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March 20, 2024

Announcing the winners of the 2024 ASA/CA Award Mentorship Program

We’re thrilled to announce the winners and highly commended entries for the 2024 ASA/CA Award Mentorship Program for Writers and Illustrators!


Ilinda Brunner – Hairy Dog Cafe

Susan Francis – Treachery

Victoria Griffin – Possession

Catherine Moffat – Snapper Point

Highly commended: Natasha Granath – The Sister Tree

Highly commended: Michelle Stephens – The Crack

Children’s writing

Edwina Howard – The Haunting of Hux Hollow

Jacinta Lou – The Other Side

Bec Nanayakkara – When the Power Goes Out

Young adult

Deirdre Caslick – Bright Flickering Lights

Wayne Staniland – Robot War

Picture book illustration

Janice Law – Bear Was Carrying Dreams


Margaret Atkin – Cambodia 2000: The AIDS year


Peter Mitchell – Under Skies with No Obligations

Our warm thanks to the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund – without their support this program would not be possible.

The 2024 award offers twelve 20-hour mentorships with an experienced author, illustrator, or publishing professional to help develop their manuscript or illustration project to a publishable standard. In addition, the winners each receive access to the Pathways to Publishing program, a free ticket to the ASA’s popular Virtual Literary Speed Dating event and one-year’s free membership to the ASA. The highly commended applicants receive three hours of mentoring on the first ten pages of their manuscript or illustration project, as well as access to the Pathways to Publishing Program.

The mentorship recipients and highly commended were selected by a panel of assessors consisting of Broede Carmody, Mark Macleod, Anna McGregor, Jane Messer, Bruce Pascoe, Kate Ryan and Lili Wilkinson. Please read their full comments below.

Assessor comments


The entries this year ranged widely in subject matter and genre. Just some were: rural crime, romantic comedy, political thrillers, historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, and those which took a realist approach to the intergenerational trauma of family violence, and the exploration of gender, generally intersecting with other themes and concerns. Some novels, refreshingly, moved across the world to include international settings such as Norway and the Greek Islands. Others were very local and particular, considering subjects as specific as the demise of a small-town newspaper. As always, the winners were not afraid to take risks and approached their subject matter with confidence and verve. They took me into their very specific worlds with unique voices and characters who came alive on the page. I congratulate all those who entered. It takes courage and tenacity to write and put your writing out into the world. I encourage everyone to keep doing so! And I congratulate the winners for their exceptional writing.

It was a pleasure to read so many strong entries in the fiction category. The works that I read ranged across many genres, including literary adult fiction, fantasy, comedic romance and ‘sad girl’, and there was a big show in the crime and thriller fiction genres. The four writers receiving mentorships and the two commended, all submitted novel drafts that evidenced an assured story was underway, with vivid characters and settings, and fresh language. The ideas and themes underpinning each of these works were finely devised, innovative and compelling. With each, the author’s statement was focused on the work, evidenced the writer’s commitment to writing, and readiness in terms of their development for the mentorship. I noticed that among the weaker crime and thriller manuscript submissions, the work was too formulaic. Though often very competently written, and with the writer evidently aware of the rules of the genre, the characters, the settings, and their challenges weren’t distinctive. Dialogue was often over-used to drive the story forward. Across many of the other submissions, the story stakes weren’t clear enough, or there were too many characters and/or storylines, or the language was competent but dull. Many of the submissions evidenced that the writer has potential but is still developing key narrative writing skills, and that more practice is needed. There were other excellent submissions that I’d have loved to see mentorships awarded to if more were available, drafts that hopefully one day will become published books, and I’d encourage writers not to give up on this wonderful program in future years.

Children’s and young adult

What a pleasure to read such a diverse range of thoughtful, nuanced stories. I was impressed by the ways in which each writer had considered their target audience, and crafted well-structured texts with strong, individual voices. In the children’s category, stories explored family, environmentalism, and empathy, often with a comforting and humorous voice. The YA entries reflected many of the issues that concern the young people of today – climate change, identity (in particular race, class, sexuality, and gender), mental health and the ways in which power can corrupt. In both categories, I was pleased to see a high number of fantasy and science fiction stories which used speculative settings to explore important ideas in layered, complex ways. I’d recommend that applicants have a strong understanding of the current market – specifically the genre and age group that you’re writing for. A book exists as part of a broader canon, and understanding where your story fits and how it relates to other texts is vital to reaching audiences. Congratulations to the winners, and I wish all the applicants the best of luck in further developing their work.

It has been a pleasure to read the applications for this year's Young Adults Award Mentorships, and the general level of attention to detail in the writing made decisions difficult. Once again the writers showed a strong preference for fantasy, but the creation of a distinctive fantasy world is no substitute for an opening that arrests the reader's attention. There are many narratives on a range of platforms competing for your readers, so a good hook in chapter 2 won't keep them interested - they might not get past that plodding introduction at all. The successful applicants submitted a manuscript with evidence of taut storytelling and a nuanced choice of word or rhythm on every page - beginning with the first! Unfortunately, submissions in the Children's category were less consistently well-written - particularly among the picture book texts. While young readers and many adults enjoy rhyming, rhyme alone will not save an indifferent story or one that is already too familiar. (Market research would help many writers here!) English is a difficult language to rhyme in, and as a result writers often force the rhyming with unnaturally inverted word order, 'filler' words and a metrical straitjacket. If rhyming doesn't come naturally, it is better to tell the story simply in prose. An added benefit of doing so is that any weakness in the storyline will be exposed, and you'll see more clearly how to fix it. The text for a picture book needs to develop a strong idea. Too many applicants would benefit from taking Mem Fox's advice to heart. When people would say to her, 'This text is so short you probably knocked it out in a couple of hours,' she would answer mischievously, but pointedly, 'Yes, but it took me thirty years to think of it!'


I'm impressed by the originality of ideas across the board. A variety of interesting topics and styles were represented. Some entrants had strong manuscripts, but the illustrations were not executed to the same standard. Other entrants had raw talent and exciting illustration styles, but the text needed work. The winning entry struck the perfect balance of outstanding text and illustrations that harmoniously told the story. The illustrations and text were confidently executed, incorporating symbolism and whimsy. Overall, entrants demonstrated a strong understanding of the picture book format. This is evident in their storyboards, the topics explored, the language used, and the appropriate word count. Many entries showed potential and I encourage their creators to develop them further.


There were some excellent applications but I was a little disappointed in the overall standard and the themes seemed to occupy a narrow range. I’d like to see applicants attempting a variety of themes and styles. However, the top four were excellent book prospects.


The poetry manuscripts submitted this year displayed an understanding of trauma - physical and mental - through the immediate and deep past. The poets were clearly well-read, with an eye for strong imagery, and understood that, whether in war time or in the wake of a natural disaster, sometimes words are the only things we have left.

The 2024 ASA/CA Award Mentorship Program for Writers and Illustrators is supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.