We are thrilled, along with the Richell family and in partnership with the Hachette Australia and Simpsons Solicitors, to announce Alex Sawyer as the recipient of the ninth annual Richell Prize for Emerging Writers.

Alex Sawyer is a psychologist, a firefighter, a father and a short story writer. He has been shortlisted for residency prizes from Writers SA and was runner up in the Peter Carey short story prize in 2022.

‘There is something quite special about being a part of an up-and-coming writer’s journey, and no more privileged position than to be a part of the dedicated crew administering the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers alongside Hachette Australia. All our congratulations to Alex Sawyer for his winning entry in an incredibly difficult-to-narrow-down shortlist! I hope that the opportunity not just for recognition but for development offered by this prize does incredible work to help you continue your literary future. Every year I am blown away by those who submit their work; their bravery and their creativity. To every writer who submitted their work this year, I want to acknowledge that just submitting is incredible by its own right — keep going!’

Jes Layton, Co-CEO of the Emerging Writers’ Festival

Alex’s winning work is Rat Daniels, which he has been working on since 2021. This is a beautifully told work of fiction that explores a friendship between two lonely boys who bond through their love of nature.

Rat Daniels focuses on the lives of Jimmy and Rat, and the story of their childhood in Eden’s Ridge, a stretch of hillside farms and hidden valleys on the outskirts of Adelaide, slowly succumbing to the tides of suburbia. But as they grow up, both young men are on different paths, one academic and the other a life of petty crime that will see their friendship tested and reckless decisions made. An ultimate act of violence sees Rat charged with murder and Jimmy forced to choose whose side he is on … knowing that, potentially, Rat’s fate is in his hands. The judges all responded to Sawyer’s confident writing and the powerful storyline, and they were united in their belief that Sawyer’s work has the potential to become an Australian classic in the vein of Mark Brandi and Tim Winton.

‘We are thrilled at the standard of entries this year. It is proof to me that the Richell Prize is cementing itself as one of the most important literary prizes for emerging Australian writers. We had 700 entries this year and to uncover such a strong longlist, then shortlist and then decide on the ultimate winner is always a reminder of the exciting talent that is developing around the country. I know that former Hachette CEO Matt Richell would be proud to know a prize in his name is encouraging so many new Australian writers. Those who knew him know that Matt’s focus on nurturing emerging writers is the reason the Richell Prize exists and this year’s winner is a worthy recipient. Congratulations to Alex Sawyer, who impressed the judges with his haunting story of friendship and male violence and a disappearing rural landscape. We’re delighted that Alex will now be mentored by Hachette and that this prize will give him the time and space to finish his novel. Congratulations, Alex!’

Fiona Hazard, Hachette Australia Group Publishing Director

Emerging Writers’ Festival would like to extend congratulations to all the shortlisted writers for this year’s Prize on a commendable achievement. We can’t wait to see where the winner, Alex Sawyer, and all the shortlisted writers will take their burgeoning literary careers beyond this year’s Richell Prize for Emerging Writers.