2021 Prize Winner Bryant Apolonio

Bryant Apolonio, winner of the 2021 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing

The 2021 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing has been awarded to Bryant Apolonio for his story ‘Independencia’.

Apolonio, a Filipino-Australian writer and lawyer living on Larrakia Land (Darwin) in the Northern Territory was chosen as the winner of the Prize from a shortlist of nine writers. Bryant receives $3,000 and a mentorship to assist in further development of his work.

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel (Melanie Cheng, Lee Kofman and Sisonke Msimang), Melanie Cheng said: “The judges were all in agreement on the originality and authenticity of the winning story. The judges spoke of the writer’s flair with language and were in awe of his ability to engage the reader’s senses so completely. We loved the nuance in the story and most importantly we felt this piece touched on some of the subtleties of the migrant experience that we hadn’t seen represented in the Australian literary scene previously.”

The runners-up are Irina Frolova and Patrick Arulanandam. Each runner-up receives $1,000. 

Irina Frolova, first runner-up of the 2021 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing

Irina Frolova, a Russian-Australian poet living on Awabakal land in New South Wales, was announced as first runner-up for ‘On the Tail of the Firebird’. Speaking of Irina’s work, Melanie Cheng said that it is “evocative, with a powerful sense of place, crafted by a confident storyteller. The judges enjoyed the crispness of the language and the clarity of the author’s vision. The judges felt this was the work of an assured and talented writer.”

Patrick Arulanandam, second runner-up of the Deborah Cass Prize for Writing

Patrick Arulanandam, a writer of Sri-Lankan heritage who was born in Hong Kong and now lives on Eora land (Sydney) in New South Wales, was second runner-up for ‘The Seconds of Holroyd House’. Judge Melanie Cheng commented that Patrick’s story was “an extremely enticing premise, told through a slightly old-fashioned and wry voice. The judges said the prose was rich in texture, the characters were compelling and it was a pleasure to read.”

In her keynote speech, judge and writer Sisonke Msimang said:

“Today we are here to celebrate the words of a group of writers whose understanding of the human condition was evident from the first words we read. As judges we were thrilled to receive such a wide-ranging and beautiful collection of stories. There was humour and pain but above all there was specificity. Some people call this authenticity, or voice. There were small idiosyncrasies that made it clear that no one else could have dreamed up these characters, or in the case of the creative non-fiction, described the world in such new and fresh ways. They have all succeeded in telling stories that will live on.”

The three winners’ stories are published in the literary journal Mascara Literary Review. The Prize committee would like to thank Mascara Literary Review for its valued support in the shortlisting process and as a publishing partner of the Prize.

We would also like to warmly thank the independent publisher Black Inc. for its support of the Prize. All the shortlisted writers will have their work read and considered by its editors.

Watch the video of the 2021 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing Award Ceremony. With thanks to guest speaker Sisonke Msimang (writer, activist, political analyst and DCP judge), MC James Button (writer, editor and prize co-founder) and prize judge Melanie Cheng (writer of fiction and non-fiction and DCP judge).

2021 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing Award Ceremony