2020 Woollahra Digital Literary Award winners announced

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2020 Woollahra Digital Literary Award winners announced
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Published 16 June 2020

Outstanding digital writing by Australian authors has been recognised in the winners of the 2020 Woollahra Digital Literary Award shortlist.

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 Award, founded by Woollahra Council to support innovation in Australian digital literature, offers prizes in four categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, and a new Readers’ Choice Award, with a total prize pool of $7,250. To be eligible, entrants must be Australian residents aged 16 and over whose work has been published online in the first instance in the last two years.

Fiction judge Stephen Pham praised the “unexpected beauty” in this year’s shortlisted entries, and the writers’ “ability to re-imagine worlds.”

Non-fiction judge Sam Twyford-Moore said the standard of entries for the category was, “Incredibly high – so high that determining a shortlist was an unusually difficult task. Nonfiction 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.”

This year saw an increase in submissions from poets experimenting with what the digital medium has to offer in terms of form, on subjects as diverse as digital augmentation of contemporary life, fluid identities and slippages in time, Poetry judge Pip Smith revealed. “The poems I’ve selected showcase something of the range of styles that are made possible by the digital space,” she said.

For more information visit the Digital Literary Award page or email Woollahra Libraries or call (02) 9391 7100.

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