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Article  •  17 November 2023

 

Why submit to the Penguin Literary Prize? A previous winner's perspective

‘You owe it to the writer you are to put your work out there.’

To Penguin Literary Prize 2024 entrants,

So you’re thinking of entering your novel for the Penguin Literary Prize 2024.

Once, I was you.

I’d written my novel, revised it over and over, asked my friends to look at it, worried if it was ‘good enough’, and concluded – for certain! – that no one would ever want to read this story. But I pushed through the doubts and entered it for the Penguin Literary Prize 2022 anyway.

Like you, in my heart, I believed in my novel. I knew it was the story I wanted to tell, and I knew I’d found an interesting way to tell it and that I’d honed my craft as well as I could. Still, I thought, no one would be interested in backblocks Tasmanians in the 1870s and religious revivalists. What was I thinking? I resigned myself to rejection.

Then On a Bright Hillside in Paradise was shortlisted for the prize. Receiving this news still ranks as one of the most validating, exciting, blossoming-of-opportunity moments I’ve ever experienced – almost as much as the news, a little later, that my novel had won the prize.

For me, the shortlisting was the moment I knew that thoughtful people in the book industry had read my novel and had found that it stacked up against hundreds of other, no doubt terrific, contenders. The shortlisting told me that I was a real writer.

Then the win followed, and publication, and the thrill of my draft novel now existing as a real-life book and, incidentally, as a brilliantly performed audiobook. Readers talk to me at events, or write to me, or post reviews, and each time they mention my characters it’s as if the world I created has sprung into an existence quite separate from me. The universe of the novel and the people I put in it now live in readers’ minds and hearts, not just in my laptop.

You owe it to the writer you are to put your work out there, to have it read by smart, generous judges. You owe it to the world and the characters you have created to give them the chance to fly, to come alive through readers.

Some practical tips:

Submit the novel you really needed to write, not something you think might sell, or might be popular. If a story comes from a place of devotion, this will shine through in the writing.

Work on your technique, and the craft of writing well, and don’t be afraid to experiment with a different structure or point of view if that’s what your story needs. The prize recognises literary craft and style.  

And drilling right down: read the prize rules, spellcheck and format properly. This is your treasure, polish it up.

Finally: back yourself. Submit. You’re a writer.  

 

With heartfelt encouragement,

Annette Higgs

 

Feeling inspired? Enter the 2024 Penguin Literary Prize here!

Feature Title

On a Bright Hillside in Paradise
From the winner of the 2022 Penguin Literary Prize. 'A jewel of a novel: luminous, vivid, and deftly shaped.' FIONA McFARLANE
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