The Australia Council has presented Fremantle Press author Holden Sheppard with the 2019 Kathleen Mitchell Award for Australian writers under the age of 30. Holden’s novel Invisible Boys has had a dream run in the lead-up to its publication this October, first winning the 2017 Ray Koppe Residency Award and then taking out the $12,000 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award in 2018.
Holden said that after struggling for years to break through, receiving such accolades for his debut novel was a dream. He said, ‘Winning the Kathleen Mitchell Award tells me that the world is ready for novels like Invisible Boys – a story about being a boy, and being a gay boy in particular. I really can’t wait to share this book with readers.’
Holden wins a substantial $15,000 cash prize thanks to a generous provision in Kathleen Mitchell’s will, which provides emerging writers with additional funding to further their practice.
Holden said, ‘Writing isn’t an easy road, especially being a young author from a working-class background. The cash component will help me spend more time writing my next novel – which frankly is an author’s idea of paradise. Moreover, an award like this is vindication, in a way, that working hard enough at your craft, for long enough, will eventually pay off in some way – not just for me but for anyone who wants to tell stories.’
Established in 1996, the Kathleen Mitchell Award is presented biennially for a novel or novella that has been published or accepted for publication within the two years prior to the award’s closing date. It aims to encourage the ‘advancement, improvement and betterment of Australian literature’ by encouraging young writers to maintain their passion and dedication to their craft.
Former winners of the award have included Sonya Hartnett, Randa Abdel-Fattah, Nam Le and Markus Zusak.