Hachette Australia, along with the Richell family and in partnership with the Emerging Writers’ Festival and Simpsons Solicitors, is honoured to announce Alex Sawyer as the recipient of the 2023 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers.
Alex has been working on the winning work, Rat Daniels, since 2021. A beautifully told work of fiction, Rat Daniels, explores a friendship between two lonely boys who bond through their love of nature. From their childhood on the outskirts of Adelaide, the lives of both take very different paths. When an act of violence occurs, their friendship is tested and reckless decisions are made, with one man forced to choose which side he is on.
In judging the Prize this year, the judges responded to the powerful storyline of Rat Daniels and Sawyer’s confident voice. All were united in their belief that Sawyer’s work has the potential to become an Australian classic in the vein of Mark Brandi and Tim Winton.
Sawyer, a professional clinical psychologist, volunteer firefighter, and aspiring author; was born and raised on Kaurna Yerta/Adelaide, where he still lives with his family. Since starting his writing career, Sawyer has been shortlisted for Writers SA residency awards; been published in Meanjin; and was runner-up in the 2022 Peter Carey short story award.
Sawyer says of the win, ‘What an unbelievable opportunity the Richell Prize presents for an emerging writer. Not only the financial support for a precarious profession but also the opportunity to be mentored by experts in the field, alongside the connection and support of the Emerging Writers’ Festival. I have always had hope for this novel, but to have that hope validated by the Richell judges is a powerful thing. I am immensely grateful for this gift.’
Jes Layton, Co-CEO of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, says, ‘There is something quite special about being a part of an up-and-coming writer’s journey, and no more privileged position than to be a part of the dedicated crew administering the Richell Prize alongside Hachette Australia. All our congratulations to Alex Sawyer for his winning entry, Rat Daniels, in an incredibly difficult-to-narrow-down shortlist. I hope that the opportunity not just for recognition but for development offered by this Prize helps Alex continue his (sure to be bright) literary future. To every writer who submitted their work this year, I want to acknowledge your creativity and bravery. As we close out the ninth year of the Richell Prize, I am sure that former Hachette CEO Matt Richell would be thrilled to know that his legacy year-on-year has shaped the incredible careers of dozens of prize readers, administrators, winners, long- and short-listees.’
Fiona Hazard, Hachette Australia Group Publishing Director, says, ‘The standard of the seven hundred entries for this year’s Prize was incredible, proof that the Richell Prize is cementing itself as one of the most important awards for emerging Australian writers. To uncover such a strong longlist, then shortlist and then decide on the ultimate winner is always a reminder of the exciting talent that is developing around the country. I know that Matt Richell would be proud to know a prize in his name is encouraging so many new Australian writers. Those who knew him know that Matt’s focus on nurturing emerging writers is the reason the Richell Prize exists, and this year’s winner is a worthy recipient. We are delighted that Alex will now be mentored by Hachette and that this Prize will give him the time and space to finish his novel.’
ABOUT RAT DANIELS
Rat Daniels focuses on the lives of Jimmy and Rat, and the story of their childhood in Edens Ridge, a stretch of hillside farms and hidden valleys on the outskirts of Adelaide, slowly succumbing to the tides of suburbia. But as they grow up, both young men are on different paths, one academic and sporting, the other a life of petty crime and arson that will see their friendship tested and reckless decisions made. An ultimate act of violence will set Edens Ridge ablaze and against the backdrop of these bushfires, Jimmy is forced to choose whose side he is on … knowing that, potentially, Rat’s fate is in his hands.
ABOUT HACHETTE AUSTRALIA
Hachette Australia is part of the international Hachette publishing group and, over the past six years, has focused on growing the Australian list with around 100 new titles now published each year. The stellar line-up of local authors includes bestselling two-time Golden Dagger winner and ABIA Fiction winner Michael Robotham; bestselling and award-winning ABIA Book of the Year winner Jessica Townsend; Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks; Australia’s bestselling non-fiction writer and favourite storyteller Peter FitzSimons; New York Times bestselling novelist Natasha Lester; Miles Franklin shortlisted Michael Mohammed Ahmad; and the Lothian Children’s Books author and illustrator and Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner Shaun Tan. Hachette Australia proudly supports emerging writers of all ages through The Richell Prize, in association with the Emerging Writers’ Festival; the State Library of Queensland’s black&write! program; and in partnership with Express Media, The Hachette Australia Prize for Young Writers. Hachette Australia also represents an array of A-list authors on the international list, including Stephen King, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, Ronan Farrow and Delia Owens.
ABOUT THE JUDGING
This year the Richell Prize had 700 entries. Every entry was read by two readers before the judging panel – Nadia Johansen, editor and writer; Lindy Jones, senior buyer at Abbey’s Bookshop; David Parritt, Product and Marketing Manager at BookPeople; Hannah Richell, bestselling author; and Vanessa Radnidge, Hachette Head of Literary – were presented with the longlist of twenty writers. After reading through the longlist carefully, the judges, chaired by Fiona Hazard, Hachette Australia Group Publishing Director, met to carefully consider all twenty entries and discuss the strengths of each work. After selecting five shortlisted writers, the judges determined Rat Daniels the winner of the 2023 Richell Prize shortlist.