Fiction, debut writers and independent publishers are the emphasis in the longlist announced today for the inaugural Stella Prize, the first major new literary award for women’s writing.

The Stella Prize is an exciting new fixture on the awards calendar and is the most high-profile example of what has been, in many ways, a culture change in literary awards since the controversy over the 2011 all-male Miles Franklin shortlist.

Named after Stella Maria Miles Franklin, the award aims to “celebrate women’s contributions to Australian literature”. The prize, worth $50,000, is awarded for the best work by an Australian female author published in the previous calendar year.

Though both fiction and non-fiction are eligible, the list leans heavily towards fiction, with nine fictional works – variously including novels, poetry, children’s fiction and short stories – and just three non-fiction works (The People SmugglerThe Mind of a Thief
 and An Opening).

Fittingly, for the debut of the prize, over half the longlist is made up of debut works, by Romy Ash, Dylan Coleman, 
Courtney Collins, 
Robin de Crespigny, 
Amy Espeseth, 
Lisa Jacobson and 
Stephanie Radok. But the list also includes many established female authors such as Margo Lanagan, Cate Kennedy, and Michelle de Kretser.

In terms of publishers, Allen & Unwin is the winner with three works on the list (The Burial, Questions of Travel, Sea Hearts
) and as a large publishing house should be commended for their support of literary fiction – they were a fixture amongst the long- and short-lists of literary awards all last year.

However, it’s great to see the extent to which the Stella Prize has supported and recognised small and independent publishers, with presses such as Wakefield, 5 Islands Press, Scribe and UQP all represented.

The twelve longlisted titles are:

  • Floundering
 Romy Ash (Text)
  • Mazin Grace
 Dylan Coleman (UQP)
  • The Burial Courtney Collins (Allen & Unwin)
  • The People Smuggler
 Robin de Crespigny (Penguin)
  • Questions of Travel 
Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin)
  • Sufficient Grace
 Amy Espeseth (Scribe)
  • The Sunlit Zone
 Lisa Jacobson (5 Islands Press)
  • Like a House on Fire 
Cate Kennedy (Scribe)
  • Sea Hearts
 Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Mind of a Thief
 Patti Miller (UQP)
  • An Opening
 Stephanie Radok (Wakefield Press)
  • Mateship with Birds 
Carrie Tiffany (Picador)

The shortlist will be revealed on March 20th, and the overall winner announced April 16th.

What do you think of the longlist? Which texts would you like to see on the shortlist?