bestselling author of The River Home; Galina Marinov, Member Services Development Manager at the Australian Booksellers Association; and Jon Page, General Manager at Dymocks Sydney.

Hachette Australia and Hannah Richell would like to thank The Emerging Writers’ Festival and The Guardian Australia for partnering with them to make this prize a reality. The Emerging Writers’ Festival would also like to thank Simpsons Solicitors for assisting them financially with the administration of the prize.

This prize is named in honour of the late Matt Richell, former CEO of Hachette Australia. Matt was incredibly passionate about discovering and nurturing Australian writers and it is in this spirit we celebrate today’s announcement. Without the writers there would be no prize – so congratulations to Aisling, the shortlisted authors and all those emerging writers, who entered this year’s prize.

Read an extract from Petrichor on The Guardian Australia website.

Find out more about The Richell Prize and past winners here.

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