The HNSA, in partnership with our generous sponsor, ARA Group, has expanded the ARA Historical Novel Prize to include a category for outstanding Children and Young Adult (CYA) literature, bringing the total prize monies to $100,000. Only in its’s second year of operation, it’s now the richest genre based literary award.
This month, we spoke to Paul McDonald, Chair of the CYA Judging Panel, about the appeal of historical fiction, and what he thinks makes a standout historical novel.
Paul McDonald owns the award-winning The Children’s Bookshop which has been a Sydney literary institution since 1971. Paul has a Master of Education, working almost 20 years as a teacher of Upper Primary and Secondary.
He has won numerous awards in teaching such as a Quality Teacher Award and The Premiers English Scholarship. Paul won the inaugural Maurice Saxby Award in 2012 for his contributions to raising the profile of teen fiction. Paul Macdonald also was the winner of the 2016 Lady Cutler award for services to children’s literature and literacy in Australia.
Paul not only manages The Children’s Bookshop Speakers’ Agency but is also a consultant working with numerous schools focusing on building reading cultures and he is currently completing his PhD focusing on Australian Young Adult literature. Paul is the author of the picture book The Hole Idea and has written several other academic texts.
The other judges for the CYA category are Thuy On and Catherine Mayo. For further information about each of the judges, visit: Judging Panels for the 2021 ARA Historical Novel Prize.
An Interview with Paul McDonald
What is the appeal of historical fiction?
I am a reader because of historical fiction. As a child, I loved stepping back in time and walking the streets of Ancient Greece and standing on the periphery of battles, horrified yet entranced. When I became a history teacher, it was the imagery of many moments that I’d read about and imagined, that informed my historical focus. Historical fiction encouraged me to empathise with individuals from the past, to experience history as both real and alive.
Why do you think awards like the ARA Historical Novel Prize are important?
Literary prizes are so important to affirm our writers. A broad range of prizes enables a greater range of authors to be applauded. A dedicated Historical Fiction Prize means that history as a genre is pushed to the forefront.
Why did you decide to accept the invitation to be a judge?
Most of my working life as a teacher and as a bookseller has involved reading books for children and teens and having conversations about books for children and teens. We need to encourage young people to read for pleasure and to read about the past to gain that greater sense of empathy for past events and for past people. It’s a honour to be involved in the judging for the HNSA.
What do you think makes a standout historical novel?
Writing historical fiction is a delicate balance of getting the facts right and embedding the past with emotions that connect with the reader. The historical writer is brave because of this need to maintain a balance- and be open sometimes to greater scrutiny. The historical novel ultimately stands out when it resonates with the contemporary reader, connecting the past with the present.
2021 ARA Historical Novel Prize
The 2021 ARA Historical Novel Prize is open for submissions. Take advantage of our Early Bird rate of $35 by submitting your novel by 14 May 2021. The entry fee will increase to $50 after 15 May. The contest closes on 14 June 2021.
The HNSA, in partnership with our generous sponsor, ARA Group, has expanded the ARA Historical Novel Prize to include a category for outstanding Children and Young Adult (CYA) literature bringing the total prize monies to $100,000. Only in its’s second year of operation, it’s now the richest genre based literary award. The winner of the Adult category Prize will be awarded $50,000, with an additional $5,000 to be awarded to each of the two shortlisted authors. In the Children and Young Adult category, the winner will receive $30,000, while the two shortlisters will receive $5,000 each.
For more information, please visit the prize page.