Saturday, September 3, 2011


Last night in Melbourne's Federation Square, the new Stella Prize for the best book of the year by an Australian woman was launched as part of the Melbourne Writers' Festival. I did something uncharacteristically frivolous and flew over for the party.

The only people in this photo I actually recognise are journalist George Megalogenis, the tall dark dude over to the left, and Scribe publisher Aviva Tuffield, who is the smiling woman with darkish shoulder-length hair tucked behind one ear, at far right.

Chris Gordon, the events manager at Readings bookshop and a fellow member of the Stella Prize steering committee (as is Aviva, above), spoke persuasively of the need for sponsors and donations, and then introduced Australian feminist legend Anne Summers, author of Damned Whores and God's Police, which if memory serves was the first, or certainly one of the first, books in Australia to look at Australian history and culture through the lens of a feminist reading.

Anne officially launched the prize, reading the notes for her speech straight off her iPad, the first (though no doubt not the last) time I'd ever seen anybody do that. One of the most arresting things she said was that things were actually better for women in 1994 and we had apparently gone backwards.

But mostly the party was about the prize: what we've done so far, what we have still to do. The large crowd included most of the steering committee, mostly Melbourne writers and publishers: Chris, Aviva, Monica Dux, Jo Case, Rebecca Starford, and Sophie Cunningham who started it all.

Sophie Cunningham (R) with Pip McGuinness from NewSouth Books, the brains behind their Capital Cities series and therefore publisher of Sophie's book Melbourne and, next month, my book Adelaide.

The other Melbourne committee members include Jenny Niven, the MWF programmer, who I don't think was there (if I were the MWF programmer I'd be home in a coma by now) and Louise Swinn, who wasn't well. Susan Johnson from Brisbane also wasn't well enough to come, though she'd planned to. Kirsten Tranter and I flew down from Sydney and Adelaide respectively. See the Stella website at the above link for more detail on all these people.

L to R: Monica Dux, Rebecca Starford, Jo Case

Others spotted in the crowd included Melbourne publishing legend Hilary McPhee; longtime literary editor of The Age Jason Steger; publishers Philippa McGuinness from NewSouth Books and Michael Heyward from Text; Adam Bandt MP, the Federal Member for Melbourne; and Mark Rubbo, Managing Director of Readings bookshop, who has been a quietly effective supporter of the Stella Prize from the beginning.

Sophie Cunningham, Adam Bandt. The person he is talking to is probably Kirsten Tranter -- I think I recognise the outfit.

It was Kirsten who wondered on Facebook the night before the party which members of the steering committee would be out in Flinders Street drunkenly shouting 'Hey STELLA!' before the night was over. The closest I got to that myself was a quiet bottle of Stella Artois back in my hotel room later that night as I read the grisly new Val McDermid. My days for this sort of thing are a very long way behind me.


Tim said...

I was there and thought it was a very positive beginning to a venture I hope has every success.

(I wanted to say hello, but I was too shy.)

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Well that is sad, I would have loved to have met you properly. Tx v much for good wishes - we have high hopes for the good ship Stella.

Penthe said...

Congratulations on the official start. Are you taking small donations (in the style of the Queen Victoria hospital start up in Melbourne's olden days) or only large corporate or philanthropy kind of donations?

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Penthe, I believe several members of the committee are finalising the business plan at a meeting in a few days' time. We have a website and will soon have a blog where news of the possibilities will be posted.

Lucy Sussex said...

And which publisher was talking through Summers' speech, eh?

Sylv said...

Stella Miles F would be delighted. She would probably have invented a word to describe the occasion. Spoodilicious, perhaps?