Celebrating the short list
A North Melbourne writer has been short-listed for the annual Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and joins an illustrious crew of those nominated for prizes.
Paul Dalla Rosa was short-listed for the fiction prize for his book of short stories A Vivid and Exciting Inner Life.
He was at the awards ceremony, held at the Edge on February 2, with a who’s who of literati.
The big prize is the Victorian Prize for Literature, worth $100,000 and the richest in the country. Dalla Rosa was in the running.
The Minister for Creative Industries Steve Dimopoulos announced the prize-winners.
Dalla Rosa was more confident than last year, combining talk of global city states with his own personal story of identity, having grown up a young gay man.
Dalla Rosa’s collection deals with multiple identities and the memorable scenarios at work that both create and oppress the vanities that keep us going in a sometimes-cruel world.
His collection did not win the prize for fiction. That honour went to Jessica Au, for Cold Enough for Snow, a modest novella about a journey to Japan.
When the wife of the Premier, Catherine Andrews, announced that Au had also won the big prize, this signalled the value placed on fiction in the community, particularly by this state government.
“I feel slightly ill,” Au said. “This is a staggering honour. Something like this is a life-changing moment.”
Then, in typical writerly style, she began processing the news from the point of view of a writer rather than the recipient of a staggering $125,000 for her second novel.
“Prizes … they fade, and you’re left with an ordinary life,” she said. “I’ll be lucky if out of this some writing comes.”
It was an apt comment, given the rapid rise to stardom that has been her fate.
Dalla Rosa has had a similar but not quite as steep trajectory. He won The Times prize for a short story in London and his collection was published soon after.
Others on the fiction short-list were also present at the ceremony, including Sophie Cunningham and Gail Jones.
Jones says that prizes are great, and she was hoping for many more opportunities to be on short lists.
Her books have been on 23 short lists and nine long lists, with some wins along the way.
In the past not all short-listers have been as gracious as those who turned up, even though they’d been advised ahead about the winners.
At the Miles Franklin award ceremony in 2019, won by Melissa Lucashenko for Too Much Lip, three runners-up failed to show. •
Caption: Paul Dalla Rosa at the Premier’s Literary Awards.