Rich literary prizes bring recognition to writing

A former Brisbane writer and a Melbourne poet have each won $20,000 in one of Australia’s richest literary competitions.

Maria Zajkowski and Matthew Lamb (pictured) took out the top prizes in the 2012 Josephine Ulrick Literature and Poetry prizes in an awards ceremony at the Gold Coast Arts Centre last night.

Matthew, who now lives in Hobart and is the founding editor of online journal Review of Australian Fiction, entered the competition at the last minute and was shocked to discover he’d won.

“I was more shocked when he told me the prize money which I hadn’t paid that much attention to when I entered. If I had, I may have chosen a better story to enter!” he said.

His winning story Long Grass Over Home reveals what happens when you ‘lift the crust of the dung and let the stench rise’.

Matthew says he hopes that winning the prize will help legitimise his work, particularly with the journal to promote and disseminate Australian fiction and short stories.

It is second time around for Maria who won last year’s Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize for a suite of poems from her manuscript The Ascendant. This year’s winning suite of poems is also from The Ascendant.

“I’m absolutely astounded to have won a second time. I still can’t quite believe it’s true,” she said.

“My poems are about existence, and that death is not non-existence. They focus on gain as much as loss, and how inseparable these two things are.”

Winning the award means Maria will be able to take a break from working two jobs six days a week to spend some time in Europe and obtain a writing residency.

“I can go where the wind blows me, which, for a poet is a great thing.”

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.

“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 Josephine Ulrick prizes are among the richest creative writing prizes in Australia. Josephine Ulrick (1942-1997) was director and curator of Art Galleries Schubert over many years.

The prizes are administered by Griffith University on behalf of the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts.