Madeleine Watts '19 Shortlisted for the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award

BY Nicole Saldarriaga, June 17, 2021

UPDATE: 6/15/2021

 

On Wednesday, the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund of Australia and award trustee Perpetual announced the shortlist for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award. Writing alumna Madeleine Watts '19 is among the six Australian authors to be chosen as finalists for this prestigious award.

 

Watts receives this distinction for her debut novel, The Inland Sea (Published in the UK and Australia by Pushkin Press (March 2020) and in the US by Catapult (January 2021)), which follows a nameless protagonist as her life unravels and highlights the legend of Australia's inland ocean. 

 

According to Richard Neville, State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian and Chair of the judging panel, "In various ways each of this year's shortlisted books investigate destructive loss: of loved ones, freedom, self and the environment. There is, of course, beauty and joy to be found, and decency and hope, largely through the embrace of community but, as the shortlist reminds us, often community is no match for more powerful forces."

 

"The Copyright Agency is once again proud to be showcasing the vibrant voices of some of the country's newest and most talented authors," said Adam Suckling, Copyright Agency CEO. "This year's announcement was both live and streamed online as part of our ongoing support of, and investment in, Australia’s creative writing industry. The inclusion of the online event gives greater access to those who inspire and challenge our views of Australian life while widely celebrating the authors’ dedication in bringing these stories to life."

 

Watts will receive a prize of $5,000 for making it onto the shortlist. The overall winner of the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award will be announced on July 15, 2021 and will receive $60,000. 

 

Madeleine Watts grew up in Sydney, Australia and currently lives in New York. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and her fiction has been published in The White Review and The Lifted Brow. Her novella, Afraid of Waking It was awarded the Griffith Review Novella Prize. Her non-fiction has appeared in The Believer, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Literary Hub. The Inland Sea is her first novel.

ORIGINAL: 6/7/21

 

Alumna Madeleine Watts '19 has been longlisted for the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award for her debut novel, The Inland Sea (Catapult, 2021). This prestigious award, founded by feminist author Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin in 1957, is among the most prestigious literary awards in Australia. The award "celebrates novels of the highest literary merit that tell stories about Australian life," and winners receive a monetary prize of $60,000. 

 

The Inland Sea follows an unnamed young writer who takes a part-time job as an emergency dispatch operator. As the stress of her job begins to affect her personal life and her perception of the world, she is forced to face her own traumas as her life slowly unravels in a whirlwind of drunken nights, random hook-ups, and an affair with an ex. Interwoven into this story is that of the protagonist's great-great-great-great-grandfather, the British explorer John Oxley, and his attempts to find the mythical inland sea. "Interweaving a woman's self-destructive unraveling with the gradual worsening of the climate crisis, The Inland Sea is charged with unflinching insight into our age of anxiety." 

 

The novel has been met with great critical acclaim since its publication in January. According to Publishers Weekly, "Australian writer Watts punctuates her eloquent debut with deep-seated anxiety about climate change . . . The prose is consistently rich and loaded with imagery. Watts’s bold, unconventional outing makes for a distinctive entry into climate fiction." 

Regina Marler of The New York Review of Books called the novel “An artful debut . . . Rich, tightly patterned . . . Watts’s constrained metaphoric range—nature, disaster, violence—lends this novel the compressed charge of poetry.” Kirkus Reviews said of the book, "An unnamed protagonist watches Australia burn as her body burns along with it . . . People around her experience disasters, and she keeps herself outside. She goes through trauma, and she doesn’t know she’s the one screaming. Magnificently uncomfortable." 

 

The 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award will be judged by Mitchell Librarian of the State Library of NSW Richard Neville, book critic Dr. Melinda Harvey, author Dr. Bernadette Brennan, book critic Dr. James Ley, and author and activist Sisonke Msimang. 

 

Finalists will be announced on June 16, 2021 and the winner will be announced on July 15, 2021. 

 

Madeleine Watts grew up in Sydney, Australia and currently lives in New York. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and her fiction has been published in The White Review and The Lifted Brow. Her novella, Afraid of Waking It was awarded the Griffith Review Novella Prize. Her non-fiction has appeared in The Believer, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Literary Hub. The Inland Sea is her first novel.