Woollahra Digital Literary Award
The Woollahra Digital Literary Award is a national literary award supporting innovation in Australian literature and publishing, encouraging writers producing work in a digital medium.
The award seeks submissions of a literary nature that are digitally born - published online or in electronic form.
Dates for the 2021 Award are to be confirmed. Please subscribe to the Newsletter for updates.
Here are highlights of the 2020 Woollahra Digital Literary Award Winners Announcement.
The following winners of the 2020 Woollahra Digital Literary Award were announced on Thursday 28 May 2020.
Warning: some of the winning works include adult content and explicit language.
Fiction: Peter Polites, The Final Boys
Judge's comments: Haunted and haunting, Peter Polites' The Final Boys is a complex exploration of diaspora, nostalgia, and sexuality. It offers an intimate glimpse into the unnamed narrator's world, where violence, tenderness, silence, and restlessness agitate and elevate each other. This isn't a short story about voyeurism: Polites writes voyeurism itself.
His intelligence is subtle as he guides the ever-shifting gazes throughout the story - the mother's over horror movies; the narrator's over men; older men, security cameras, and authority figures over the 'wog boy'. But Polites reveals his genius when he at last directs the reader's eyes from the evocative prose onto themselves, demonstrating the terror of a hungry gaze that finally stops.
Non-Fiction: Amanda Tink, A History of Reading: Alan Marshall and Helen Keller
Judge's comments: Amanda Tink’s powerful A History of Reading blends personal essay with literary history. Challenging the standard conceptualisation of the work of Helen Keller, Tink reappraises the works of the Australian memoirist and storyteller Alan Marshall, exploring what his work has meant to her own life and writing.
Tink is a personable narrator here, mixing detailed research and history, while creating new pathways to accessing the work of writers with overlooked legacies. She actively reframes and reshapes the thinking of the reader on disability politics and Australian literature in subtle, shifting ways. This is critical thinking, made real on the page, of the very highest order.
Poetry: Omar Sakr, Where I Am Not
Judge’s comments: While this poem does not use the digital medium as part of its poetics, it does that rare thing only exceptional poems can do: cracks a moment open like an egg, and lets the whole world spill out. In 'Where I am Not' Sakr manages to frisk a brief, intimate conversation in an uber trip for everything it’s got: pasts, imaginings of the future, desires and assortments of feeling.
It is an apt poem for the digital age, where the world has been made smaller, displacements greater, and even love and care have been sub-contracted to the gig economy.
Readers’ Choice Award: Mez Breeze, Perpetual Nomads
Judge's comments: Mez Breeze’s Perpetual Nomads explores loneliness, paranoia, and privacy in the digital age. Using virtual reality, Perpetual Nomads innovates how narratives can look.
Featuring engaging character work from sketchy online personas to too-friendly corporations, Mez Breeze opens up possibilities for storytelling through digital mediums.
The 2020 Woollahra Digital Literary Award recognises outstanding digital writing by Australian authors with the following shortlisted for this year’s prizes in three categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry.
This year we offered an additional prize: Readers’ Choice, that invited all readers to enjoy the shortlist below and cast their vote. The literature piece with the highest number of votes received a $250 prize.
Warning: some of the shortlisted works include adult content and explicit language.
"In 2020, writers shortlisted for the Woollahra Digital Literary Award showcased fiction's ability to re-imagine worlds, whether political, social, or emotional. Their works, however, are no escape from reality, no matter how tumultuous it may be, and instead compel us to re-engage with it, minds sharpened and hearts filled with hope. The shortlisted entries span a wide variety of topics, including the racialisation of body image, mega corporations' feeble attempts to humanise themselves, White Australian identity, and imposter syndrome in the diaspora. Lingering through these diverse stories, however, is a profound sense of solitude, along with all the unexpected beauty it entails." – Stephen Pham
- Jackie French, Christmas in Paris, HarperCollins Publishers. A free copy is available to read via Overdrive with Woollahra Libraries membership.
- Mez Breeze, Perpetual Nomads, FLEFF: Networked Disruptions Online Exhibition
- Peter Polites, The Final Boys, Meanjin
- Rachel Ang, A Thousand Loving Thrusts, The Wheeler Centre
- Tamara Lazaroff, In My Father's Village and Other Freedom Stories, Pollitecon Publications
"The standard of entries for the non-fiction category in the WDLA this year was incredibly high – so high that determining a shortlist was an unusually difficult task. Non-fiction writers have challenged themselves to think deeply and critically about the world around us, in a time when such thinking is needed more than ever. Here, in the settled shortlist, we find profound new thoughts on topics as wide and varied as disability as a literary category, the recent terrifying bushfire season, the industry around Australian native food, and many more, including reflections on legendary Australian artists such as Vernon Ah Kee and Nick Cave. Australian arts and literary magazines supporting digital first publications deserve to be commended too for the essential role they play in developing and fostering such work." – Sam Twyford-Moore
- Amanda Tink, A History of Reading: Alan Marshall and Helen Keller, Sydney Review of Books
- Andrew Brooks, The Island Part One and Part Two, Running Dog
- Drew Rooke, Growth Industry, Kill Your Darlings
- Dženana Vucic, Kin, Kill Your Darlings
- Eleanor Limprecht, The Burning, Meanjin
- Jocelyn Hungerford, Women Who Write About Their Feelings and Lives, Sydney Review of Books
- Keyvan Allahyari, The Trouble With Middle Eastern Literature, Sydney Review of Books
- Mark Mordue, Down By The River: Nick Cave’s Boyhood in Wangaratta (1959-70), Sydney Review of Books
- Sarah Allely, Brain on Nature, Brain on Nature
- Shannon McKeogh, The Cure For Everything, Meanjin
"This year saw an increase in submissions from poets experimenting with what the digital medium has to offer in terms of form, as well as more poems about the digital augmentation of contemporary life. We also saw more poems about fluid identities as well as slippages in time and language. It was very difficult to whittle the submissions down to a shortlist, but the poems I’ve selected showcase something of the range of styles that are made possible by the digital space." – Pip Smith
Meet our judges for the 2020 Award.
Sam is the author of The Rapids: Ways of Looking at Mania, which was released in 2018 by NewSouth and named one of the Sydney Morning Herald's best books of the year. The Rapids is also set to be released by the University of Toronto Press. He is the founding host of The Rereaders, a fortnightly literary and cultural podcast and is a former Festival Director and CEO of the Emerging Writers' Festival from 2012 until 2015, during which time he launched the Digital Writers' Festival.
Stephen is a Vietnamese-Australian writer from Cabramatta. He has been published in Sydney Review of Books, Meanjin, and Griffith Review. Stephen received the 2018 NSW Writer's Fellowship to commence work on his debut manuscript Vietnamatta.
Pip is a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist of 2018 for her debut novel Half Wild (A&U, 2017). Her first poetry collection, Too Close for Comfort (SUP), won the Helen Ann Bell Award in 2013, and she once wrote a poem every day of summer for the Lifted Brow’s website. Her digital poem, Wayside Renga - built from hours of recorded conversations held at Wayside Chapel - was published by Overland in 2011. Her first picture book, Theodore the Unsure, is now available through Scholastic Press.
Categories and prizes
The Woollahra Digital Literary Award offers a Non-Fiction, Fiction and Poetry prize for works published digitally in the first instance.
Fiction ($3,000 prize)
A novel, novella or short story collection - published in the first instance online or in an electronic format that can be accessed on a computer, tablet or mobile device. 3,000-80,000 words.
Non-Fiction ($3,000 prize)
A monograph, collection of essays or a long essay - published in the first instance online or in an electronic format that can be accessed on a computer, tablet or mobile device. 3,000-80,000 words.
Poetry ($1,000 prize)
Works of poetry published in the first instance online or in an electronic format that can be accessed on a computer, tablet or mobile device. The maximum word count is 3,000 words, or 100 lines, whichever is greater. There is no minimum word count.
This year we are offering an additional prize: Readers’ Choice, inviting all readers to enjoy the shortlist and cast their vote. The winner of the $250 Readers’ Choice prize will be the writer that receives the most votes in the period 8 May 2020, 9:00am – 22 May 2020, 4:00pm.
- Entries open: Monday 16 December 2019
- Entries close: Monday 9 March 2020
- Shortlist announced: Friday 8 May 2020
- Winners announced: Thursday 28 May 2020
Find out who our past winners were, including judges comments and shortlisted entries.
For more information, please contact:
Events and Programs Coordinator
Telephone: 9391 7100