Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville has a great job which includes reading books entered into the Miles Franklin Literary Awards each year. He described it as a “hell of a job”. Usually around the Christmas holiday 3 cartons of books arrive on his doorstep and the judging begins. He described it as an organic process with all 5 judges meeting up to 4 times to discuss the works and whittle the entries into a short list.
He talked about Miles Franklin and her reasons for bequeathing the awards as well as controversies over the years. He went onto explain how the awards can make a real difference to an author’s life. For example Sofie Laguna’s win for The Eye of the Sheep had a huge effect on sales. Sofie Laguna had sold 750 books prior to winning the award and since has sold 9,000 copies.
The audience asked why so many winners seem to have dark subject matter. His response was the prize must reflect Australian life in all its phases and some of the most dark stories are often stories that are more powerful. In summing up he said the awards offered a fantastic panorama of Australian literature.