Tuesday, 23 April 2013

S is for Stella

Oops, I missed a few days. Life got in the way of my Q and R posts and today I'm back with a guest post for S. My guest is Jenny Squire (picture here), who also made an appearance here in last year's A-Z

You can find Jen's brand new blog here, where she's going to be writing about writing, reading and music. Jen and I have been writing together for a few years now and even though I'm not allowed to say the 'N' word in her presence, I do believe she may actually be writing one! 

So my thanks go to Jen for today's post and for being my writing partner.

I remember reading My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, keen to understand more about
the author who established the most prestigious literary award in Australia. As with most
awards, many of the recipients have gone on to have strong careers, and some of the
decisions have been the subject of controversy and great debate. 

Until recently, a little too recently I must confess, I thought that Miles Franklin was a man.

Stella Maria Miles Franklin (1879 – 1954) was an Australian writer and feminist, and she was passionate about the survival of writers, literary magazines and writers’ organisations in Australia.

She wrote her famous novel, My Brilliant Career, as Miles Franklin, not wanting readers to
assume it was written by a woman. She was 21 years old in a time when women’s writing
wouldn’t be critiqued without bias. The novel went on to become an international success, and today is still regarded as an Australian classic.

Stella was a ‘real character’ who mixed with the Australian literary circle, worked in
women’s movements and progressive causes in Chicago and London, nursed Allied soldiers in the Balkans, and returned to Australia in the 1930s. She continued to write throughout, apparently often submitting work under pseudonyms, which were kept well hidden.

In the 1930s she returned to Australia, and continuing her passion for the development of
Australian literature, left terms in her will to establish the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Recently a new award, the Stella Prize, was established by a collection of donors and
supporters to celebrate women’s contribution to Australian literature. Also worth $50,000,
the inaugural prize has just been awarded to Carrie Tiffany for Mateship with Birds.

Rather than perpetuate the current and lively debate on women’s awards and whether they legitimately have a place in the literary world, I think it’s worth celebrating the legacy of Stella Maria Miles Franklin, her dedication and her impact on many writers’ success. And if you listen to Carrie Tiffany’s acceptance speech I hope you’ll agree.
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