Tag Archives: Tessa Duder Award


What it’s like to not win an award, or, Where do we go from here?

I may have mentioned my novel Grow was shortlisted for the Storylines Tessa Duder Award. But I didn’t win. That honour went to Gareth Ward and his novel The Sin Chronicles: New Blood. (A steampunk novel set in Victorian England.) I can’t wait to add it to my collection of TD winners.

I didn't get any good photos
of the awards ceremony because I
grabbed the camera without checking
the battery and it was flat.
And my husband was sitting in the
audience in a place where the angle
was all wrong. But here's one of me
at the pub afterwards. I almost
didn't post this photo, because I'm
doing that weird squinty thing with
my eye. But that happens when I smile,
and I'm happy damn it!

I received the email on a Friday afternoon, and upon seeing the subject line I though, “Well, I haven’t won.” Because they’re not going to tell me I’d won via email. I’m pretty sure that would warrant a phone call. But then I read the email and it said I had been shortlisted. SHORTLISTED!!!

I probably should’ve been sad I didn’t win, but I was too damn happy about being shortlisted. It’s very validating to have someone say your novel is pretty good. Especially one I’d been working on (on and off) for seven years. Ack, seven years seems so long. But it’s true. I started this version of Grow in 2008. (Wee nugget of info: The first time I wrote about these characters was way back when I was 16. It was sci-fi then. The genre changed but the core premise didn’t.)

Then I spent the next week having conversations like this:

Me: Hey.
Husband: What’s up?
Me: Shortlist!

Me: Guess what?
Husband: Shortlist?

I decided to go to the Storylines Awards Day, because if I was going to get a certificate I could stick on the fridge next to my kids’ merit awards from school, I was going to get it in person, damn it! I bought a pretty dress, I painted my nails, I woke up with a weird red patch on the tip of my nose because of course I did. (I think fate was reminding me I write YA and I had my own big-pimple-just-in-time-for-an-important-date moment.)

I’m really glad I went. Barbara Else (who was awarded the Margaret Mahy Medal) gave an awesome lecture about her writing. (Gems included balancing self-belief vs self-criticism, and questioning what right one has to write.) (And, of course, when I bumped into her afterwards, I had a total mind blank and couldn’t tell her what really resonated with me.) And it was really touching to see the award winners who were on the verge of tears because their dreams of being published were coming true.

So, I have a MS that’s in pretty good shape, I have kudos and bragging rights from being shortlisted, but I don’t have a published book to direct people to when they ask.

Where do I go from here?

(If you’re a Buffy fan, I hope you’re singing along.)

The only answer is to keep going. I’m close, and all this practice is paying off. And I have to keep putting myself out there. Because I wouldn’t have been shortlisted if I hadn’t believed in myself (and my writing) enough to enter.

Book Reviews Reading

Review: A Necklace of Souls by RL Stedman

With the announcement of the Tessa Duder Award fast approaching, I decided to review all the previous winners. This was the second winner, from 2012.

What is it?

A Necklace of Souls by RL Stedman

First published 2013

A young adult fantasy novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

In the hidden Kingdom of the Rose a Guardian protects her people with the help of a magical necklace. But evil forces are also seeking the necklace, and as the Guardian grows weaker these forces threaten to destroy the Kingdom.

Dana, the rightful heir, must claim the necklace and save her people. Her duty is clear: to protect her homeland she must submit to the power of the necklace. But all power comes at a price–a price Dana may not be willing to pay.

Why should I read it?

A Necklace of Souls follows the stories of both Dana and Will.* Dana is the princess who doesn’t really want to be a princess, and Will is the peasant who just wants to get on with life (which pretty much takes one sucky turn after another.)

It’s a fairly solid fantasy novel, with lots of world building and an ominous evil that the characters will eventually have to battle.

In terms of a Chosen One story, Dana really gets a bung deal. The titular necklace might hold super powers, but it’s no free ride.

I was a huge fantasy geek when I was a teenager, but I think I overdosed and I don’t really read any now. But I’d say read this if you’re really into fantasy, if you love stories that cover years and a lot of distance, and if you geek-out on world building.

* Interesting fact. Both winners of the Tessa Duder Award so far featured a character named Will.

Book Reviews Reading

Review: Reach by Hugh Brown

With the announcement of the Tessa Duder Award fast approaching, I decided to review all the previous winners. (LOL, there have only been two.) Starting with the first ever winner, from 2011.

reachWhat is it?

Reach by Hugh Brown

First published 2012

A contemporary, young adult novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

Will Clark thinks he’s a socially inept bookworm who just happens to enjoy cross-country running and taekwondo. But then his mother returns after a five-year absence overseas, and he has his first full-contact taekwondo fight, and the gorgeous comic-reading Conway Jones asks if she can be his maths tutor … Will must reassess himself, and his past, as he reaches towards a new future and lets his dreams take flight.

Why should I read it?

Will lives with his grandparents and has a strained relationship with his Dad, who he blames for his Mum leaving. I loved the awkwardness between them. The feeling of wanting to connect but always missing, and the past tainting the present. Comparing his Dad to a hawk, Will says he “circles around in the hills by himself most of the time, then every now and then he lands nearby, stares at you, silent and fierce, then he’s up and gone again.” (p.144) I’m a sucker for a good father-son relationship story, and though this doesn’t dominate the book, it’s touching and well executed.

Will deals with a lot in his quiet way. Feeling he can’t hold down a conversation like a normal person, he writes stories in which he’s the hero. These glimpses into Will’s story world aren’t overpowering and mirror the main narrative nicely.

The writing is simple but not sparse. His grandmother’s baking (“A quick scan showed three types of biscuits, two cakes, and cheese-corn-and-piccalilli muffins. Will grabbed a couple of afghans and a muffin…” p.39), the farm (“But if he took the right-hand ridge it dropped over into the oblivion of the national park bushland, valleys that ended in the great spine of mountains that travelled east, the Macrae and Kilmore ranges, and more besides.” p.89), and even Will himself (“Will’s legs were beginning to shiver with anger. He did a little boxing shuffle to try to relax.” p. 184) are all described in perfect detail to build up the world.

I’d describe this as a coming-of-age novel because there’s a moment where everything starts to change for Will. It’s obvious, but not in a painful, predictable, slap-you-across-the-face way. And even though it ends on a positive note (no spoilers) not everything is resolved exactly. And I kinda like that. Life isn’t always wrapped up like a half-hour sitcom, but we can still move on.