“It is a break-through moment in my career as a writer,” Heather Rose told Women’s Agenda. “I have never had any financial remuneration for my work. It is incredible.”
But the $50,000 prize money provided by NAB, and the breathing space it will afford her, is only one part of the “miracle” of winning a major literary prize.
“More than the financial reward is the sense of encouragement this gives me – and the acknowledgement of a book that took 11 years to write,” Rose says. “It was fitted in around my work in a family business and all the regular chaos and joy of domestic life with children.”
Rose began her writing career as a columnist for The Mercury in Hobart at age 17, has published 7 books and worked for years as a copywriter. But The Museum of Modern Love was, by far, the most difficult writing project she had ever attempted.
“I needed a different level of skill for this book. I had a level of craft but this required something way beyond what I had ever achieved in the craft. It was a brilliant learning curve and the hardest book I could ever have taken on,” she says.
She doubted it “many many times” but it wouldn’t let her go.
“I stuck at it. I persisted. I wrote four other novels in the process, which was just hard work,” Rose says.
Carving out any time to pursue creative pursuits is peculiarly difficult for women which is another reason Rose says it is so valuable to have that work recognised.
“The Stella Prize is a beautiful acknowledgement of the writing of women in Australia,” she says.
It was created because women weren’t getting the same recognition through the main literary awards as male writers, which didn’t reflect the volume and quality of women’s writing in Australia.
It seeks to celebrate women’s writing and champion cultural change. In its fifth year it has already significantly boosted book sales, raised author profiles and is transforming the literary landscape.
“The Stella has fast become such a loved and cherished literary award in Australia,” Rose says. “We have a long way to go in Australia in lauding successful women, but the Stella team, the sponsors, supporters, and the booksellers who so enthusiastically champion the prize, are all making a magnificent long-term contribution to this endeavour.”
Rose says the fact we have seen so many successful women in Australia “hideously denigrated” in recent times is precisely why focusing on the achievements and contributions of women is vital.
“Hopefully that has a flow on effect to other young women, so that they know they can live to their fullest potential and feel safe and acknowledged in doing that.”