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November 29, 2023

2023 Blake-Beckett Trust Scholarship winner announced

On behalf of the Blake-Beckett Trust, the Australian Society of Authors is thrilled to announce the winner and runner-up of the 2023 Blake-Beckett Trust Scholarship.

This year’s applications were assessed by Mirandi Riwoe and Anna Spargo-Ryan, who selected four shortlisted applicants:

Emily Bitto

Kate Mildenhall

Kirli Saunders

Michael Winkler

We would like to introduce Wendy Beckett of the Blake-Beckett Trust to announce the winner and runner-up of the 2023 Scholarship.

ASA CEO Olivia Lanchester says, “Huge congratulations to Emily Bitto and runner-up Kate Mildenhall, two brilliant writers whose important work will be fuelled by this scholarship. The Blake-Beckett Trust Scholarship is a real joy for the ASA to promote. It is meaningful support for a writer to work on their manuscript and we have watched – with delight – as the scholarship has allowed past winners to publish amazing fiction. Our deepest thanks to Wendy Beckett for her role in giving Australian writers that greatest of gifts – time to write.”

Emily Bitto says, “I am incredibly grateful, encouraged, honoured and overjoyed to have been awarded the Blake-Beckett Trust Scholarship. This scholarship will make an enormous difference to me – materially, of course, but also in terms of my confidence in this project, which is very dear to my heart. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to the judges, the ASA, and in particular to the Blake-Beckett Trust for providing such generous support for Australian literature and culture.” 

Kate Mildenhall says, “One of the most precious gifts a writer can receive is funding for time to write. In an era of ever-dwindling arts funding, it is especially significant that Wendy Blake-Beckett offers this opportunity. I’m thrilled to share the Blake Beckett Trust shortlist with these wonderful writers and their projects, and honoured to have been selected for second prize.”

Assessor comments

Emily Bitto’s Reasons to Leave is a multi-protagonist novel about a wave of Czechoslovakian migrants to the western suburbs of Melbourne. The writing is assured and touching, engaging with themes to do with belonging and labour. Bitto’s work will explore storytelling’s power to enrich both personal and national identity. 

Kate Mildenhall’s We Bought a Town is a contemporary thriller set over three days and told from the perspective of nine characters. The novel engages with ideas concerning society’s fracturing values about how to deal with family and the land. The scope of this work is ambitious and exciting, and the judges were immediately impressed with the synopsis and writing. 

About the winner and runner-up

Emily Bitto

Emily Bitto is an award-winning and widely published writer of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. She has a Masters in literary studies and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne. Her debut novel, The Strays, was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and the published novel went on to win the Stella Prize in 2015. Emily’s second novel, Wild Abandon, was published in 2021 by Allen and Unwin, and was the winner of the prestigious Margaret and Colin Roderick Award in 2022. Emily has taught literary studies and creative writing at various institutions over the past decade, and is currently a tutor and course advisor at the Faber Writing Academy.

Kate Mildenhall

Kate Mildenhall is an author and podcaster. Her debut novel Skylarking was longlisted for Debut Fiction in The Indie Book Awards 2017 and the 2017 Voss Literary Award. Her second novel, The Mother Fault was longlisted for the 2021 ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year and shortlisted for the 2021 Aurealis Science Fiction Novel of the Year. Her latest novel is The Hummingbird Effects. With writer Katherine Collette, Kate co-hosts The First Time Podcast – conversations with Australian writers – a podcast now in its sixth season. Kate is currently working on her fourth novel and undertaking a PhD in creative practice at RMIT University. Her first picture book will be released in 2024. 

About the Scholarship

The Blake-Beckett Trust Scholarship is offered annually to an Australian author to provide them with valuable time to work on a current manuscript. It is offered by the Blake-Beckett Trust, thanks to the generosity of one of our long-term members and supporters, Wendy Beckett. The prize pool has been increased to $50,000 for 2023. The winner of the Scholarship will receive AU$35,000 and the runner-up will receive AU$15,000.