Chapter One is a publication pathway for emerging writers. The prize is open to authors who have written a poetry collection, literary novel, short story collection, or a hybrid work that crosses genre boundaries. The Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP) is delighted to partner with University of Western Australia Publishing (UWAP) to provide this publication pathway for emerging writers. Heartfelt thanks to the judge for managing the judging process with such integrity—thank you for so generously donating your time in the interests of emerging writers.
2019 Winner: Benjamin Muir for The McMillan Diaries.
The submission I favour is the one that has come to me as The McMillan Diaries. The standard of writing in all the submissions is very high, and a good proportion seem to me to be worthy of publication. I have chosen The McMillan Diaries, though, because of its special ingenuity and inventiveness. I find it impossible to separate out its various strands – fact and fiction, scholarly interpolation or satire on scholarship, history and fantasy – and immediately somehow I felt the need for far more than one chapter and one brief synopsis to ‘orient myself’ with this work, while at the same time wondering f the whole exercise wasn’t just a Laurence Sterne ‘shaggy dog story’, but one which, as in the case with Tristam Shandy, distributes a lot of wisdom and insight along the way, as it romps through a veritable smorgasbord of genres, interpolations and digressions (much of which comes in the scholarly appendages), while constantly in review of its own methods, strategies and subterfuges.
It’s a work which generously toys with and takes inspiration from the mysteries at its core: from the small part I have been given to read, it neatly offers the spectacle of the mystery of its central subject working its way up and out into the structure, the prose and the methods of the investigation. The whole novel will not, I suspect, ‘solve’ the mystery as it seems itself so heavily infected and shaped by it? For me, it evokes Rabelais, Swift, Sterne, Borges, Sebald – that delicious feeling that the writer is somehow ‘having a lend of one’, dismantling (and satirizing?) the kind of assurances and conventions that usually support this mode of inquiry.
It is, however, a work of serious intent – as is of course the case in all those writers I’ve noted above. Can this writer pull it off? Will the core narrative, at full length, keep the reader engaged and focussed, while at the same time being entertained, waylaid, diverted, teased and provoked? I couldn’t be sure, from just this one chapter and brief synopsis. It is indeed a very risky venture. I think that’s why I have chosen it…
About the winner:
“Benjamin D. Muir is a writer and doctoral candidate from Western Sydney, who predominantly authors postmodern Gothic and horror fiction. His work has appeared previously in FBI Radio’s Or it Didn’t Happen and Antipodean Science Fiction. He is currently completing the manuscript that won AAWP’s First Chapter contest as the creative component of his DCA thesis. The exegetical component examines depictions of grief and trauma in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and The Fifty Year Sword, the works that chiefly informed his creative component. You can follow his work atfacebook.com/benjamindmuir and @benjamindmuir on Twitter.“