Before COVID-19 changed our world, the HNSA community suffered its own sadness in January with the sudden and sorrowful death of Elizabeth Jane Corbett. Liz was a joyful, talented writer with a self-deprecating sense of humour and an ability to harness people’s enthusiasm for historical fiction. I first came across her nearly ten years ago when the editor of the international Historical Novels Review asked me to send my debut novel to ‘Elizabeth Jane’ for review. Her generous and considered review had a powerful effect on my confidence. Two years later, I met Liz in person at the inaugural 2015 HNSA Conference in Balmain. I felt an immediate connection with this tall woman with distinctive short-cropped hair, dark rimmed glasses, and flair for red accessories (especially red shoes.) Her passion for all things Welsh was another of her trademarks. Over time, Liz became a mainstay of the HNSA virtual community and finally a member of our management committee taking on the huge role of marketing co-ordinator with characteristic efficiency and panache. She worked doggedly behind the scenes managing a large social media team and feeding the publicity machine leading up to HNSA 2019 in Melbourne. During this time, we formed a friendship forged from shared experience as mothers, writers, and history nuts. I still struggle to believe she has passed away as do all the HNSA Committee. Our thoughts are very much with her wonderful family.
As Liz wrote historical fiction for young adults, HNSA thought we would honour her memory by introducing the HNSA Elizabeth Jane Corbett Mentorship Contest to give an opportunity to a previously unpublished ANZ author of young adult historical fiction to hone their completed manuscript with the guidance of Wendy J Dunn. The HNSA committee is also grateful for Rachel le Rossignol for generously offering her time to act as a fellow judge, and to Christine Bell for agreeing to administer the contest. It’s wonderful to have such support to help give an aspiring writer a chance to walk in Liz’s (red) shoes.
Elisabeth Storrs, HNSA Chair
About the Mentorship
The winner of the Mentorship contest will receive five mentoring sessions at times to be arranged between the winner and tutor. Wendy J Dunn will read and assess the novel in its entirety, then meet with the mentee via Zoom, initially for 1-2 hours, to discuss the winner’s inspiration and goals, and to identify ‘roadblocks’ requiring Wendy’s assistance. Wendy will provide in-depth feedback on plot, characterisation, pacing, dialogue, world building and effective use of research. A flash drive will be provided setting out her comments and notes. Four further one hour sessions will then be arranged to track process and provide encouragement and support.
The submission period opens on 3 August 2020. Closing date for entries is 30 September 2020. You can find more information on the contest and how to enter on our contest page.
About Elizabeth Jane Corbett
Elizabeth Jane Corbett was a talented author, dedicated member of the HNSA Committee, reviewer for the international Historical Novels Review, and a mainstay of our historical fiction community. She had a great love of Wales, and learned the Welsh language in order to research her books fully. Her debut young adult historical novel, The Tides Between, was named a Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book for older readers. Liz described the book as ‘an historical coming-of-age novel about fairy tales and facing the truth. It explores themes of loss, trauma, and the power of myth.’
When Elizabeth Jane wasn’t writing, she worked as a librarian, and taught Welsh at the Melbourne Welsh Church. In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, Silent Night, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. She died suddenly in her beloved Wales at Stiwdio Maelor on a research trip for her next novel about the wife of Owain Glyn Dŵr – the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales.
Liz liked red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far away. Her advice to aspiring authors was: ‘It will be hard work and you may have to wrestle with confusion and self-doubt (even after you’ve won prizes and been published). So, focus on the journey and learning your craft. And remember, writing is the real magic.’
About Wendy J. Dunn
Dr Wendy J. Dunn is an author, playwright and poet. Obsessed by Tudor History since childhood, she has authored two Anne Boleyn novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel. Her third Tudor novel, Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters, re-imagines the early years of Katherine of Aragon’s life.
Wendy gained her Doctorate of Philosophy (Writing) from Swinburne University in 2014. A long-time writing tutor and lecturer at Swinburne University, Wendy was also the founding Managing Editor of Backstory journal and Other Terrain, two writing journals belonging to Swinburne University.
About Rachel le Rossignol
Dr Rachel Le Rossignol is the author of an historical fantasy trilogy published by Odyssey Books under the name Rachel Nightingale. It begins with Harlequin’s Riddle and continues with Columbine’s Tale. Rachel co-wrote and acted in Murder on the Puffing Billy Express, a 1920’s murder mystery show still performed regularly on the iconic Puffing Billy steam train (Melbourne). She holds a Masters degree and PhD in creative writing and is a regular speaker at writing events. Her plays have been performed in Australia, New Zealand and Manila.
About Christine Bell
Christine Bell is a Melbourne fiction writer. Her debut novel No Small Shame is published by Ventura Press (Impact imprint). In October 2019, Christine was awarded the inaugural Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA) Colleen McCullough Residency for an Established Writer. In 2014, she was awarded a Varuna Creative Retreat Fellowship for her YA manuscript Prison Boy. Christine holds a Master of Creative Writing and a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. Christine has had 35 short fiction works published for children. Her short stories have been published in various anthologies. No Small Shame is her first adult novel.
Visit the HNSA Elizabeth Jane Corbett Mentorship Contest page to find out more about rules and download the nomination form.