HarperCollins Publishers Australia announces shortlist for the 2023 Banjo Prize

HarperCollins Publishers Australia has revealed the shortlist for the 2023 Banjo Prize. We are so excited that AWC graduates A’Mhara McKey and Natasha Neary are on the list! A’Mhara and Natasha are both members of a writing group that grew out of Write Your Novel in 2021. Since then, the writing group has exchanged messages on a daily basis, met monthly on Zoom, reviewed each other's work, entered competitions and more. This collaborative community has obviously paid off, and we're so thrilled to hear about the ongoing support our graduates provide to each other!

Previously, AWC graduate Veronica Lando won the Banjo Prize for her novel The Whispering in 2021 and Dinuka McKenzie won in 2020 for The Torrent. Both Veronica and Dinuka have since built awesome author careers.

Here are the details from HarperCollins Publishers Australia's press release:

HarperCollins Publishers Australia is thrilled to announce the shortlist for the 2023 Banjo Prize.

Lou and I by Anna Fursland

Islands of Secrets by Stefanie Koens

The Shores Between by A’Mhara McKey

The Sister Tree by Natasha Neary

Katherine Papadakis is Figuring Things Out by Christina Pontos

Now in its sixth year, the Banjo Prize again received hundreds of entries from all over Australia. Anna Valdinger, Fiction Publisher at HarperCollins, commented about the shortlist:

‘The imagination and talent on show from Australia’s writers never fails to impress us, and it was very difficult to narrow the entries down. We are very proud of this shortlist – these books are a real mix of styles, genres and time periods, but each one is special. Lou and I is an instantly intriguing psychological suspense about a woman who takes over someone else’s life; Island of Secrets a fascinating story of family secrets that takes us back to the Batavia shipwreck; The Shores Between an atmospheric mystery set on a remote Scottish island; The Sister Tree a gripping thriller about a journalist facing her own demons to unmask a killer; and Katherine Papadakis is Figuring Things Out a charmingly witty story of a young woman trying to take control of her life. All five of these brilliant novels captivate, intrigue, entertain and make us think.’

HarperCollins launched the Banjo Prize in 2018 in a quest to find Australia’s next great storyteller. The inaugural winner was Tim Slee, whose delightful debut novel Taking Tom Murray Home was published by HarperCollins in July 2019. The 2019 winner was Elizabeth Flann’s incredibly tense Australian thriller Beware of Dogs, published in January 2021; Dinuka McKenzie’s compelling crime novel, The Torrent, won in 2020 and was published in February 2022; the 2021 winner, Veronica Lando’s atmospheric mystery set in the rainforest of Far North Queensland, The Whispering, was released in July 2022; and Steph Vizard’s charming romcom, The Love Contract, won in 2022 and was published in September 2023.

The Banjo is open to all Australian writers of commercial fiction, offering the chance to win a publishing contract with HarperCollins, with an advance of $15,000. The runners-up will each receive a written assessment of their manuscript from HarperCollins.

Applicants were required to submit a full manuscript of adult commercial fiction, a 500-word synopsis and a 200-word biographical statement.

The winner of the 2023 Banjo Prize will be announced on 26 September 2023.

Find out more here.

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