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Fogarty Literary Award winner says her manuscript was 12 years in the making and completed just before giving birth to her first child - News

Fogarty Literary Award winner says her manuscript was 12 years in the making and completed just before giving birth to her first child

May 23, 2019

Como resident Rebecca Higgie won the inaugural Fogarty Literary Award for her manuscript The History of Mischief at a special ceremony at the ECU Spiegeltent on Wednesday 22 May 2019. Chosen from a field of 64 manuscripts by Western Australian writers aged 18 to 35, Higgie won a $20,000 cash prize from the Fogarty Foundation and secured a publishing contract with Fremantle Press.

Higgie said she’d been working on her winning manuscript on and off for twelve years during which time she completed a BA with honours, was awarded a PhD, taught at Curtin University, did a post-doctorate in London, got married and fell pregnant. ‘I never had time to write, so I left academia and found a job as the Library Officer at Guildford Primary. I applied for the job because I love libraries and kids, but the fact that [Guildford] was a setting in my novel was a big bonus. I finished the book a month before I was due to give birth.’

In her speech at the awards ceremony Higgie said, ‘To my son, Tewodros, who swam in my belly as I finished the novel. After you arrived, I edited in the few moments you slept. Your many interruptions, alongside the endless kindness of your father, reminded me that even if all my work on this book came to nothing, it didn’t matter. I had told the story I needed to tell, and now I had a much greater purpose. I am so grateful, and so very surprised, that I get to have both: my book published and my wonderful family. I hope you will be proud.’

The History of Mischief is about the many things we do to try to escape grief, and the stories we tell in order to protect ourselves and those we love. In her novel for younger teens, Jessie and Kay lose their parents in a car accident and, unable to stand the memories in their family home, move to their grandmother’s house in Guildford. There they find a mysterious book hidden beneath the floorboards – a book of magical stories that inspires younger sister Jessie to random acts of mischief.

Higgie said, ‘I loved the idea of a book that speaks of magic hidden in the floorboards. When I turned 18, my parents changed their will so I would become the legal guardian of my siblings if they both died. It made me imagine what it would be like to care for my siblings while also grappling with my own grief and the legal issues that come with a deceased estate.’

Now 32, Higgie said, ‘It’s been hard grappling with a novel for so long. I kept going because I was determined to finish. I was passionate about the story, I loved my characters, but I wasn’t sure if it would ever be published.’

When announcing the first winner of the biennial award, Executive Chairperson of the Fogarty Foundation, Annie Fogarty AM, said Rebecca’s manuscript was exactly the type of book she herself would have been drawn to as a young reader. She said, ‘We are absolutely delighted by the response to the award and the calibre of the entries we received. We believe Rebecca’s originality, her tenacity, and her love of libraries and reading means she’ll make a wonderful literary leader. We hope her story will inspire other young Western Australian authors to maintain faith in themselves and their writing so that they too can tell their stories.’

Fremantle Press CEO Jane Fraser said the quality of the shortlisted manuscripts was so high that more than one contract would be awarded. Fraser said, ‘I’m very pleased to announce that both Emma Young and Michael Burrows will be offered publishing contracts for their shortlisted manuscripts The Last Bookstore and Where the Line Breaks. The Fogarty Literary Award has shown just how many young Western Australians are writing, and writing well. We welcome Rebecca, Emma and Michael to our list and can’t wait to start working with them.’

The History of Mischief is scheduled for publication in 2020 with an education tour planned to coincide with the book’s release. Fraser said we hope to announce publishing dates for The Last Bookstore and Where the Line Breaks soon.

The Fogarty Foundation was established by Brett and Annie Fogarty in 2000 to support and provide educational and leadership opportunities for young people across the spectrum of the Western Australian community. As well as partnering with a range of organisations, the Foundation has initiated its own programs that include the UWA Fogarty Foundation Undergraduate Scholarships Program, CoderDojo WA and Fogarty EDvance.

For more information contact: Claire Miller, Marketing and Communications Officer, Fremantle Press, T: 08 9430 6331, W: 0419 837 841, E: cmiller@fremantlepress.com.au