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meet the judges of the 2018 rachel funari prize for fiction: shastra deo


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Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to our stellar line-up of judges for the 2018 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction. Today, meet poet, Shastra Deo.


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?
It’s so important that this prize is open to women, female-identifying, and non-binary writers, especially in the context of intersectionality and women’s stories. I want to read more work by gender non-conforming writers, LGBTQIA+ writers, POC and CALD writers, disabled writers, neuroatypical writers, and those writing and creating within the intersections of these (and other) broad categories. But, I also want to read the stories that these writers want to write – stories that feel authentic to them regardless of the subject matter.

What comes to mind when you think of our 2018 theme, ‘metamorphosis’?
As someone who’s enamoured of embodiment and corporeality studies, transformation of form – be it entomological or biological – instantly comes to mind. But there’s the potential for the transformation of the textual body: challenging the form of the written work as it exists on the page or screen. Metamorphosis, for me, also inherently engages with growth, time, and the inevitability of change – details of being human, really.

Are there any positive experiences from your career journey you’d like to share?
So many things! But over the last couple of years, the most positive thing I’ve done career-wise has been becoming more active in my local writing communities. I’ve made an effort to go to more festivals, workshops, and book launches, and have made so many friends as a result. I think writing can sometimes be a lonely thing (and sometimes it needs to be, too), but meeting other writers and engaging with them has been so valuable to my own writing practice.

What are you working on in 2018?
My PhD project and next poetry collection. These started out being about phantom limb pain, but now I’ve somehow gotten onto nuclear war. Go figure.

What are you reading right now?
Contrary to my Goodreads page, I’m actually rereading Mindy McGinnis’s The Female of the Species. I’m really, really tempted to say it’s my favourite read of the year, but I’ll hold my tongue until December, I think. My PhD has also had me dipping into Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters every now and then, and reading a slew of poetry and short fiction written by survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What’s on your To Be Read pile?
Yikes. A lot of poetry – particularly books by Adrienne Rich, Anne Carson, and Matthew and Michael Dickman. I’m awful at reading new releases when they’re… newly released, but Laura Elvery’s Trick of the Light, Robert Lukins’s The Everlasting Sunday, and Kali Napier’s The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge are high on my list. I’d also love to reread Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation before I see the film. But I have so many open tabs on my laptop – fanfiction and articles – that I’m nervous just thinking about it.

What do you read to feel inspired?
Mostly poetry, Wikipedia articles, and AskReddit threads about creepy and/or supernatural experiences.

Is there a writer or book that has influenced your work?
I love Margaret Atwood – her Circe/Mud poems had a really formative impact on my writing. I also feel I took a lot from Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk’s early works, especially when I was a younger writer. But nearly everything I read has some influence on the way I write, even if that influence is a conscious decision not to write in a particular way.

Why have you agreed to get involved with the judging of the 2018 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction?
Literary prizes have done a great deal for me. Receiving the runner-up prize for the 2012 State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award was incredibly validating as a new writer, and the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize resulted in the publication of my book. I owe a lot to the judges who generously read my work and the works of so many other talented writers, so having the opportunity to be on this year’s Rachel Funari Prize panel is very humbling. I hope this allows me to give something back, however small, to a community that’s nurtured me. And, having judged short prose over at Field of Words, it really is a delight to get to read work that hasn’t yet snuck out into the world at large.

What’s the secret to writing a good short story?
Writing what you know, even and especially if what you know has to do with fantasy king/queendoms, intergalactic civilisations, prophecy as performed in the year 2118, the minor and miraculous moments of everyday life, etc. And – after most of the writing is done – editing, reworking, and rewriting. Super-important, but not all that secret.

What will you be looking for when judging the competition?
Beautifully drawn characters, structurally and stylistically interesting prose, carefully constructed narratives. Stories that stay with me long after they’re finished. And stories that evoke genuine emotion and start dialogues. Also, I’m a sucker for cats.


Entries for the 2018 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction are now OPEN and close 5pm Friday 20th April, 2018. Submit stories up to 2000 words that engage with the theme ‘metamorphosis’. For more information, click here.

2018 rachel prize sponsors

Sponsors and supporters of the 2018 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction

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