Rafeif Ismail announced as 2017 winner

unnamedWe are delighted to tell you that the 2017 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing has been won by Rafeif Ismail, a 23-year old Perth woman from a Sudanese background, for her story, Almitra Amongst the Ghosts.

Rafeif, who travelled to Melbourne with her parents, Afeif and Nazik, to receive the award, was overjoyed at the win. In front of a packed audience of supporters of the Prize, Rafeif said she was honoured to receive the award, acknowledged the legacy of Deborah Cass in its creation, and said the prize could play a vital role in opening opportunities to new writers from migrant backgrounds.

Rafeif’s winning entry is part of a larger collection in development, String Theory, that follows three Sudanese refugee youths through their coming-of-age in Australia. The novel explores Sudanese storytelling techniques through western writing styles.

In their statement, the judging panel said, ‘In Almitra Amongst the Ghosts, Rafeif Ismail has invented a new style of poetry-prose that incorporates her home culture with English in a startling way. We were astonished by the voice and the power of the writing. She writes with skill and restraint and her work reads like poetry – each word is there for a purpose.’

Rafeif said, ‘I wish to highlight the myriad of experiences of refugee youths while exploring the differences and similarities between Sudanese and Australian cultures. I hope to write a work for third-culture youths, who are left out of the mainstream literature of their new home and not represented by the stories of their countries of origin.’

The Prize judges, writers Christos Tsiolkas, Alice Pung and Tony Ayres, noted the exceptionally high quality of a significant number of works entered in 2017, the first year the prize has been awarded nationally.

We also congratulate our two runners up: Sivashneel Sanjappa (Vic), for The Journey Home, and Jessie Tu (NSW), for Another Country.

Stay tuned for more information about our winner Rafeif and our runners-up Jessie and Sivashneel, including samples of the writing that so impressed our judges.

And thank you so much for your support. Without you, the Prize would not exist, let alone grow. You helped it go national this year, attracting a record 91 entries, up from 39 in 2016. You are directly helping many writers from migrant backgrounds find bigger audiences and tell powerful stories, and whether you were present at the Award ceremony last night or not, you were a vital part of the success of this year’s Prize.

Advertisements

Shortlist 2017

The Deborah Cass Prize Committee is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2017 prize. This is the first year the prize has gone national, which is reflected in a doubling of the number of entries. This year we had 91 submissions from all parts of Australia. The entries were of high quality and reflected a wide diversity of the migrant experience. Those selected for the shortlist were stories that were written in an engaging and interesting style, while at the same time they offered a fresh perspective on the migrant experience.

Shortlist in alphabetical order

Lur Alghurabi Letters from the Grave (Iraq)

Antonella Fedele The Good Immigrants (Italy)

Rafeif Ismail Almitra Amongst the Ghosts (Sudan)

Mary Manias The Olive Tree (Greece)

Alexandra Mavridis Grecian Silhouettes (Greece)

Jenni Mazaraki Koukla (Greece)

Sivashneel Sanjappa The Journey Home (Fiji)

Fatima Sehbai Mithu and Sakina (Pakistan)

Jessie Tu Another Country (Taiwan)

Yen-Rong Wong Perfect (Malaysian-Chinese)

These entries will now be assessed by our judges and an announcement will be made of the winner on 13 December.

Award night 2017 bigger than ever

We are proud to announce that the Deborah Cass Writing Prize has received a record ninety-one entries this year. The 2017 award night is on Wednesday 13 December. We are honoured that Nyadol Nyuon, a writer and litigation lawyer at Arnold Bloch Leibler, will present the award.
The Award Night is open to all so put it in your diary and tell your friends!
Deborah Cass Writing Prize Award Night
Wednesday 13 December, 6-8pm.
Level 2, 39 Little Collins Street (between Exhibition and Spring)
Speaker: lawyer and writer Nyadol Nyuon.
For the first two years we took entries only from Victoria but this year we opened our horizons and solicited new writing from migrant writers around the country and were thrilled with the result. Entries came from ACT (2), New South Wales (20), Queensland (8), South Australia (6), Victoria (43) and Western Australia (7).
Christos Tsolkias, Alice Pung and Tony Ayres are the esteemed judging panel again in 2017.
The winner will receive a cash prize of $3,000 plus a three-month mentorship with an established writer. The winning manuscript will be presented to the publisher Black Inc. There is also the opportunity for publication of the winning excerpt in Mascara Literary Review.
This week we will be announcing the shortlist for 2017, so sign up to our mailing list here to stay informed about our entries, get invitations to our events and become part of our growing circle of friends.

2017 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing goes national

The Deborah Cass Prize is now in its third year and is going national. This is a prize for writers with a migrant background who are relatively early in their careers.

In the first two years, the prize was open to Victorian writers and attracted a high-quality field of entrants.

The inaugural prize was won by Moreno Giovannoni for Tales of San Ginese, a book of tales about an Italian village, which will be published by Black Inc. in 2018. Melanie Cheng, who was runner-up in the first year, recently published her first collection of short stories, Australia Day, which are about belonging in contemporary Australia.

Jean Bachoura won last year’s prize, for Night Falls, about a young Syrian-Australian man, largely set in war-destroyed Damascus.

Three of Australia’s leading writers, Christos Tsolkias, Alice Pung and Tony Ayres, are the judges of the prize again in 2017. The winner will receive a cash prize of $3,000 plus a three-month mentorship with an established writer. The winning manuscript will be presented to Black Inc. There is also the opportunity for publication of the winning excerpt in Mascara Literary Review.

Due date & general criteria

Applications will be due before 5pm on Monday 16 October 2017. Applicants will provide a writing sample of no more than 3,000 words, which may be a complete work or part of a longer work. The writing may be fiction or non-fiction prose. Applicants must be either born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas. You can submit applications here.

Deborah

The prize is in the memory of Deborah Cass. The granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, Deborah Cass became a prize-winning professor of International Law at the London School of Economics. After diagnosis of cancer, Deborah left her academic career and focused on creative writing. She had a number of short fiction pieces published, but was unable to realise her aim to complete a novel. With generous support from family and friends, this prize aims to help someone outside the mainstream find a voice for themselves.

We are taking tax deductible donations now!

We have just registered the Deborah Cass Prize for Writing with the Australian Cultural Fund, which enables us to take tax deductible donations. The ACF site makes it easy for you to make your donation online.

The campaign is running until Monday 17 July. Our target for the fundraising campaign is to raise $8,000, which will pay for the prize to continue this year.

This is the third year of the prize and we are starting to see it really bearing fruit. Our first year’s winner, Moreno Giovannoni, and Melanie Cheng, a runner-up in 2015, have had their manuscripts accepted for publication.

Tax deductibility is a great enticement at this time of the year, when people are doing their tax returns, so it is a timely opportunity for you to reach out to family and friends who might be interested in supporting literature by Australian migrant writers.

The Australian Cultural Fund site has easy links for you to share on Facebook, Twitter or email.

Please pass on the campaign site to your contacts.

2016 prize winner – Jean Bachoura

A story by Syrian-born actor and writer Jean Bachoura is the winner of the 2016 Deborah Cass Writing Prize.

Night Falls, an extract from a larger work in progress, tells a gripping story of a young Syrian-Australian, Eyad, returning to war-destroyed Damascus to meet his mother and revisit his childhood home.

Thanks to David Patston for the photos

Runners-up are Edita Mujkic for her story about leaving Sarajevo under bombardment, ‘From There to Here’, Linda Judge’s Latvian journey ‘Mother Tongue’and Katerina Craven’s opening two chapters of her first young adult novel, ‘Our Darkest Places’.

The Prize, run in partnership with Writers Victoria, awards $3000 to a writer of migrant background whose work reflects at least in part on the migrant experience.

It also provides a year-long mentorship from an established writer and introduction to a mainstream publisher.

The judges, Alice Pung, Christos Tsolkias and Tony Ayres, singled out Night Falls for its compelling story, lively writing and complex, vivid characters — especially the narrator’s mother.

“The writing had the ability to surprise you and give an insight into an unknown world,” said Christos Tsolkias.

Alice Pung also praised Our Darkest Places for its humour and three-dimensional characters, while Tony Ayres commended From There to Here for its strong sense of place and pacy, high-stakes plot.

Jean Bachoura, aged 27, said he was delighted.”Too often, mainstream coverage of long term geo-political conflict dehumanizes its victims. This is directly linked to the recent rise in racism and hate speech. Writing, however, can be a powerful vehicle for shaping our shared understanding and building empathy. For me, the Deborah Cass Prize is an opportunity to amplify unheard voices and to break down this dehumanising effect.”

Of the entry, he says: “This work, which began as a film script then turned into theatre and finally prose, is still in its infancy. I think it would benefit immensely from having an experienced writer shape its development.”

The Prize honours the life and work of the late legal academic and occasional writer, Deborah Cass. The granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, Deborah became a prize-winning professor of International Law at the London School of Economics before her death to cancer in 2013.

Jean received his award at a public event on Tuesday 13 December, 6pm, at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, 404 George Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne.

You can read the winning entry here. See also the Guardian story We can fight hate racism by telling stories about migrants

Testimonial from Moreno Giovanoni

 

The Deborah Cass Prize for Writing brought me three main benefits:

  1. Three distinguished judges – Alice Pung, Christos Tsiolkas and Tony Ayres – liked my writing and gave me a dose of courage with which to persevere – courage and perseverance, something every writer needs.
  1. The prize money helped take me to San Ginese in Tuscany, the town where the Tales are set, to see again the characters I am writing about in the place where they live. This trip also triggered an emotionally satisfying end to the book, but only after I returned to Australia and had thought about it for a long time.
  1. The Deborah Cass Prize also provided a mentor, Antoni Jach, who offered a guiding hand and worked with me at the problem solving that I needed to do.

The Prize has been a rich treasure trove of support for my writing and as it moves into its second year I cannot help but note its strength, with Melanie Cheng, who was shortlisted for the first Deborah Cass Prize, this year winning the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Prize.

To finish on a small personal note … When Southerly published another one of my Tales from San Ginese this year I was glad to be able to promote the Deborah Cass Prize for Writing by adding it to my bio.