The 2016 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers opens for submissions on Monday, 4th April. We spoke to the inaugural winner, Sally Abbott, about her winning manuscript, Closing Down, what comes next, and her tips for writers who are thinking about entering this year.

What affect has being the inaugural winner of the Richell Prize made on your writing career?

The Richell Prize has been hugely significant for me. It has opened so many doors and, most importantly, given me the confidence to continue with my writing and begin to think of myself as a writer. I will always be grateful to the Hannah Richell and the Richell family as well as Hachette Australia, the Emerging Writers’ Festival and Guardian Australia for coming together to make the prize happen. It is shaping an entirely new phase of my career and that is a huge thing.

Can you tell us a bit about your winning manuscript, Closing Down?

Closing Down is set in the near-ish future. Countries around the world are vying to secure key resources and manage the tidal wave of refugees. Australia has been acquired by another country and divided into inclusion and exclusion zones. Towns and farms are closing and hundreds of thousands of people are relocating, leaving behind their homes and histories. The book is about this dislocation, and the meanings of home and place, especially during inexorable and often cruel and absurd change.

When can readers expect to find Closing Down on a bookshop shelf?

Hopefully around May 2017.

Are you working on anything else we should know about?

There’s an idea for book two.

Could you share with us your working habits and tips for completing a manuscript?

My writing habits are very often shambolic. Writing has to fit in with day job, as it does for most people, and I don’t really have a fixed routine. A very wise person suggested I think of the manuscript as a kind of building or home renovation project. I have lived through one of these, and it totally works for me to imagine the writing process in this way: delays, weeks and even months of apparently not much being done and then the whole structure suddenly emerging and being there, patiently fixing things that seemed like great ideas in the original design but that clearly aren’t working, thinking through finishing touches. If I stay focussed on understanding that this big building site mess will eventually become a reasonably coherent whole, it is easier to just keep on going.

Do you have any advice for emerging writers thinking about entering this year?

Do it. Do it. Do it. It is a wonderful and unique and generous prize.

You, yes You, can follow Sally’s advice submit to the prize by following this link. Entries are open on Monday 4th of April until 1st of June.