Ruby-Rose Pivet-Marsh, Artistic Director and co-CEO, Emerging Writers’ Festival said: ‘Thank you to this year's judges, who had the incredible and immense task of narrowing this year’s wonderful longlist down to five shortlistees over the past few weeks. The Richell Prize unearths so many wonderful writers and this year is no exception. Congratulations to the shortlistees – we are so thrilled for you all.’
Fiona Hazard, Hachette Group Publishing Director said: ‘Demonstrating that creativity has not been diminished in these times of disruption, this year there were over 850 Richell Prize entries. Hachette, the Richell Family and the Emerging Writers’ Festival would like to thank every writer who was brave enough to enter their work.’
Every entry was read by two readers before the judging panel of Hannah Richell, bestselling author; Katy Downey, bookseller at The Leaf Bookshop; Jasmin McGaughey, editor and writer; Robbie Egan, from the Australian Booksellers Association; and Vanessa Radnidge, Hachette Head of Literary and Non-Fiction, were presented with a longlist of sixteen writers.
After careful reading, discussion and a judges’ meeting to debate the qualities of each work, the judges have picked five writers for the 2021 Richell Prize shortlist.
They are, in alphabetical order by surname:
Odette Des Forges, Chasing Sadie
A chilling opening premise drew the judges into this story of a troubled woman wrestling with secrets from her past. Both a coming-of-age narrative and a mystery, this dual narrative immediately created a sense of suspense. Chasing Sadie engages with the shame and loathing of our alcohol-infused culture. The depiction of friendship and the hints of how past relationships and lives lived can impact a sense of self felt relatable and captivating. The judges saw potential for Chasing Sadie to develop into a strong, commercially viable novel.
Kay Harrison, Flip the Bird
From the very beginning of this novel, the characters’ authenticity is gripping. A beautiful rendering of the joy of coming home to Australia and the sadness of unreached potential. Rich in descriptive detail and sharply observed dialogue that is powerful and authentic and used to excellent effect, Flip the Bird has both literary and commercial potential. This is a poetic, sophisticated and layered read that contains believable, well-rounded characters and an evocation of place that is impressive. A superb piece of writing with a narrative arc that promises a journey that is both intelligent and lyrically satisfying. Tension and tragedy underline each moment.
Simone Jordan, Tell Her She’s Dreamin’
A powerful story about growing up Arab-Australian, of fighting for recognition and representation, of challenging systemic hierarchies and rising to the top of a fiercely competitive and often overtly sexist industry. The story of Jordan’s migrant upbringing and her love of hip-hop music is heart-warming and inspirational. Her intelligence and determination see her navigate the disadvantages of an outsider as she finds a way to pursue and ultimately find her truth. In a narrative filled with sharp observations as well as a stinging commentary on the social milieu of her childhood and teen years, this writer has achieved a fine balance between her personal story and how that interweaves with the larger picture of family history, the music industry and an inherently racist society.
Jessica Kirkness, A Sense of You
In adept, precise prose, Jessica Kirkness explores the language of deafness, family bonds, loss and grief. A memoir that grounds the reader clearly in the story on the very first page. Beautifully crafted, this is a remarkably assured biography of the experience of a family living with deafness. The depiction of Deaf people and their language is handled expertly, bringing the subtleties and nuances of signing alive with dexterity and precision. Poetic writing and Kirkness’s ability to convey how the language of signing is experienced bodily and visually is impressive. This hybrid format incorporating personal loss combined with the history of Deaf Schools both in Australia and abroad, and research into the medicine and mechanics of audition, makes for a captivating read.
Ben Randall, Snakehead
This disturbing biography is a first-hand account of the global sex trade, exposing the scale and brutal indifference of this abhorrent practice. Written with great clarity and assurance, this is a devastating journey into the darkness of the human soul. Remarkable for the clarity and sophistication of its writing style, the subject matter is sensitive and delicately handled. This is a confronting story and the author maintained both maturity and humility in the narrative voice and shares important information in a gripping and compelling way. Randall is clearly a man on a mission to shine a light on the horrific realities of modern-day slavery. Chilling yet compulsive reading.
In announcing the shortlist, the judges had this to say:
What a privilege it is to be a part of the Richell Prize and to give time to encourage emerging writers. Judging a writer’s work is a serious endeavour and we never underestimated the time and effort that has gone into all the submissions. This year there were many discussions about the longlisted entries and it was a difficult task to choose our shortlist. However, the five shortlisted entries stood out and the talent and storytelling power of these writers could not be denied. All highlight the quality and depth of contemporary Australian writing. These five shortlisted writers perfectly honour the memory of Matt Richell, a man who was dedicated to promoting and encouraging emerging writers.
The winner of the 2021 Richell Prize will be announced on Thursday, 4 November 2021.