Hachette Australia, along with the Richell family and in partnership with the Emerging Writers’ Festival and Pedestrian TV, is honoured to announce Susannah Begbie as the recipient of the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers for 2022. Begbie grew up in rural New South Wales on a sheep farm and is now a GP who has worked all over Australia. In 2006, Begbie started a Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing at Canberra University and was awarded the Editor’s Pick for her short story Fly to Meet You in the University’s First Anthology. She was also awarded the best-written text for her children’s book Don’t You Dare! in the Get Real project.
Her work, When Trees Fall Without Warning, which took ten years to write, is an expertly told, compelling work of commercial fiction. Instantly captivating, with characters alive with personality who ring emotionally true, this is an original and lively narrative that creates memorable insights into a dysfunctional family dynamic. The Richell Prize judges have no doubt that Susannah is a writer with the ability to create an ongoing literary career.
When Trees Fall Without Warning focuses on the Edwards family. Tom, a farmer, owns a ten-thousand-acre property and has four grown-up children who don’t deserve it. But Tom is dying and in a final, bitter act, he decides to change his will and instructs that, to keep their inheritance, his offspring must stay on the farm and build his coffin, together, within five working days of his death. If they don’t, they all get nothing. Begbie displays great skill in creating these wonderful, complex characters within a plot that reveals the best and worst of humanity in an engaging and entertaining way, with greed used as a wickedly clever device to unite (or divide).
Susannah Begbie said: ‘I am amazed and honoured to be the recipient of the 2022 Richell Prize. At times, it can feel as though the walls of your study are the only audience your writing will get. The Richell Prize is a gift, firstly, because it gets the writing out of the study and into the world. Over seven hundred manuscripts made it out of the study this year because of the Richell Prize. So much work, so much courage, so much hope. To every writer who submitted their work this year I want to acknowledge that you have already done this incredible thing – keep going! To my fellow long-listees and short-listees – from the judges’ comments I know your writing is superb, and I look forward to seeing it in print soon. Like many of us, I almost didn’t enter the Richell Prize this year. The calibre of entries in previous years was so high, I couldn’t imagine how When Trees Fall Without Warning could sit alongside them. Being longlisted was amazing, being shortlisted was breathtaking and winning the Richell Prize is beyond anything I could have imagined. Thank you, Hachette Australia, Emerging Writers’ Festival, and Richell family. I cannot imagine the time, work and resources you put into the Richell Prize, but I am so grateful for it. For this emerging writer, it changes everything.’
Ruby-Rose Pivet-Marsh, Artistic Director & Co-CEO of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, said: ‘Since 2015, EWF has had the privilege of administering the Richell Prize with Hachette Australia. Year after year, this prize grows, and the job of the readers and the judges becomes more difficult. This year was, of course, no exception. We had 700 wonderful entries, and I would like to thank everyone who was brave enough to submit their work for the prize – your courage and your dedication to the craft continues to amaze us every single year. This prize does incredible work in unearthing literary talent. Winners, long- and short-listees from previous years have gone on to shape incredible careers as authors, and many remain close friends of EWF. We are so pleased to be part of that process and to be entrusted with the work of so many talented writers.’
Fiona Hazard, Hachette Australia Group Publishing Director, said: ‘We were absolutely delighted by the number of entries we received for the Richell Prize this year and even more delighted by the consistent quality of the entries, which just seem to get better every year. The writers on the shortlist were all of a very high standard and this compelled the judges to award a Highly Commended. Congratulations to our Highly Commended entry, The Little Ones by Anne Myers. We hope that this recognition will encourage Anne to continue her writing journey. It’s wonderful to see the Richell Prize going from strength to strength and I feel sure that former Hachette CEO Matt Richell would be thrilled to know the prize is encouraging so many new Australian writers. Celebrating Matt’s focus on nurturing emerging writers is the spark that drives the Richell Prize and this year’s winner is a deserving recipient. Hearty congratulations to Susannah Begbie who impressed the judges with her work of fiction, When Trees Fall Without Warning. This narrative is such a clever twist on exploring the lengths people will go when it comes to money, and the family dynamics that propel the story left all the judges wanting to read more. We’re thrilled that we can now mentor Susannah and hope that winning the prize will give her the time and space to finish writing the book so it can be shared with readers. Bravo, Susannah.’