Lives will change: Authors on winning the Vogel’s Award

Vogels15shortlistTonight we announce the 2015 winner of The Australian/Vogel’s literary award, and in the words of publisher Annette Barlow, lives will change!

Life changing is a common theme mentioned by winners, and also for those shortlisted – many go on to publication with these manuscripts even if they aren’t named winner of the Vogel’s Award. We’re publishing two of last year’s shortlisted writers, Gretchen Shirm and Sam Carmody, while Dream England by Stephanie Bishop will also be published.

9781760112332And from this year’s shortlist of four young writers, who will be our 2015 Vogel’s Award winner?

  • Stephanie Barham for Animal Etiquette, a “punk version of Brideshead Revisited” (to quote the author) set in 1930s Britain;
  • Colin Dray for Sign, which is centred on a boy who loses his voice after a life-saving operation;
  • Geraldine Love for Lacepede, a moving, melancholic tale that reverberates from an act of violence;
  • Murray Middleton for When There’s Nowhere Left to Run, a collection of short stories that prod and worry at contemporary Australian life and values.

You can read extracts of their entries on The Australian’s website.

Authors on… winning the Vogel’s Award

Christine Piper with her Vogel's Award winning novel After DarknessWe’ve collected a few of our favourite quotes from past winners on how they found out about their win and how their lives were changed by winning the award.

Here’s last year’s winner Christine Piper, from a beautifully written piece on hearing she was shortlisted and won:

After Darkness took me almost five years to create. When the May 2013 deadline drew near, I was midway through the second draft. I was 34. It was my last chance.

Despite my best intentions to deliver a polished second draft, in the weeks leading up to the deadline, I was feeling unwell and was unable to work on the manuscript as much as I’d hoped. I submitted it to The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award five minutes before midnight, utterly disappointed with what I’d done. ‘I’ve blown my one chance,’ I told my husband.

Then four months later, I got the email. A few minutes before five am. I didn’t get the long sleep I’d hoped for that morning – I didn’t sleep at all, I was so excited about the possibilities. Was I shortlisted? Had I won?

It was another two days before I finally talked to Annette, the publisher at Allen & Unwin, who confirmed that I had won.  But I didn’t know that then, as I stood in the kitchen of our Williamsburg apartment, daylight breaking around me. All I knew was hope, and the joy of chasing dreams.

The Roving PartyRohan Wilson is one of our 2015 judges, here’s his thoughts on winning the Vogel’s Award for The Roving Party:

…in spring 2010 I learned that a much revised and developed manuscript for The Roving Party had won the Australian/Vogel’s Prize for Literature. It is difficult to convey precisely what that meant to me.

Imagine, if you will: I had dragged my family to Australia, promised them that somehow I would put my book into print, promised them against my better sense that The Roving Party had a chance. Having heard the horror stories of publisher slush piles, rejection slips by the hundreds, and the general misery of the unpublished writer, I knew those promises were hollow.

Yet, as improbable as it seemed, it had happened. Not only happened, but exploded. Turns out that the Vogel is, as Ron Burgundy said, kind of a big deal.

This year To Name Those Lost, Rohan’s follow up to his Vogel’s Award winner won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and the life changing continues!

Julienne van Loon also agrees about the life changing aspect, particularly on seeing herself as a writer, after winning the award with Road Story in 2004:

It really changed the way I thought about myself as a writer… Unpublished manuscript awards are so important not just for supporting new and emerging writers, but for enriching contemporary culture with vibrant new voices, new stories, and new ways of telling stories.

Sarah Hay was a winner in 2001 with Skins, and the award provided impetus and focus and belief in herself as a writer:

For about twenty years I toyed with a piece of writing that wasn’t going anywhere. Then I started something new and at the same time I learnt about the Vogel Award. It provided a much needed focus. I never expected to win and in fact, a month before the closing date, I almost didn’t enter. But it was my only chance since I turned 35 later in the year. So I sent it off and it was great to know someone was reading my work. It might have been a different story had I tried to interest a publisher from where I lived in Perth and without any contacts in the industry. Publishing Skins was a remarkable experience and it still surprises me when people tell me they’ve read my book. The award changed my life by giving me the confidence to make writing my focus.

An Open SwimmerAnd from one of the most famous winners of the award, Tim Winton, who also was on “the wrong side of the country”:

The Vogel prize came along at the perfect time for me. I was writing fiction in earnest as a very young person and trying to publish it while living on the wrong side of the country and without literary connections.

Winning the prize gave me a huge morale boost and the impetus that only affirmation can produce . . . It set me on my way, and I lived on the $5000 for a year. Without the Vogel, I suspect things might have gone differently.

It isn’t just the award itself that has changed lives, the award winning books have prompted the writing for others such as 1991 winner Andrew McGahan:

Andrew McGahan was at high school when his mother brought home Winton’s An Open Swimmer. McGahan’s mother hoped this novel by the then-youthful author might inspire her son, who also wanted to become a writer. It did. From then on, recalls McGahan, “it was always in my head that the Vogel existed”.

McGahan was 25 and out of work when he entered the 1991 Vogel. Praise, his manuscript about being young, adrift and in thrall to drugs, sex and booze, won. “This was everything you would have hoped for at the time,” says the author. He says of the $15,000 prizemoney: “It seemed like a fortune at the time.”

Discovering the award, and the prize winning books is also noted by Christine Piper as being a motivation:

I first heard about The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award when the Helen Demidenko/Darville scandal hit the newspapers in 1995. I was sixteen at the time – a bookish Year 11 student with dreams of being a writer. I’d like to enter that award one day, I thought.

Over the years, I read many of the winning titles, and they always reaffirmed my desire to enter. I took creative writing classes during my undergraduate degree, and wrote a novella for my honours project. Then I began working full-time, and hardly ever found the time for creative writing. Sometime during my late twenties, I realised that if I didn’t do something soon, I’d miss my chance to enter the award.

So both tonight and beyond, the lives of the four shortlisted authors below will change! Keep an eye on Twitter tonight and the hashtag #VogelsAward to be the first to find out who the winner is, with the award being presented by a writer who knows very well the impact awards can make – Miles Franklin Award winner Michelle de Kretser!


And if you want to have your life changed, submissions for the 2016 award are open until the end of May, or get planning for future years so you don’t leave it as late as Christine Piper in joining the illustrious cast of Vogel’s Award winning Alumni.

Finally, possibly our favourite of all stories from Vogel’s Award winners, Brian Castro on how he learned of his award:

News of my shared win come to me in a disjointed manner. Having no telephone, I received a telegram (in the days when that sort of thing still happened). It was shoved under my door, since I wasn’t home, and a torrential rainstorm left it barely legible. I walked down the street to ring my mother from a public phonebox. She thought I’d won some bake-off. The confusion continues to this day when Germans ask me about the ‘Bird Prize’.

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