This year Varuna received 65 manuscripts from writers living in regional NSW and Sydney surrounds. Two Varuna Consultants provided an independent assessment on each of the submitted manuscripts with each consultant assessing the work without identifying information.
Varuna Consultants for the LitLink 2016 Fellowship award were Helen Barnes-Bulley and Carol Major. Jansis O'Hanlon, Varuna CEO oversaw the selection process.
Consultants selected the manuscripts to award Fellowships through criteria that included high quality of writing, uniqueness of voice, potential for further development and the ability of the writer to engage in a meaningful way with future readers.
Recipients of the 2016 NSW LitLink Fellowships are:
Hayley Lawrence to develop her YA novel Inside the Tiger, the story of a girl from an elite Sydney boarding school who writes to a Thai death row prisoner and falls for him, destroying them both.
Diana Jarman to develop The Philatelists Album a work of fiction about the reckoning of colonization and how it shapes the lives of a rural community in the previous century.
Michelle Haines Thomas to developThe Springs a novel that peels back the glamour of ex-pat life in Dubai to reveal the ordinary women underneath.
Denise Young to develop Twenty One Moves, a fictional novel that looks inside the mind of a woman with a deadly secret.
Joshua Lobb to develop The Flight of Birds a short story collection about the interactions between humans and birds..
On selecting …
Thank you to our consultants for continuing to be so generous with their time, professional skills and creative insight. Thank you also to all of the writers who submitted their work and who once again made the task of selection simultaneously both delightful and torturous.
Following is a short statement from the consultants talking about the selection process and the submitted manuscripts. We hope you find this feedback useful.
Reflections from consultant Carol Major
The entries in this year’s Lit Link Competition were very accomplished overall. For those who did not place, it may be reassuring to know that the judges were very challenged in compiling a final list.
However, it also useful to hear about things that held entries back. Jottings among my judge’s notes included words such as “episodic, story not developing, narrative tension lost”. In these cases the writers were focused on what happens next or what they wanted to show the reader next, as opposed to what ‘develops’ next and what ‘unfolds’. This does not mean that unrelated scenes may be presented but the reader must feel these scenes are speaking to each other—a motif is building, we are being shown things in order to make connections.
Other jottings were in respect to an overly intrusive narrator. Often these were first person narrations (and PLEASE…this does not mean all first person entries) but cases where the narrator overly drew attention to how events affected them. In some cases this sort of commentary can be wonderful, particularly if the observations are fresh and ironic. (More recently I read Miles Allinson’s debut novel The Fever of Animals. It is wonderful in this regard.) However, if an event has an obvious response, to go on about feeling overjoyed or upset, gets in the way of the reader having his or her response. Show the thing and let the reader make his or her particular connections, and let the event shimmer without drawing attention to the narrator.
Of course on many of the entries I jotted: ‘well observed’, ‘fabulous subject’, ‘worthy of development’. I would encourage all writers to continue working on their craft.
Reflections from consultant Helen Barnes-Bulley
We were very pleased with the number and quality of the entries for this year’s Lit Link residencies. Much of the writing showed skill and care and there were many interesting stories and a variety of structures and narrative voices that demonstrated a willingness to experiment, as well as to offer an invitation to the reader to become immersed in the text.
Our choices were directed by a demonstration of literary talent, compelling story lines and ideas, freshness of approach and the ability to draw the reader into the text and hold him or her throughout the journey. The voice of the text is all-important to the effect on the reader. The voice must be compelling, whatever the genre and story.
We congratulate those writers whose work has been chosen for a residency.
We thank all of those writers who participated in the competition and hope they continue to develop their writing skills and to read widely and deeply in the areas of their interest.