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ACT Book of the Year 2020: Canberra’s literary variety recognised in long-awaited shortlist

From a glimmer of love through the darkness of war to the irrepressible bond between twins, via a history of an Australian rat under European colonisation, the shortlist for the ACT’s most prominent writing prize shows the breadth of work from the region.

The long-awaited shortlist for the 2020 ACT Book of the Year has been released, after the award was delayed due to the pandemic.

Two-time Book of the Year winner John Clanchy’s In Whom We Trust, an historical novel that tells the story of a priest and those he looks out for in a Melbourne orphanage before the First World War, makes the list.

Lisa Fuller‘s Ghost Bird, a young adult novel which won the 2017 David Unaipon award for unpublished Indigenous writers, is also included. Fuller, a Murri woman from Queensland, lives and works in Canberra.ADVERTISING

The shortlist also includes Nigel Featherstone’s Bodies of Men, a novel which explores themes of masculinity, bravery and courage in the Second World War.

Nigel Featherstone's novel Bodies of Men has been shortlisted. Picture: Jamila Toderas

 Nigel Featherstone’s novel Bodies of Men has been shortlisted. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Featherstone said it was exciting to be included on the shortlist, which extended the life of books which had been published before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To have your own creative region say, ‘you know, we think this book has merit’ does mean a lot, I think,” Featherstone said.

Featherstone said the ACT Book of the Year was a unique opportunity for writers to hear from their peers in the quiet period after a book has been published.

“I think one of the things is that we write these books and they’re published, and then there’s this silence where nothing happens. You spent six years getting 80,000 words in the right order, and then nothing happens,” he said.

An event will be held later this month to announce the winner of the $10,000 award.

Arts Minister Tara Cheyne said the award aimed to support the development of ACT-based writers and to contribute towards the territory’s positive writing culture.

“The award recognises quality contemporary literary works by ACT-based authors in the previous calendar year, with prizes of $10,000 for the winner, $2000 for any highly commended book and $1000 for each shortlisted book,” Ms Cheyne said.

Nominations for the 2021 Book of the Year award are open until Monday, August 2.

2020 ACT Book of the Year award shortlist

  • Acting Like a Girl by Sandra Renew (Recent Work Press)
  • Bodies of Men by Nigel Featherstone (Hachette Australia)
  • Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller (University of Queensland Press)
  • In Whom We Trust by John Clanchy (Finlay Lloyd)
  • The Enchantment of the Long-haired Rat by Tim Bonyhady (Text Publishing)

–Canberra Times

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