As part of our aim to promote the work of HHR the Society seeks to support current writers, offering awards in the name of Richardson.
We are proud to partner with Varuna, the national writer’s house in Katoomba, NSW to offer a Flagship Fellowship in Short Story Writing every two years since 2017. This award is offered every second year.
The winner of the Fellowship receives two weeks residence at Varuna, a large house set in peaceful gardens in Katoomba NSW, that was once the home of another renowned Australian writer, Eleanor Dark. The house was bequeathed by her son for the purpose of supporting writers.
Announcing the 2023 HHR Fellowship Winner
Varuna Writers Centre recently announced that Catherine Deery from Bendigo in Victoria is the winner of the fourth Henry Handel Richardson Fellowship. The Society extends very warm congratulations to Catherine.
Here is her response:
I'm thrilled and grateful to receive the Henry Handel Richardson Fellowship. For a while now I’ve been tinkering with a bunch of stories exploring rural life. Set in fictional small towns and farming communities, these stories are about place and out-of-placeness, about locals, outsiders, and particularly about the experiences of women. I grew up on a farm in central-west NSW, and when I write I'm often drawn back to the atmosphere of that time and place.
Finding sustained time to write is a difficult thing for most writers; my scribbling is squeezed in around work and life. The Henry Handel Richardson Fellowship provides the rare opportunity for immersion. Two weeks of dedicated writing time — what a bright light on the horizon! Thank you, HHR Society and Varuna. Also, it’s a wonderful boost knowing other readers think my project is worth pursuing.
I’ve been writing for over 25 years, but I’m a slowpoke and it has mostly taken place in a stop start fashion. In recent years I’ve made writing a priority. I’ve found that a regular writing practice keeps me grounded and makes me feel more engaged with life. My day job is working in a supermarket — busy and physical work, but in this way it is a good complement to writing.
I have a short story being published in the upcoming issue of Island, and my stories have been commended in various awards including the Olga Masters Short Story Award, the Albury City Short Story Award and the Stuart Hadow Short Story Competition.
What do I know about Henry Handel Richardson? Until now, my only encounter has been reading The Getting of Wisdom as part of a distance education course many years ago. Laura is lodged in my memory, with her striving and intelligence and awkwardness, her desire to fit in but her deep resistance to how a woman ‘should’ be. And I remember being delighted by HHR's sharp observations about conformity, and by how funny the writing was. With a newly piqued interest, I’ll now have to find and read some of HHR’s short stories.
Previous Fellowship Winners
Laurie Steed, a fiction writer from Perth and the author of You Belong Here won the 2021 Fellowship for his collection of stories, Nova.
His stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in Best Australian Stories, Award Winning Australian Writing, The Age, Meanjin, Westerly, Island, and elsewhere. He won the 2012 Patricia Hackett Prize for Fiction and was shortlisted for the 2012 Bridport Prize. He is a recipient of fellowships from The University of Iowa, The Baltic Writing Residency, The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation, and The Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation, and he completed his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Western Australia in 2015. He is the editor of Shibboleth and other stories, published in 2016, and his debut novel, You Belong Here, was published in 2018 and was shortlisted for the 2018 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards.
Laurie is also known as a significant mentor to many writers and for his work in the West Australian Writing Community especially, but also for the promotion of short story writing in Australia.
The Getting of Wisdom, Revisited
By Laurie Steed
‘She could not then know that, even for the squarest peg, the right hole may ultimately be found.’ Henry Handel Richardson
I arrived for my second stay at Varuna – The National Writers’ House in June 2021, as the recipient of the HHR Fellowship. My first stay had been nine years, one degree, and two children earlier, in 2012.
Coming back, I felt as though I immediately fit into the puzzle: days, walking and writing. Then, nights, talking with fellow writers, not as Laurie, the author, but as Laurie, the man, observer and occasional chronicler of stories. Strange to be the same but different, all at once. Night times, once laced with the occasional glass of wine, now peppered with Facetime chats with my boys, with them repeatedly hanging up mid-sentence, only to ring back, laughing, the perfect joke.
I somehow wrote 77,500 words during my stay. How? Well, unlike my day-to-day life in Perth, here I just fitted in. I was asked not to be a father or a teacher, but just a writer, that same calling I’d found in 2002 and never really lost, whatever else got in the way.
All those years later, the right hole, rediscovered, thanks to an evocative place steeped in literary tradition and a wonderful society that saw fit to back those writers working with short forms and long lives.
Imbi Neeme, a fiction writer from Melbourne won the 2019 Fellowship for her collection of stories, Naamah’s Ark.
Shortly after Imbi was awarded the HHR Fellowship she was also awarded the 2019 Penguin Literary Prize for her unpublished novel, The Spill, which has since been published by Penguin.
The two weeks in Varuna were truly wonderful and I can't thank the HHR Society enough for the opportunity to truly immerse myself in my writing. I was lucky enough to be given the main bedroom, where I was visited by the ghost of Eleanor Dark at least twice (I'm convinced!). I wrote a number of short new stories and worked on the structural edit for ‘The Spill’. When not writing, I walked and read and napped and dreamt and drank cups of tea. Please extend my heartfelt thanks to all at the HHR Society.
Peggy Frew, an award-winning fiction writer from Melbourne won the 2017 Fellowship and worked on her collection of stories, Islands which was published by Penguin in 2019.
Peggy has won the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award, the Barbara Jefferis Award and been short listed for the Miles Franklin Award (twice) and the Stella Prize.
How to Apply
The HHR/Varuna Award is administered by Varuna as part of their Writers Fellowship Program. See Varuna’s website for details.