Clinging, Pink Ginning & Nearly Winning - The Richell Prize 2017

9:48 AM

Winner Sam Coley (the chap in the middle with the trophy), flanked from left by three of our judges (my new favourite people in the world): Robert Watkins, Amelia Lush and Izzy Roberts-Orr.

Wowzers, what a week!

A gal is quite overcome with gratitude and exhaustion. Gratitude for being awarded the Highly Commended gong at the 2017 Richell Prize; exhaustion for making a party of it and, being of a certain age, needing a few days to get over said partying!

I spent the week preceding the big night practicing saying 'Richell'. My 7 year old daughter insisted it be pronounced to rhyme with Michelle and of course, in the way of headstrong little girls, could not be persuaded otherwise. Fortunately I have a stepson named Mitchell so I thought of him every time I had to say Richell. Richell Prize. Richell-rhymes-with-Mitchell. Sort of.

I got frocked up for the big do on Wednesday night, having decided to ditch the jeans and wear a skirt and heels with the new Witchery top my lovely husband bought me for my birthday (I only had to drop a couple of very subtle hints, possibly a link or two to the Witchery website!)

While John went down to the bar to avail himself of the hotel's 24 hour treat bar (lolly jars and fruit and fancy water and such) and to check out the happy hour (some availing was done there as well I believe!) I got dressed and did the hair and makeup, only to find a massive crease down the front of my top. Aaaargh! So on went the iron and due to not wanting to mess up the sprayed-within-an-inch-of-its-life hairdo, I attempted to iron out the crease by kneeling at the end of the ironing board and arranging the fabric over it. I looked like I was prostrating myself at the altar of small electrical appliances! It was, as you can imagine, completely ineffective and I was in great danger of giving myself a third degree burn, so off came the top with minimal damage to the 'do', and I gave it a decent pressing. Crease crisis averted!

Whoever heard of a 24 hour treat bar - we LOVED the Ovolo hotel in Woolloomooloo

The ceremony was held at Boy Charlton pool, a gorgeous spot right on the harbour at Mrs Macquarie's Chair, where we were plied with pretty pink gin cocktails and divine nibbles that included zucchini flowers and arancini balls. Of course, knowing I'd need to smile for the cameras at some point, I renounced the food in favour of the cocktails, not wanting some great wad of green zucchini marring the pearly whites in the pictures. So vain (but, equally, so sensible don't you think?)

I was not so lucky with static in the skirt, as you'll see from the pics, where the outline of my legs is rather more evident than one anticipated!

Yours truly, attempting to minimise the clinging effect of the offending staticky skirt with a pose reminiscent of someone needing the loo!

Anyhoo . . .

HUGE congrats to Sam Coley who took out the trophy. Sam, I'm absolutely thrilled to be the Jessica Mauboy to your Damien Leith (who is also a writer - spooky!)

I have read Sam's first chapter and it moved me so much I wanted to reach into the screen and hug his characters. I can't wait to read the full novel. Sam is a talent to watch I tell you! He is also lovely in every possible way and is on a promise to come for dinner with the family next time he's in Sydney.

From left: Julie Keys, Yours Truly, Sam Coley

Two of the shortlisters couldn't make it on Wednesday, but I have been chatting with Miranda Debeljakovic and Karen Wyld and they are both gorgeous, talented women who we should also watch with a keen eye (click through the links to see what the judges said about their work).

The final shortlister is Julie Keys and, oh my goodness, I am champing at the bit to read her book Triptych which she and I discussed in detail on the night. Art and history and a dual timeline - right up my alley!

I can't even begin to describe how fabulous it was to spend an evening among bookish people - publishers, editors, sellers, agents, authors (including shortlisted predecessor Brodie Lancaster whose speech was gloriously warm and funny) and festival directors - all of them absolutely lovely!

To muddle a metaphor, Julie, Sam and I were like happy deer in spotlights. You couldn't wipe the smiles from our faces. Everyone was so sweet and friendly and complimentary about our writing. The people from Hachette - Fiona, Louise, Justin, Robert, Vanessa, Stacey - could not have been more welcoming and positive about our futures as writers. I can't tell you how affirming it was to hear that from people who aren't reliant on me for meals and clean shirts.

Now, as I didn't give a speech (although me being me I had one prepared JUST IN CASE and if I can't give a speech on my own blog there's no hope!) there are a few people I'd like to publicly thank.

First and foremost thanks to the judges who plucked our chapters from 579 entries and elevated them to the lofty heights of the shortlist - Hannah Richell, Robert Watkins, Amelia Lush and Izzy Roberts-Orr.

We unknown writers get up an hour before dawn to punch out a few words before our day jobs, we madly tap out a few hundred more while the kids are at swimming lessons, we squeeze out a rough chapter in a coffee shop during our lunch breaks. We have no idea if our writing has merit or if it's just a pile of Wofty Pofty Crapola (one of our more eloquent family sayings!) Thank you judges, for the brave move of taking a punt on a bunch of unknown writers based on only three chapters and a synopsis.

Entering the Richell Prize has not only taught me some wonderful lessons, but has also opened doors to a world I had only dreamed of entering. I can't wait to start my 12 month mentorship with Robert Watkins at Hachette as we knock As I Am into shape. And I'm thrilled to say I am now being represented by the remarkable Tara Wynne at Curtis Brown.

Thank you to my mentor Meredith Jaffé who has taught me the value of slashing adverbs and ramping up tension and a million other lessons in writing. (If you haven't read her latest book The Making of Christina, you are missing an absolute gem of a read - gripping, beautifully written, heartbreaking. Run don't walk to all the usual outlets.) To my other beta-reader Jo Riccioni who implored me to let the reader figure out some things for themselves. To all my online writer buddies who provide daily inspiration via the twittersphere and the instasphere and all the other spheres.

Thanks to John for all the tea and wine and hugs and not losing the faith after 8 long years (good grief, has it been 8 years since I started this thing during NaNoWriMo?!?), and thanks to the kids who put up with mummy talking to herself and providing unnecessarily harsh edits on Year 8 English essays.

And finally, humble gratitude to Hannah Richell for transforming an unspeakable tragedy into a gift for the emerging authors her husband Matt was so passionate about. Even on Wednesday night, three years after Matt's death, the voices of his colleagues waver when they mention his name. I wish I'd met Matt. He sounds like a good man in every sense of the word. Thank you Hannah x

Thanks also to the sponsors - Hachette, Emerging Writers Festival, The Guardian, Simpsons and Joy.

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  1. Congratulations, Michelle! I look forward to following your journey to publication and to read your book! :)

    1. Thank you Louise. And thank you for being so generous with your writing knowledge. It's been such a help x

  2. Beautifully said - as always. Proud of you my friend xx

    1. Thank you my love. Having your support means everything xxx