Three Queensland writers have scooped the literature prizes in the $40,000 Josephine Ulrick Literature and Poetry Prizes held at the Gold Coast Arts Centre last week.

Brisbane author Krissy Kneen won second prize for her short story, Steeple Chase, about sisters and the secrets they keep from each other.

“This award means a huge amount to me. My memoir, Affection, was published last year and was really successful, but my passion has always been for fiction,” she said.

“I am working really hard to try to get a novel published next because I have a feeling people see me as a non-fiction writer and my focus is fiction. This prize is like a confirmation that I can do it.”

With Affection due out in the US in November Kneen says the $5000 prize-money will go towards her New York book tour.

Felicity Plunkett and Bronwyn Lea, both from Brisbane, received commendations worth $2500 each for their stories.

Victorian writer Jewelene Barrile won the $10,000 first prize for her short story Geometry Lesson about a child who discovers the truth about what’s happening to her family by studying the geometry of her parents’ bodies.

“This award makes me feel wonder, and validation,” she said.

“I think of all the emerging writers it has inspired since it was set up and I feel part of an artistic community.”

Barrile, has two novels close to completion and hopes the Ulrick award will stand her in good stead with publishers.

Judging coordinator and head of Griffith University’s creative writing program, Associate Professor Nigel Krauth said the prizes helped foster the talents of early career writers, but also rewarded established names.

“Among the winners this year are several well-known writers,” he said.

“The judging panel consists of eminent Australian authors and poets, giving entrants exposure to some of the best literary knowledge in Australia.

“Dr Frank Moorhouse, Dr Sally Breen, MTC Cronin and Peter Boyle, are multiple award-winners themselves.”

The winner of the Poetry Prize ($10,000) is Nathan Curnow from Victoria for his poem Endtime, second prize ($5000) went to Andrew Slattery of NSW for Always, Sometimes, Never and and commended awards ($2500) went to Carmen Leigh Keates from Brisbane and Jill Pattinson from Victoria.

The literature prize is for a short story between 1000 and 3000 words and the poetry prize is for a poem or suite of poems, up to 200 lines.

Josephine Ulrick (1942-1997) was director and curator of Art Galleries Schubert over many years.