Queensland Literary Awards: Let’s hear it for shortlists

We love to hype up our Queensland Literary Award-winners past and present — but let’s not forget our wonderful finalists.

Each year, our judges choose stellar lists of finalists — the cream of the crop — and while only one or two from each category can win, a shortlisting is a significant achievement in itself.

We chatted to Rebecca Cheers and Jonathan O’Brien — both finalists in one of our development award categories, the 2021 Young Publishers and Writers Award — about what they’re working on in 2022, from launching books to apps to businesses.

Rebecca Cheers, 2021 finalist — who this year launches her first book

Rebecca Cheers | 2021 finalist

How did your 2021 shortlisting impact your writing life?
I’ve taken a scary step since my shortlisting: I’ve quit retail work after a decade. Though I’ve been working recently as a sessional academic and arts admin, I’ve always held on to those retail jobs, which offered some added stability, but which also meant I was always working a million jobs. Finding work that’s closer to my actual expertise has helped me feel more like myself, and has centred writing more in my life. Whether it was a wise choice will be revealed with time, but it’s felt good to back myself, and the recognition of my work by the shortlisting was a factor in gaining that confidence.

Is there any writing, publishing or prize news from the past year you’d like to share with us?
My debut poetry collection, No Camelias, is coming out soon through Rabbit Poetry Series. My whole writing life has revolved around it for at least five years, from research to writing to placing the poems: I’m so excited to send it off into the world, but I’m also excited to get out there and try to write something else. It was my first time writing a long-form project, and I learned so much. [Ed. No Camelias launches at Avid Reader and online on 25 July.]

What’s on your reading stack right now?
I have Eunice Andrada’s poetry collection Take Care in my bag right now, which is incredible. I also have a stack of books I’ve started but not finished, purely due to personal defects. (This used to be less of a problem for me!) There’s a collection of Ursula Le Guin’s nonfiction essays (Dreams Must Explain Themselves), Alice Proctor’s The Whole Picture, and Sara El Sayed’s recent memoir Muddy People. I’m hoping I’ll find more reading time soon, because Eloise Grills’ big beautiful female theory and Katerina Gibson’s Women I Know are coming out soon, and I’m keen to get into them.

Jonathan O'Brien, 2021 finalist and 2022 BWF Literary Death Match Champion

How did your 2021 QLAs shortlisting impact your writing life?
I’ve actually had the luck of being shortlisted twice, which means I’ve had the privilege of double-impact. In 2020 my manuscript Daddy & Other Father Figures was shortlisted for the Glendower Award, which led to me being picked up by my agent Hannah Douglas. And last year’s shortlisting, because we were out of lockdown, led to some really meaningful networking at the ceremony — and probably led in a roundabout way to my crowning as the 2022 Brisbane Writers Festival Literary Death Match Champion.

What’s in the pipeline for you now: what are you working on?
I have a few projects. Probably too many projects. I’m working on this gig economy satire, The Freelancer, which is drafted but probably a while away from completion. Then there’s my new data communication firm, O’Creative (ocreative.company). I’m doing this project with 2021 QLA winner Siang Lu, which is this webapp called The Beige Index. It’s like the Bechdel test, but for race in popular cinema. We’ve watched every single one of the IMDb Top 250 and programmed the app from scratch. It’s been a massive undertaking, and it’s launching in August at thebeigeindex.com.

Across any medium, what text of the past 12 months is living rent-free in your brain?
It’s tie between two things that go together: Megan Nolan’s stellar novel Acts of Desperation, and Ayesha A. Siddiqi’s Substack article Memento Millenial. I cannot recommend these two things enough, especially if you’re a fan of Sally Rooney.


The Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards are supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

Rebecca Cheers is a writer, poet, zinemaker and playwright from Brisbane. She holds a Masters of Philosophy from QUT, in which she researched lyric poetry as feminist biography. No Camelias is her first book. Read more of Rebecca's work.

Jonathan O’Brien is a writer, publisher, and data communicator. His fiction is represented by Hannah Douglas at MKA, and his website is jonobri.com. Read more of Jonathan's work.


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