Award Mentorships

2017 Emerging Writers’ and Illustrators’ Mentorship Program supported by Copyright Agency Cultural Fund

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Emerging Writers’ and Illustrators’ Mentorship Program provides the winners of these award mentorships with the opportunity to develop their early draft manuscript to a publishable standard through 13 free mentorships with professional mentors. Applications are assessed on literary and artistic merit and developmental potential.

Entries will be accepted in the seven genres of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels, young adult literature, children’s writing and picture book illustration.

The 2017 program will support 12 mentorships from any eligible genre, funded by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, plus one additional mentorship – the Edel Wignell Mentorship – for children’s writers. This mentorship is funded by the income from the acclaimed children’s author, Edel Wignell.

Successful applicants will work closely with a mentor selected from the ASA Mentors’ list for 25 hours over one year, with an additional two-hour consultation available following completion of the mentorship. A further five highly commended applicants will receive a two-hour phone consultation with a mentor they have selected from the ASA Mentors’ list.

The Emerging Writers’ and Illustrators’ Mentorship Program is supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.

Mentors' Register

Click here and scroll to the bottom of the new page to view the ASA list of mentors.

2017 assessors' report

2017 Emerging Writers' and Illustrators Mentorship applications will be assessed by Susan Hawthorne, Bert Hingley, Linsay Knight, Joel Naoum, Leonie Tyle, Bruce Whatley and Carole Wilkinson. Their comments have been organised by entry category.

Fiction

Overall, the standard in the Fiction category was high, except in speculative fiction where the judges considered the standard to be a little average. Entries tackled subjects as diverse as refugees, child abuse, domestic violence, rape, Indigenous issues, identity problems, dysfunctional parent-child relationships, small town politics, the role of the media and creativity. The geographic range was also wide – from London to Afghanistan, China and New York and of course, Australia, and most of the entries reflected on some aspect of Australian life and culture, and in an interesting way.

A high number of applicants (both fiction and non-fiction) hadn’t given a great deal of specific thought as to what they wanted to achieve with the mentorship, other than having someone to look over their work and give editorial feedback, provide general advice about the publishing industry or use contacts to help get them published. 

Despite this, however, there were still a number of very well written pieces and many of them also showed potential for further development if paired with the right mentor.

Future applicants could improve by ensuring their application contains:

  • a clear and descriptive synopsis,
  • a clear plan for the mentorship,
  • and that the first two or three pages are gripping and demonstrate the momentum of the overall story.

The best applications were those that combined great writing, a solid plan for the mentorship and overall potential for future publication.

Non-fiction 

Many of the comments made for fiction held true for this category as well, except that the subject range was narrow with an emphasis on memoir. It was noted that the personal memoir can be a difficult form as in order for it to appeal to the general reader, rather than just to friends and family, it needs to transcend the personal and be about more than just the author.

Children’s

The spread was wide with a number of picture books on the menu, as well as beginner-reader series, middle grade stories, teenage titles and various forms of poetry. Overall, enthusiasm outweighed results and it was hard to engage with many of the stories. However, it was refreshing when a standout voice was heard and the small number of these were particularly striking. It's so important that writers start with a bang. Take a simple idea and make it sing. Children’s writing must respect and not talk down to the child.

The manuscripts which received the highest scores demonstrated an authentic voice, character development and a lyrical use of language which is so important for young readers. They also showed inventive storylines – well-paced and original. 

Young adult (YA)

Entries in the YA category of the ASA mentorships were very varied – in genre and in the age of intended readership, although the judges were not convinced that all entries were suitable for a YA audience. A clear and succinct synopsis is essential, so that assessors understand where the story is going.

The manuscripts that received the highest scores demonstrated a strong authentic voice, character depth, empathy and an ability to write prose that communicates and shows promise. Unfortunately a number of the manuscripts were derivative, with writing styles that tended to tell rather than show the story. There was also a distinct lack of voice, which did not allow for character depth. The most popular genre was fantasy but most of these were half-formed and underdeveloped. There was a lack of understanding that the first 10 pages are critical as writers need to hook the reader from the very first sentence.

Poetry

The standard of poetry was high this year and it was pleasing to see strong poetic voices snaking through the hearts of many of the collections. A number of poets had sent individual poems out to various poetry publications for consideration. This was a good way of honing their work for an audience of poetry lovers and of practising using and nailing particular poetic forms. The Australian landscape featured strongly and proved a compelling backdrop to the most assured work.

Graphic novels

The graphic novel submissions varied considerably in genre, artistic style, vision and execution. Furthermore, some appeared to be developed for the traditional comics market, while others for mainstream book publishing. Although all the submissions showed merit for different reasons, the prevailing theme that emerged in assessing the material was that not enough time had been spent in script development. The text was either impressionistic and would have worked better as a short story, or the narrative did not pay enough attention to establishing character, conflict and tension. On occasion, the narrative competed with the art, rather than complemented or flowed with it. In some submissions there also appeared to be confusion about what qualified as a children’s picture book (a category of children’s literary publishing), as opposed to a graphic novel (a category in the comics medium) – both of which need to be treated differently. 

The other theme that emerged was that several creators did not fully comprehend the conventions of genre and ultimately drifted away from the genre they identified in the explanatory notes that accompanied their submission. These factors point to the importance of pinning down the outline and story arc first in order to eradicate narrative problems before progressing to the script and finally the art. The artistic component is onerous and it is more difficult to fix after completion than it is to fix the story at the start. The issues identified above are not insurmountable and all the submissions in the category showed promise. However, all the applicants would benefit from getting editorial input before they commit to finishing their respective projects.

Picture books

Writing and illustrating picture books is not as easy as it looks. Their simplicity often hides a complex mixture of innovative concepts, strong characters and excellent “timing”. And the illustrations do more than reflect the text, they compliment and add to the narrative, enhancing and enriching the storyline. A good picture book finds the right balance between what is said and what is shown. 

The quality of the applicants was very mixed. With a few exceptions the writing was average or non-existent. Also authors should be wary of writing in verse. It is difficult to do really well, goes in and out of “fashion” and restricts your ability to sell internationally. Those with a natural ability to illustrate and visually tell a story stood out from the rest. The best of these were professional and had a good understanding of the format and construction of a picture book, which helped carry their sparse texts. Authors and illustrators should look at what others are doing in picture books today, not to imitate but to learn. 

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