Here’s contender number two for the Editia Prize

The second of our shortlisted authors for the Editia Prize is freelance writer and former social worker Carly Lorente. Read on for an extract from her entry, Minyma, and a little more about Carly herself.

The following passage is excerpted from Minyma with the permission of the author …

She smiles bravely again, and the scar on her right cheek is emphasized, a result of her most recent beating, where he’d kicked her face repeatedly as he pulled her down from the noose she made. The day after the last court hearing. She couldn’t even kill herself without his permission.

“Rikina. You look nice.”

I’d never seen her out of basketball shorts; today she wore a long black and white floral skirt.

“Sorry business for my uncle. When the rain come he could make it stop,” she smiled, that pretty white toothed smile.

The day we sat under the bottlebrush tree, the ants at our bare feet on the beat-up couch at the Women’s Shelter, she hadn’t been smiling. As sad and battered women walked by, she told me how she’d nearly died as a baby from too much milk, how she’d nearly died again when her mum was hit by lightning as she breastfed her.

She told me how she was born in Port Augusta where her parents were drinking, and where she eventually went into foster care herself, but didn’t like the white family she lived with. Her mother lives in Adelaide now and still drinks.

When M—– was 15 years old, in the state’s care she followed her cousin to Mutitjulu and was given her first drink. Not long after that, when she was in the state’s care, she met N——– there and left school.

Whilst still in the state’s care, at 16 years old, she fell pregnant to him. Around this time he went to prison for sexually assaulting a tourist who had wandered off from her group at Uluru, to where he was swimming in a nearby waterhole whilst his three year-old nephew watched. He pleaded guilty.

She can’t remember the first time N—— hit her. I know her well enough now to know that she doesn’t’ want to know. The Gordon Inquiry found that Indigenous women are 45 times more likely to experience family violence than non-Indigenous women, and six times more likely to be sexually abused.

About the author

After trying her hand at naturopathy, fashion styling, and social work, Carly Lorente began a career as a freelance feature writer and photographer. She has been published in various local and international titles including The Sunday Telegraph SUNDAY magazine, Mindfood, Green, Wellbeing, Pacific longboarder and Summer Winter covering indigenous issues, culture, fashion, surfing and travel.

She is also a contributing author to the book Lines Of Wisdom (Affirm Press 2008).

Carly currently lives in Northern NSW with her French husband and their soon-to-be two year-old son, and 13 chickens.


Here’s the first Editia Prize contender

 Today, we announce that the first of three shortlisted authors in the running for the Editia Prize is Frankie Seymour of Queanbeyan NSW, with her essay Beyond Biosphere. Read on to learn more about Frankie, and read an excerpt from her shortlisted entry.

The judges, book publisher Charlotte Harper, University of Canberra Professor of Journalism Matthew Ricketson, former editor of The Australian Malcolm Schmidtke and broadcaster, author and social commentator Jane Caro, will convene at 2pm this Friday to choose between three works shortlisted for the award.

Tomorrow, we’ll bring you details on the second finalist, and on Thursday, the third … though we’re having some trouble tracking him down so fingers crossed he checks his Twitter messages, voicemail and/or email by then.

Congratulations to all the entrants, not just these final three. The judges have been variously intrigued, amused, entertained, moved and informed as they consumed tales about running with the bulls in Pamplona, dripping with sweat in Japanese business meetings, pioneering in the Whitsundays, exploring polar ice in an all-terrain and all-temperature vehicle, literary touring of Lebanon and the death of an asbestos town among many others. Every entry was worth a read, and many will find their way to publication in time, we’re sure.

The following passage is excerpted from Beyond Biosphere with the permission of the author …

When any new species is introduced to an established ecosystem, it can cause the local extinction of other, resident species – but normally this damage occurs only on a small scale, with minimal long-term impacts on ecological systems. Whenever a foreign species arrives or arises in a healthy, resilient environment, one of three things will happen: it will fail to survive at all; it will settle in with minimal impact; or it will kill off a few resident species while the rest adapt around it. If it survives, it will soon become “naturalised” and, ultimately, any short term loss of biodiversity caused by its arrival will be reversed as new genetic mutations find niches, and new species diversify to fill up the altered ecosystem.

However, this new primate, because of its ability to adapt to new climates and environments without waiting for new genetic mutations, did its damage very quickly, and on a planetary scale. The primate exterminated entire ecosystems to make way for crops and pastures, replaced wild animals, which were functioning components of ecosystems, with domesticated animals which are not. Its settlements monopolised all the best sea and lake shores and river banks, restricting access to the water supply and the best vegetation for any other animal.

More and more of the planet was changed so it no longer served the whole biosphere, but now serviced only the one species. At this point, the species’ genetic selfishness stopped benefitting the biosphere, and began eroding it.

The human primate had become a cancer. As with the cancer in the individual organism, the new species was gradually turning everything on the planet into an extension of itself.  By the Middle Ages, we were a creeping cancer. Nowadays we are a galloping cancer, totally out of control.

About the author

A lifelong human and animal rights advocate, Frankie Seymour studied history, sociology and English literature, with post-graduate studies in environmental science. She spent the first half of a 30-year public service career working for social justice in the (then) Department of Social Security, and the second half analysing and evaluating environmental data in the Department of the Environment. Now retired, she divides her time between animal rights activism and writing. She writes poetry, songs, plays, non-fiction and speculative fiction, and occasionally dabbles in the romance and mystery genres. In 1993, she published an autobiographical account of her voyages aboard the Sea Shepherd in 1981 (All Hearts on Deck). Her work has been commended in more than a score of literary awards and she has had many poems, stories and articles published in local and wider publications.

A longform hello

By Hannah Stone

I’m thrilled to be Editia’s first intern this summer, and intrigued to learn more about the mechanics of maintaining a successful media start-up. ‘Diversify’ is one of the key words for anyone wanting to work in journalism at the moment, and digital publishing definitely fits the bill.

I’ve realised I have no idea how an ebook is actually made, but I’m curious to find out. It clearly isn’t a fool-proof process – I was really enjoying The Life of Pi on my tablet, until I discovered the second-last page had been lost in transcription! (I’m still wondering what happened to the tiger…) [Not any more, I’m just about to scan the last couple of pages of my signed copy of the book and email them to Hannah – Charlotte]

I’m also hoping to learn more about how to craft a work of longform journalism, as the longest pieces we write at university are nowhere near a five-figure word count. Although sustaining a narrative over so many pages is a daunting prospect, I think it is also the most valuable aspect of longform journalism for both the reader and the writer.

To be able to really take the time to get inside a subject in a truly investigative way, and to present it as more than just an ‘inverted pyramid’ seems to be somewhat of a journalistic luxury at the moment. But with longform journalism (both print and digital), being detailed and thorough and taking the time to really talk things through with interviewees is encouraged, not sidelined. All of which I think are some of the greatest pleasures of journalism.

The antithesis of ‘churnalism’, longform journalism has a far more lasting impact on the reader than the dozen odd news-bytes they might skim through on their mobile in a day. Add to that all of the user-generated content out there and it all becomes pretty TMI.

Don’t get me wrong, UGC can be amazing – Syria wouldn’t be sans internet right now otherwise. But it really has shrunk the market for j-school graduates with an endgame of becoming a *paid* journalist. I think longform journalism could be something of a lifeline in that respect.

Consumers are far more likely to remember and absorb a story with a narrative that hooks them and holds their attention over pages rather than paragraphs – it will stay with them. I think that’s what most journalists want; at least, that’s what I’ve always wanted from journalism.

I’m really looking forward to learning more from Editia about how to succeed in such a changing industry – thank you Charlotte for this wonderful opportunity!

Hannah Stone is a University of Canberra honours student working on a data-driven journalism project to map the accessibility of youth mental health services in the ACT. 

She has co-edited the ANU Education Department’s annual magazine and done PR for Students for Change in Melbourne. Hannah is a former board member of the AIDS Action Council ACT and has spent time in Kolkata (India) volunteering for the Institute of Social Work.

Practical advice for longform writers

While daily news journalism continues to suffer from job losses and budget cuts, demand for longform journalism is growing.

That’s according to Professor of Journalism at the University of Canberra and Editia Prize judge Matthew Ricketson, who spoke at the Walkley Media Conference in Canberra yesterday.

In a workshop titled From Daily Journalism to Longform Journalism, Ricketson said that longform journalism is of particular importance in a world where news is updated by the second.

“There are some things that you can’t achieve in daily news. The context is often missing, and details can’t be explored in depth,” he said.

Demand for longform reads has increased as readers seek comprehensive reporting at a digestible length. Ricketson said that there has never been more longform journalism around, “and it has never been more available”.

Despite this demand, longform journalism is often viewed as a side project.

“For writers, there are jobs that bring in the bread and butter, and there are jobs that feed your soul. Longform journalism is in the latter category,” Ricketson said.

During the workshop he gave practical tips for daily news journalists considering writing longer works, such as abandoning the inverted news pyramid style for writing that is narrative and scene driven.

“You have to give someone a reason to stay for thousands of words,” he said.

When writing longform journalism, Ricketson said that the standard journalist’s questions of who, what, when, where, why and how can be replaced with character, action, setting, chronology, motive and narrative.

He used excerpts from Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (one of the first non-fiction “novels” ever written) to show how this is done. He explained that dialogue is more effective than quotations in longer works, because “using dialogue makes the reader feel as though they are watching a play unfold in front of them. They hear moods; they understand contexts”. He also encouraged using vivid descriptions that draw on all senses.

“Sense of smell is underrated … but it isn’t part of the daily journalist’s lexicon,” he said.

Ricketson also examined In Cold Blood’s flaws, such as the use of omniscient narration (where the narrator knows everything).

“The omniscient narrator voice is not possible in nonfiction because there are always gaps and contradictions in what journalists can know about an event,” he said.

Journalists are presented with similar difficulties when recreating scenes and including sourcing and attribution.

“Reconstructing scenes is tricky. It can be done, but to what extent? And how do you reconcile that with the reader?

“You have to persuade the reader that you’re not making things up.”

Amy Birchall is a journalist at MSA Media, editor and publicist at Halstead Press, member of the ACT Writers Centre board and a blogger who regularly contributes to Editia’s social media streams.






What is longform journalism?

So what exactly is longform journalism? The most current and relevant definition comes from an international expert on the form, Matthew Ricketson, who recently assisted former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein QC in an independent inquiry into the media in Australia. He is one of the judges of the Editia Prize.

Writing in “Australian Journalism Today”, a 2012 Palgrave Macmillan textbook of which he is editor, Ricketson defines longform journalism in book form as, “Where practioners use journalistic methods to research and write independently about contemporary people, events and issues at book length in a timely manner for a broad audience”.

By journalistic methods, he means “the finding of documents, whether in print or online, interviewing people and first-hand observation”, and notes that when journalists are given, or take, “more time and space for their work, they need to adopt a narrative approach to storytelling that means their true stories enlarge readers’ understanding of an issue or event”.

The academic and journalist goes on to say that, “When done well, longform true stories deeply engage readers emotionally as well as intellectually.”

Ricketson sets out six key elements of longform journalism in his chapter of “Australian Journalism Today” (his piece is entitled “The new appreciation of long-form journalism in a short-form world”). He writes that it is about actual events and people living in the world, and concerns the issues of the day; that it is the result of extensive research; that its writer has taken a narrative approach making the most of the availability of a range of authorial voices; that it explores the underlying meaning of an event or issue; and that it has impact.

The University of Canberra Professor of Journalism says journalists writing longer works tend to do more face to face interviews, and devote more time to each individual interview. They spend more time observing people and events first hand, and can source documents via FOI, for example, given they face lesser time constraints than newspaper or magazine journalists.

Ricketson cites examples including David Marr’s 2010 Quarterly Essay on Kevin Rudd, Power Trip, Helen Garner’s The First Stone, Geesche Jacobsen’s Abandoned: The Sad Death of Diane Brimble and Paul Barry’s The Rise and Rise of Kerry Packer.

He sums up the value of book-length journalism saying it “derives from the immediacy and urgency of the journalist’s probing of events, issues and people that affect society; the fresh information and insights yielded by in-depth research that may influence public debate; the opportunity for the reader to be shown something about the world and its people that they know little about; the level of engagement for the reader offered by a book written in narrative style; and the pleasure for the reader if the journalist writes in a distinctive or memorable style.”

It’s a popular genre, and the rise of the ebook will only boost it further. Bring it on!

Charlotte Harper