Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2011

The venue was the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House. The date was the 16th May, 2011. And the event was the announcement of the NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

This was the first year that the winners haven't known prior, making it more like the Oscars, except that the presenter read something about the winner in each category before reading the name, thereby giving a ten second heads-up to anyone paying attention.

It's good to see this morning that the mainstream media has broken with tradition and published the names of the winners in all categories, rather than just the 'big' ones. And those big ones were Alex Miller for Lovesong, and Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons for Fraser's biography. But of most interest to many of us were the winners of the Ethel Turner and Patricia Wrightson prizes, won by Cath Crowley (Graffiti Moon) and Sophie Masson (The Hunt for Ned Kelly) respectively. Both shortlists were stacked with potential winners, but unfortunately there could only be one in each list. I have to say that those who missed out took it in very good grace. I admire their nerve - I don't know if I could have been quite so calm during the tense wait.

But the biggest cheer (and a standing ovation) was for Libby Gleeson who, in a huge surprise to her, won the $20,000 Special Award for her past and ongoing contribution not only to young people's literature, but the literary community at large, especially her efforts in establishing the Lending Rights scheme that we all look forward to each year.

It was also a great night for the Western Sydney Young People's Literature Project, soon to be renamed Westwords. This project, overseen by Judith Ridge, kept getting mentions all night, including from Libby in her acceptance speech. From memory, Libby (who chairs the project's board) said something like, 'Watch out for us - we're going to be big.'

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