2019 Winner of the AAWP/UWAP Mensicus Chapter One Prize

It gives me great pleasure to announce that an extract of my manuscript for The McMillan Diaries was declared winner of the 2019 Australasian Association of Writing Programs/University of Western Australia Mensicus First Chapter Prize.

The judge generously said the following:

“The submission I favour is the one that has come to me as The McMillan Diaries.   The standard of writing in all the submissions is very high, and a good proportion seem to me to be worthy of publication.  I have chosen The McMillan Diaries, though, because of its special ingenuity and inventiveness.  I find it impossible to separate out its various strands – fact and fiction, scholarly interpolation or satire on scholarship, history and fantasy – and  immediately somehow I felt the need for far more than one chapter and one brief synopsis to ‘orient myself’ with this work, while at the same time wondering f the whole exercise wasn’t just a Laurence Sterne ‘shaggy dog story’, but one which, as in the case with Tristam Shandy, distributes a lot of wisdom and insight along the way, as it romps through a veritable smorgasbord of genres, interpolations and digressions (much of which comes in the scholarly appendages), while constantly in review of its own methods, strategies and subterfuges. 

It’s a work which generously toys with and takes inspiration from the mysteries at its core: from the small part I have been given to read, it neatly offers the spectacle of the mystery of its central subject working its way up and out into the structure, the prose and the methods of the investigation.  The whole novel will not, I suspect, ‘solve’ the mystery as it seems itself so heavily infected and shaped by it?  For me, it evokes Rabelais, Swift, Sterne, Borges, Sebald – that delicious feeling that the writer is somehow ‘having a lend of one’, dismantling (and satirizing?) the kind of assurances and conventions that usually support this mode of inquiry.

It is, however, a work of serious intent – as is of course the case in all those writers I’ve noted above.  Can this writer pull it off?  Will the core narrative, at full length, keep the reader engaged and focused, while at the same time being entertained, waylaid, diverted, teased and provoked?  I couldn’t be sure, from just this one chapter and brief synopsis.  It is indeed a very risky venture.  I think that’s why I have chosen it …”

This absolutely floored me and I am so humbled by this announcement. As a consequence of this prize, my manuscript is now at the top of UWAP’s reading list and I will be presenting a section from it at AAWP’s conference in November.

Head on over to http://www.aawp.org.au/chapter-one-prize-announced/ to read the full write-up!


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