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Your Guide to Entering the Text Prize, Part Two

2016 Text Prize banner

Part Two: Q&A with Text Prize Alumni

On the eve (almost) of the 2016 Text Prize we couldn’t think of anyone better to ask about entering and winning than three authors who’ve been there, done that. So, without further ado, read on for words of wisdom from winners A. J. Betts and David Burton and shortlistee Meg Caddy, whose debut novel Waer is out next month.

A. J. Betts

Amanda Betts

Zac & Mia, your third novel, won the 2012 Text Prize and was published in 2013. Can you tell us why you chose to enter the prize as an established author? 

I think the Text Prize is a great opportunity for any author, regardless of their publishing history. I entered it after being prompted by my third-year creative-writing students (when I was teaching at Curtin University). After raving about how great the prize is and how they should all enter, one of them said, ‘If it’s so good, why don’t you enter it?’ And the challenge was on! It was great to have the following year’s deadline to work towards. 

What’s one thing about the process of winning and publication that surprised you?

I was surprised by the excitement (i.e. announcements and parties) that came with winning the Text Prize. In the past, the buzz around the launch of a book has been probably a few weeks either side of release, but there was certainly more buzz before and after the announcement of the prize. 

Is there anything you’d wish you’d done differently, or known about your book/the prize/publishing in general before entering the prize?

I’m glad I didn’t rush the writing process—I’d spent over three years on the novel before entering, and given it to a couple of friends to read. I wish I hadn’t had so many other writing/teaching commitments in the nine months leading to publication, as it was very difficult to fit in the editing around these. 

David Burton

David Burton 

We were very excited to publish your memoir, How to Be Happy, in 2015 after it became the first non-fiction winner of the Text Prize in 2014. What made you enter non-fiction in a prize that had, so far, only been awarded to fiction? 

I just thought, why not? I studied the guidelines closely and realised there was nothing saying I couldn’t submit non-fiction, but I thought my chances were slim. But then, finding opportunities for young-adult non-fiction is extremely rare, so I thought I better jump at the chance. I was humbled and grateful when it was shortlisted, even more so when it won. 

What’s one thing about the process of winning and publication that surprised you?

How kind and welcoming Text was. Not even kidding. I felt welcomed and supported by a team of people who were all invested in seeing my work succeed. As an artist, there’s nothing you crave more. The cynic in me didn’t think that such kindness would be part of the process. I was proven gloriously wrong. 

Is there anything you’d wish youd done differently, or known about your book/the prize/publishing in general before entering the prize?

Breathe and take your time. Trust the Text team, they want you to succeed. Enter work that you feel is well and truly established, and then don’t be surprised when you edit it for another six or seven months. 

Meg Caddy

Meg Caddy

Waer was on the 2013 shortlist and we acquired your book not long after that, though you also were told you hadn’t won. Can you tell us what that process was like for you? 

I was at work the day before the winner was released to the public and missed a call from the Text office on my home phone. I already knew I hadn’t won, they’d told me the week before, but that was about it. I didn’t manage to get through to Text that evening—because of the time difference between Melbourne and Perth, the office had closed before I finished work. 

I spoke to Mandy Brett, my wonderful editor, the next day and she explained to me that Text was eager to take on Waer. Mandy was very patient, but I’m not sure how coherent I was on the other end of the phone—I stammered my way through the conversation and definitely cried after hanging up. I still get a dorky grin on my face every time I think about that phone call. 

What’s one thing about the process of being shortlisted and publication that surprised you?

Being shortlisted and published were both pretty surprising in and of themselves! But what really struck me was how quick the shortlisting process was, and how efficient Text was in getting the contract over to me.

The other thing that really struck me was how friendly everyone at Text is, from the publishers and editors to the other authors (including A. J. Betts, another Perth ‘Textian’, who welcomed me into the Text family quite literally with open arms). Being new to the industry, I’ve had a lot of questions and made a lot of mistakes, but everyone at Text has been endlessly patient and kind. 

Is there anything you’d wish you’d done differently, or known about your book/the prize/publishing in general before entering the prize? 

I wish I had spent less time fretting and stressing about every little thing! There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the moments as they come to you. I was also very nervous about talking to editors and publishers—I think a lot of young writers get the impression that everyone in the publishing business is unforgiving and frightening, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I wish I’d had a little more confidence.

Thanks to Amanda, David and Meg for answering these questions (and for saying such nice things about us!). Check out Part One: the Text Prize FAQ and download the entry form for the 2018 Text Prize.


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