2019 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlists announcement | #PMLitAwards


A strong shortlist is a diverse
shortlist, a diversity of authors, a diversity of topics, a diversity of
writing styles, and a diversity of ideas and narratives. One of the most important
things about the Australian history award is that it can cover everything
from colonial history, Aboriginal history, right through to political history and
contemporary histories. That’s one of the great things about the Australian
history prize. But there are things you look for obviously, to bring that
strength to the shortlist to find the best books and that would be literary
merit. So, the things like the plot and characterisation and the dialogue and
the way the author manages to engage the reader. The fiction and poetry panels had
one criteria and that was literary excellence. It can be really hard to
define what that is but you know it immediately that you see it. From the
very beginning you have great confidence in the author, their sentences move
forward with confidence, they’re well paced, the stories are surprising, original and
the characters really come to life. You get to know those fictional characters
as if they’re part of your family. Sometimes you know them better than
yourself. In the non-fiction area it can be very diverse. We can have things from
Australians living overseas, Australian perspectives on overseas and political
events, or indeed Australians in Australia. Another challenging thing I
think in judging is to be able to judge a picture book in the children’s
category alongside a novel written for for younger readers. You do need to bring
different judging criteria into those because with a picture book, there needs
to be a seamless marriage of the illustration and the written text. The
illustrations are not just there as decoration, they’re
part of the total narrative of the book, and that’s really a crucial part of it.
With poetry it’s about language and about the way the mind moves through a
poem. The best poets take language to the greatest heights.

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