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meet the judges of the 2017 rachel funari prize for fiction: sarah kanake

Image: Supplied

Image: Supplied

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 writer Sarah Kanake.


What are you working on in 2017?
I have just started my second novel, ‘Lazarus’. It’s set in 1978 (at the close of whaling) in a small coastal town in NSW and follows the only daughter of an ancestral whaling family who – at the start of the novel – discovers she is pregnant. It’s a story about birth, motherhood, consent and the power and connectivity of the female voice.

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?
Well, we are in the unofficial year of the Nasty Woman, which is pretty telling in and of itself.

There are more programs, festivals and competitions that support female writers. The Stella Prize is doing amazing work, not just in what novels are recommended by the prize but also in the numerous programs (school programs in particular) that the prize runs and supports.

BUT, prizes like the Stella wouldn’t necessarily exist if books written by women were equally elevated to award winners, short or long listed, best sellers etc.

Of course, individual women are doing amazing things in their own careers to draw attention to the writing of women, women’s stories and the job of being a female writer. Charlotte Wood, Hannah Kent, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Clementine Ford, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Sarah Holland-Batt. All female authors writing in different ways but all moving the world forward one sentence at a time.

Mind you, I still think a woman’s voice is valued less than a man’s. A woman’s voice is often stolen or undercut. “Great” writing is still the realm of men. It’s hard to fight sexism because it’s everywhere and the patriarchy is insidious. It doesn’t want us to resist, revolt, make noise. But there is no such thing as a female life free of the expectation of silence.

Our voices are valued less because we are valued less.

This is why competitions that seek to promote the voices of women and elevate the voices of women (particularly emerging female writers) are so important and why we must support them.

One thing I should add to all this is that I have been amazed by how many feminist picture books are out there. Books by women, about serious feminist issues, some fiction and some non-fiction, some about important women, girls in science, inventing, building.

What comes to mind when you think of our 2017 theme, ‘rebirth’?
I am thinking about rebirth all the time lately. In many ways it’s what my own novel is about. Birth, rebirth, survival – all these ideas feel like the rhythms of women to me.

Are there any positive experiences from your career journey you’d like to share?
Virtually every person (with one very notable exception) who has helped me on my way to becoming a published author has been a woman. My supervisors, mentors, writing gang, editors. All women. All brilliant and strong, passionate, resilient.

What are you reading right now?
I just re-read an essay called The Laugh of the Medusa by Helene Cixous, just started, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, and just finished One by Patrick Holland. I’m also reading lots of books about whales and whaling.

But mostly (because I have a small daughter) I am reading picture books. Our favourites are, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes her Mark by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos, the Little People, Big Dreams collection – particularly the one about Maya Angelou – Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, and Maudie and the Bear by Jan Ormerod.

What’s on your To Be Read pile?
Everything I have not read ever! On my bedside table is Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood.

What do you read to feel inspired?
Inspiration for me is about calm and quiet (not easy when you have two jobs, two crazy dogs and a toddler!). It’s about filling the spaces between my work with quiet and calm so there is something to draw from when it comes time to write.

I love gardening, sewing, swimming, walking, playing with my daughter at the park, watching Netflix with my dogs, listening to podcasts with my partner, drinking wine… but also online shopping.

Is there a writer or book that has influenced your work?
I am a reader first and a writer second so many, many authors and books influence my work. William Faulkner is where it all started, but also Sonya Hartnett, Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood, and Gillian Mears. The books that influenced me the deepest (and, by that, I mean the books that made me want to write) were Moby Dick, Thursday’s Child, and As They Lay Dying. I also loved, Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears. It came to me at a time when I needed to remember why I loved writing.

Why have you agreed to get involved with the judging of the 2017 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction?
My editor, Aviva Tuffield, found me (and my first novel) through a short story competition that I co-won. Competitions are vital to the writing community and create amazing opportunities for emerging writers.

What’s the secret to writing a good short story?
There’s no secret. Just like there’s no secret to life, you just try and write something authentic. Then you edit, edit, edit. Actually, I take all that back. The secret is editing.

What will you be looking for when judging the competition?
David Sedaris once said, “A good [short story] would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.” I agree. Reading a short story should change you. A good short story should stay with you. I’ll be looking for that feeling.


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.

Sponsors and supporters of the 2017 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction

Sponsors and supporters of the 2017 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction

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