meet the judges of the 2017 rachel funari prize for fiction: gabrielle tozer
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to our stellar line-up of judges for the 2017 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction. Today, meet author and journalist, Gabrielle Tozer.
What are you working on in 2017?
I’m tinkering with a middle-grade novel and planning out my fourth YA novel. I’m also busy with freelance work and the release of my third YA novel Remind Me How This Ends, my (long) short story ‘The Feeling From Over Here’ in HarperCollins’ End, Begin, End: A #LoveOzYA Anthology and my debut picture book Peas and Quiet (illustrated by Sue deGennaro). Last year was all about writing and editing my books and now it’s time to share them with the world. It’s exciting – and terrifying.
The Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction calls for a focus on women’s stories. What’s your view on the current state of women’s stories in media and publishing?
There’s no shortage of brilliant emerging and established women killing it in the media and publishing, but there’s still work to be done as endless hours and column inches are still used up arguing that our stories even deserve to be read, represented at writers’ festivals and featured in book reviews etc.
I’ve also been following how the media has handled the rising success of powerhouse Australian author Liane Moriarty and it’s often frustrating to see how it plays out. Even Liane herself has opened up about it:
“I do remember being infuriated when I saw an article about me with a title along the lines of ‘the suburban housewife who became an international sensation’,” Liane told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2016. “It was so patronising – and also totally incorrect! It wasn’t that I was at home and started scribbling on the side: I had four published books before I became a mother. Adam [Moriarty's partner] found it very funny, because I’m not a very good housewife at all.”
Can you imagine a headline describing a male author with four books under his belt as a “Suburban dad”? Luckily this country is filled with plenty of people who call this sort of rubbish out. Like I said, there’s still work to be done, but it’s empowering to champion change alongside Lip magazine, The Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction, The Stella Prize and as a NSW ambassador for its Stella Schools program (thestellaprize.com.au/schools
What comes to mind when you think of our 2017 theme, ‘rebirth’?
It’s a beautiful and personal theme full of possibilities. For me, rebirth is about taking or giving yourself second (or third or fourth) chances, imperfections and flaws, finding yourself and discovery, forgiveness, life-altering changes… but that’s just me! I can’t wait to see what it sparks in everyone else’s minds.
Are there any positive experiences from your career journey you’d like to share?
The first time I saw my name in print was special (I’m not sure if the novelty has even worn off!). Having Gretel Killen launch The Intern in 2014 made my year – especially because she spoke candidly in her speech about the realities of being a writer. Another pivotal experience was learning how to manage my self-doubt, stress, burn-out and procrastination at a two-day course with Alison Manning and Charlotte Wood in Sydney. It was like therapy for writers and I loved every second of it. More recently, my most positive experiences have been seeing the illustrations for Peas and Quiet (so cute!) and flicking through a finished copy of Remind Me How This Ends and wondering, “How the hell did I write this again?”
What are you reading right now?
I’m halfway through reading multiple books, which has become a terrible habit. I’m enjoying a creative butt-kick from Catherine Deveny’s Use Your Words: A Myth-Busting, No-Fear Approach to Writing, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies (no spoilers please!) and am also rereading Roald Dahl’s Matilda and James and the Giant Peach. I was a “one book at a time” reader for two decades but my TBR pile is filled with so many novels that I can’t stop myself.
What’s on your To Be Read pile?
What isn’t? The Hate U Give, First We Make The Beast Beautiful, A Shadow’s Breath, How To Be A Writer and A Little Life are top of the pile though.
What do you read to feel inspired?
Books that bowl me over with stunning, evocative writing – or with humour, heart and quirkiness – depending on which project I’m working on. Oh, and music lyrics, PostSecret, Modern Love, Humans of New York and go-to novels about living a creative life, such as On Writing and Big Magic.
Is there a writer or book that has influenced your work?
There are certainly writers whose books ignited my love of reading, which sparked a passion for writing. Paul Jennings, Melina Marchetta, Roald Dahl, Morris Gleitzman, Margaret Clarke and John Marsden all come to mind. (Confession: I fangirled over John Marsden and my signed edition of Tomorrow, When The War Began at the Wagga Wagga library back in the day.)
Why have you agreed to get involved with the judging of the 2017 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction?
Supporting aspiring and emerging voices has always been important to me via my work in the media and ABC’s rural and regional Heywire program, so judging the Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction fits in perfectly with that value. Not only am I excited to hear from an exciting new batch of writers and stories, but I also want to “pay it forward” as a thank you – so many writers, editors, publishers and friends have helped me along the way and I don’t take it for granted.
On a more personal note, Rachel Funari was my old editor. I contributed to Lip magazine during my three years studying in Canberra and was so shaken to hear of her tragic disappearance in 2011. Rachel wanted to share opportunities for young women – and I want to do my tiny bit to do the same in her memory.
What’s the secret to writing a good short story?
Nail down your core idea, mood, voice, theme and characters and strip it back so every word matters and pushes the plot along.
What will you be looking for when judging the competition?
Stories that suck me in, don’t let me escape for 2000 words and make me feel something. I want to read pieces that force me to forget about my dirty dishes, impending writing deadlines and the heinous pimple threatening to overtake my chin.
Entries for the 2017 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction are now OPEN and close 5pm Friday 21st April, 2017. Submit stories up to 2000 words that engage with the theme ‘rebirth’. For more information, click here.