Flinders creative writing PhD Margaret Merrilees received the 2012 Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award from the Premier, Mr Jay Weatherill, as part of the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, which were presented at Writers’ Week on March 3.
She received the biennial $10,000 award for her manuscript novel, which has the working title of The First Week.
The author says her book, written as part of her PhD, is about “blame and self-blame in a culture in which ‘whose fault was it?’ is too often the first question”.
The novel tells the story of a farming woman whose life in rural Western Australia is shattered when her son randomly shoots and kills two people in Perth. In the days that follow, between prison visits and professional appointments, she attempts to come to terms with her irrevocably altered life, questioning her underlying assumptions and coming to recognise the violence and racism implicit in living on the land.
Accepting her award, Dr Merrilees paid tribute to her academic supervisors, Dr Jill Golden and Professor Jeri Kroll. As well as an Australian Postgraduate Award, she had the benefit of a travel grant and mentorship from established novelist Eva Hornung.
She described her postgraduate experience at Flinders as wonderful.
“I had opportunities to teach, always the best form of learning, and to listen in to other courses. Most importantly of all, I had the support of fellow students and staff – an invaluable experience of belonging.”
The novel will be published by Wakefield Press.