We have a winner: Carly Lorente’s ‘Minyma’

Carly Lorente

Editia Prize winner Carly Lorente spent nearly a year in Central Australia.

The winning entry in the inaugural Editia Prize is a 10,000-word snapshot into the lives of women in Central Australia, Minyma, by former social worker and freelance writer Carly Lorente.

While Lorente now lives on the north coast of NSW, the work is based on her experiences during a year spent working for an indigenous women’s council in Central Australia in 2010.

She says that working for indigenous bosses rather than for the Government gave her “a true picture of what was happening”.

The judges described Minyma as the standout entry.

“It was vivid, and very assured,” broadcaster and author Jane Caro said.

“She didn’t over-explain everything. She just gave you the scene and let you draw your own conclusions rather than point out the moral or tell you what to think.”

Former editor of The Australian Malcolm Schmidtke said Minyma was “by far the best written piece”.

“It held me for the full journey,” he said, adding that Lorente’s role as a participant rather than just an observer was integral to the strength of the work.

“She’s actually part of what’s going on all the time,” he said.

Like Caro, University of Canberra Professor of Journalism Matthew Ricketson appreciated the way Lorente showed and didn’t tell. “She saved that for the end, when she opened the shoulders and really said what she thought, but I thought that was quite effective,” he said.

“She feels almost as helpless and muddled as other people clearly do [about the problems women face in indigenous communities], but she also really brings it together in a very pithy and succinct way, how the ten months she’s spent in these communities has been both uplifting and frustrating. She pulls that together really nicely.”

Lorente was thrilled to hear she’d won the inaugural prize and is looking forward to working with an editor ahead of the book’s publication through Editia in coming months.

She knows exactly what she’s going to do with the $2500 advance on royalties she’ll receive as winner: buy a new computer to write on.

“My son broke my laptop two weeks ago … he ripped the back off,” she said, thrilled at the prospect of being able to replace it with a brand new one. “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to use it to go back to Central Australia!”

  • Read an extract from Minyma and more about Carly Lorente here.
  • Read about the other shortlisted entries, Beyond Biosphere and Ephemera Revisited,  here and here.
  • Read all about the Editia Prize here.




The last of the Editia Prize shortlist …

Today, we announce the third and final shortlisted piece in the 2013 Editia Prize: Ephemera Revisited by writer and academic Anna Soter. Keep an eye out for the announcement of the winner at around 3pm tomorrow!

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

The former residents of Wittenoom had all chosen to come to Australia, although they had had no idea when they chose to accept an assisted passage from Europe, that some of them would be transported to this remote region.  Their ship and others like it would drop off a percentage of these adventurers at Fremantle, the major port for Western Australia, and continue dropping off other percentages of these partially indentured migrants at Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney.  The men, women and children who disembarked at Fremantle were temporarily housed in migrant hostels primarily at Cunderdin until relocated to their final destinations. The men, however, left for those locations immediately, the women and children staying behind in the hostels until housing was available for them.  It was a rough start to a new destiny, but still an exciting one.

One contract was probably much the same as all the others for those who had received free passage in exchange for two years of work wherever that work was located. My father received his on October 25, 1950 from the Commonwealth Employment Office and was told to report to Australian Blue Asbestos in Wittenoom Gorge on October 30. Weekly wages for a regular shift as a labourer (his classification) were to be £9/1/6 out of which 3/- (shillings) were withdrawn for taxes and £2/6/- for board and lodging. As others, he had to make his way to “arrange movement by air to destination” after finding his way from Northam to Perth. The contract wording clearly indicates that my father and others who came in the same capacity were required to remain in Wittenoom for a minimum of two years as allowed under the authorization of the “Commonwealth Employment Service on behalf of the Minister for Immigration,” although it appears that leaving the employment at Wittenoom was possible with application to and approval by the District Employment Officer to do so.”

Had my father and others who were similarly dispatched to Wittenoom known what was already known by some by the time they signed the contract, namely of the devastating and deadly effects of exposure to asbestos fibres to which they would all be exposed at both the mine and mill, some would likely not have signed this contract even at the risk of remaining unemployed and without a clear alternative destination at the time.

It is this troubling question that, for me, is at the heart of the debate surrounding the closure of  Wittenoom. Furthermore, by the time the mines and the mill closed in 1966, significant damage was done, not only to the miners and millworkers but to the residents in the town through exposure to the fibres in the clothes and on the bodies of the men when they returned home, as well as through the spreading of milled, crushed rock (tailings) brought to the town from the mill to reduce dust storms that were common in the area because of large areas of exposed red soil throughout the entire region as well as in the town itself.   And yet, why would those who came during these early years as well as others fight so hard to remain there following the closure of the town?  

About the author

Born in Austria (Europe), Anna Soter grew up in the northwest Australian Pilbara region. She is Professor Emerita in English Education at The Ohio State University where she has taught since 1986.  She also taught high school English and History teacher in Perth and Sydney, between 1968 and 1982. Anna has a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MA in English from the University of Sydney, Australia, and a BA in English and History from the University of Western Australia. Her teaching, research and scholarship has focused on language and literacy, including the teaching of grammar for literate purposes; cross-cultural discourse, literary theory and its applications to young adult literature; small group discussions as a tool for critical thinking; poetry as a vehicle for linguistic sensitivity and personal growth. Anna continues to read as a featured poet in mid-Ohio venues, writes fiction and creative non-fiction, and creates and conducts workshops on language as energy, and writing and poetry for healing and personal growth. In 2011, she founded The Hospital Poets’ Reading Series, bringing poets to special event readings at different venues on the Ohio State University Medical Campus.

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.

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.






Press releases for Crowdfund it, Editia, Editia Prize launches

We’ll be talking to the media about Editia’s books, events and plans in more detail soon, but here are our official launch press releases for starters …

Please click here to view the PDF of the press release for the launch of digital publishing start-up Editia.

Please click here to view the PDF of the official launch press release for Crowdfund it!

Please click here to view the PDF of the press release for the launch of the Editia Prize.

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