The 2022 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing was awarded to Anneliz Marie Erese for her story ‘International’ at an online awards ceremony held on 16 November.
Erese is a writer of Filipino heritage, living in Naarn (Melbourne). She was chosen as the winner from a shortlist of eleven writers. Erese will receive $3,000, a mentorship to assist in further development of her work and then the completed manuscript will be considered by Black Inc publishers.
Speaking on behalf of the judging panel (Lee Kofman, Sisonke Msimang and Paul Dalgarno), Paul Dalgarno said of Erese’s entry, “From the first word the narrator has us enthralled. The lightness of the prose, the humour and the ease with which the narrator keeps us invested in this story is matched with wonderful observations about human nature and the narrator’s inner world.
“There were 99 stories submitted this year which was whittled down to a shortlist of 11 because it was impossible to get to the usual 10. The stories were of an extremely high quality and all of them were strong for different reasons.”
The Deborah Cass Prize is a development prize to encourage new migrant voices in Australian literature. Entrants must be unpublished and have either migrated to Australia or have a parent who migrated here.
The two runners-up, Min Chow and Nilofar Zimmerman, will each receive a prize of $1000.
Nilofar Zimmerman is a writer of Indo-Fijian heritage and was the first runner-up, for her story ‘Kaa’. Judge Paul Dalgarno said, “It is a story of childhood dread and foreboding delivered with the power of a fable.”
Min Chow was the second runner-up for her story ‘Melonshine’. She is a writer of Malaysian Chinese heritage. Judge Paul Dalgarno said, “This story bowled us over with its language, evocative imagery and its characterisation.”
In her keynote speech at the award night ceremony, Alice Pung, one of the Prizes founding judges, said “The fact that so many books have been published is testament to the power of this prize. Australian publishing has not always sought diverse voices. What the Deborah Cass Prize offered was an expansion of the possibilities of the immigrant story. ”
Dan Cass, who chairs the organising committee for the Prize said, “The Deborah Cass Prize is finishing in 2022. It is the eighth year of our work and the committee has decided to put down the pen.
“On behalf of our family – especially my late parents, Shirley and Moss – I am tremendously grateful for the generous support the Prize received from hundreds of writers, dozens of donors, judges, short listers and the committee members. We thank partner organisations that supported the prize over the last eight years, Writers Victoria, Black Inc and Mascara Literary Review and Arnold Bloch Liebler for pro bono legal services.
“Six of our winners and other alumni have published nine books since 2015. The Prize been a very meaningful way to remember my sister, Deborah, who had a love of writing and a passion for justice.”