Queensland Writers Fellowships

Each year since 2013, three established Queensland authors have been awarded a Queensland Writers Fellowship to produce new work and progress their careers. The fellowships offer a $15,000 cash prize and career development support through the Queensland Writers Centre. The Queensland Writers Fellowships elevate Queensland authors by investing targeted support in extraordinary writers at the right time to support the production of new work. Some recent successes from the Queensland Writers Fellows are showcased below.

Queensland Writers Fellowship recipients Emily O'Grady, Claire Christian, Sarah Holland-Batt and State Librarian and Chief Executive Officer Vicki McDonald

Sara El Sayed (2020 Fellow)

Sara El Sayed is a writer based in Meanjin (Brisbane). Her first book, ‘Muddy People’, will be published by Black Inc. in 2021. Sara’s Fellowship project is ‘The Blind Pussy Cat’, a novel that explores the lives and secrets of a family over several generations, shifting between Alexandria, Egypt, in 1956, and present-day Brisbane.

Sarah's proposed project is a novel titled ‘The Blind Pussy Cat’. In 'The Blind Pussy Cat’, a teenaged Ze – living in Alexandria, Egypt in 1956 – discovers her father has a second wife. According to him, his first wife – Ze’s mother – does not know about the new woman. According to him, no one knows. When Ze learns that her mother is in fact aware, she joins her in her plan to maintain her father’s delusion of control. The story is told by Ze in her seventies, in 2016, having migrated to Australia.

Judges’ comments

Sara El Sayed is a writer redefining what it is to be a Queensland writer. One of the growing number of writers making and holding space for ‘others’ to see themselves in the stories we love to read. Her work is engaging, addictive and wincingly accurate when it offers a mirror for white Australians to glimpse themselves. The judges were unanimous in their wish to see Sara’s project, The Blind Pussy Cat, find a publishing home.

Anna Jacobson (2020 Fellow)

Anna Jacobson is a writer and artist from Brisbane. Amnesia Findings (UQP, 2019) is her first full-length poetry collection, which won the 2018 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. Her poetry chapbook The Last Postman (Vagabond Press, 2018) is part of the deciBels 3 series. Anna won the 2020 Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Writing (Open Creative Nonfiction) and the 2018  Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award. Her writing has been published in literary journals and anthologies including Chicago Quarterly Review, Griffith Review, Australian Poetry Journal, CorditeMeanjin, Rabbit, and more. She is a current PhD candidate at QUT where she is specialising in creative nonfiction and memoir. She holds a Master of Philosophy (specialising in poetry) from QUT, a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Creative and Professional Writing) from QUT, and a Bachelor of Photography with Honours from Griffith University.

Anna is drawn to developing ideas around anxiety and its manifestations from her experience and observations of living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. She is grateful this fellowship will help support the development of her second full-length poetry collection ‘Anxious in a Sweet Store’, which is a juxtaposition of the humorous and quirky, along with the darker and disabling forces of anxiety.

Judges’ comments

Anna Jacobson’s poetry is ambitious, intelligent and engages with vulnerability to reveal truths about minds, hearts, worries and the shape and meaning of words. Anna takes risks while being able to find poetry in a mundane collection of rubber bands. The judges had no hesitation in recommending her for a fellowship for her nominated project, 'Anxious in a Sweet Store'.

Amanda Niehaus (2020 Fellow)

Amanda Niehaus is a writer, scientist, and author of the novel The Breeding Season—a story of resilience based on the reproductive biology of northern quolls. Her essays and stories have been published in Griffith Review, Overland, The Guardian, Creative Nonfiction, Best Australian Essays, and more, and she won the 2017 Victoria University Short Story Prize. She is co-founder of the Science Write Now website and network, which showcases creative writing about science. Amanda can be found online @amandacniehaus

A North Sydney mother and daughter begin to see flickers of their past and future selves, ultimately learning how connected they really are. In this follow-up to her acclaimed first novel, The Breeding Season, Niehaus uses epigenetics and quantum physics to explore reality, ageing, and the long sway of trauma.  

Judges’ comments

Amanda Niehaus is a writer who appears to write while balanced on the edges of prose and poetry, chipping away at unnecessary words. She does indeed, as one author notes, embrace complexity, which includes an unapologetic commitment to the science of climate change. The judges were all keen to see Amanda push her writing further via her project, 'Relativity'.

Claire Christian (2019 Fellow)

Claire Christian is an author, playwright and theatre maker based in Brisbane. In 2016 Claire won the Text Publishing Text Prize for her debut young adult novel, Beautiful Mess, which was released in August 2017. She directed Michelle Law's acclaimed season of Single Asian Female for La Boite Theatre Company (2017-2019). Her play Lysa and the Freeborn Dames was staged at La Boite in July 2018. Claire is a passionate youth arts facilitator and high school teacher who has worked with young people for over fourteen years.

Claire’s proposed project is a novel titled ‘The Invisibles’, a middle grade–young adult novel that will explore bullying, online personas and mental health through the perspective of fifteen-year-old artist Ginger. By day, Ginger is flying under the radar at school and work, trying to be as unassuming and small as possible. Outside of school, Ginger curates a hugely successful secret Instagram account where she shares her art, and the clothes that she makes online that celebrates body positivity and quirk. This novel aims to be an important exploration of our public and private selves, inciting important reflections about online bullying, self-love, self-compassion, adolescence, mental health and making the invisible, visible.

Judges’ comments

Claire Christian’s success as a playwright and theatre maker has been matched in recent years by her emergence as a powerful writer of fiction. Claire presents an exciting and ambitious vision for her work, weaving narrative through literary forms, genres, and textual and visual media in the seamless way they are also consumed and inhabited by young people. Her work addresses topics of utmost urgency for adults and young people alike with empathy and steadfast commitment to truth-telling.

Sarah Holland-Batt (2019 Fellow)

Sarah Holland-Batt is an award-winning poet, editor and critic. She is the author of two books of poems ­– Aria (UQP, 2008) and The Hazards (UQP, 2015), which received the 2016 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry­ – and the editor of The Best Australian Poems 2016 and 2017 (Black Inc.). Sarah’s work has been recognised with a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship, residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell colonies in the United States, and an Australia Council Literature Residency in Rome, among other honours. In 2016, she was awarded the CHASS Australia Prize for Future Leader in the Humanities.

Spiral Separator will be a poetry collection in the form of a book-length elegy that contends with the gradual disintegration of Holland-Batt’s father’s memory and personality over the seventeen years of Parkinson’s disease and dementia. The collection will use the figure of the spiral separator ­– a key mechanism in the field of metallurgy, where Holland-Batt’s father was a pioneering thinker and expert in fluid dynamics ­– as well as physics and philosophy as means by which to comprehend the forces that have wrought his slow dissolution of selfhood and memory brought on by degenerative illness. The collection will also engage empathically and imaginatively with her father’s complex and often contradictory narratives about his past and life, which balance fantasy with an increasingly unreliable reality.

Judges’ comments

Sarah Holland-Batt is a leading Australian poet. She is also an editor, critic and academic. Sarah has won a plethora of awards both in Australia and internationally, including the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for her lyrical, searing book of poetry The Hazards. Her upcoming project Spiral Separator is a heartfelt elegy to her ailing father. It sits at the intersection of poetry, memoir and science. Sarah is a potent voice in Australian literature.

Emily O’Grady (2019 Fellow)

Emily O’Grady is a writer from Brisbane. Her fiction and poetry have appeared Meanjin, Southword, The Lifted Brow, Australian Poetry Journal, Kill Your Darlings, The Big Issue Fiction Edition and Award Winning Australian Writing. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from QUT, and in 2018, her debut novel The Yellow House won the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award.

Feast is set in present-day Scotland and tells the story of Evelyn and Joseph, a wealthy, eccentric couple whose moral and psychological decline is played out over the course of a weekend in their remote property in the Scottish Highlands. Evelyn is a retired theatre actress grieving the traumatic death of her mother some years earlier, while Joseph is a musician who has exiled himself from his home country. They live in self-imposed isolation but have recently welcomed Joseph’s daughter from a previous marriage, Neve, who is on a gap year after finishing school in Australia. The novel takes place over the weekend of Neve’s 18th birthday. When Neve’s mother descends on the castle for Neve’s birthday party, repressed traumas begin to complicate the present.

Judges’ comments

In reading Emily O’Grady’s fiction, it is no surprise to learn that she is an assured poet, too. Her work addresses head-on what it means to inhabit the extreme, and strives to unpack the most transgressive of human behaviours with empathy. Emily writes with a poet’s eye, and her commitment to her craft is sure to culminate in her position as one of Australia’s most exciting new writers.

Laura Elvery (2018 Fellow)

Laura Elvery’s work has been published in Meanjin, Overland, The Big Issue Fiction Edition and Griffith Review. She has won the Josephine Ulrick Prize for Literature, the Margaret River Short Story Competition, the Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize and the Fair Australia Prize for Fiction.

Laura has a PhD in Creative Writing. She also has two young children. She lives in Brisbane.

Laura’s proposed Fellowship project, Medallion, is a collection of short stories based on the lives, work and influence of the women who have been awarded the Nobel Prizes for science, beginning with Marie Curie’s first of two medals in 1903.  Medallion will be published by UQP in 2020.

An excerpt from the collection, 'Wingspan', was published in Griffith Review 58: Storied Lives.

The same year she received her Fellowship, UQP published Laura's debut short story collection, Trick of the Light; which shortlisted for the 2018 University of Southern Queensland Steele Rudd Award for a Short Story Collection.

Mirandi Riwoe (2017 Fellow)

Mirandi Riwoe is a Brisbane-based writer. She has been shortlisted for Overland’s Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize, the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize, the Luke Bitmead Bursary and the Stella Prize, and longlisted for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and the CWA (UK) Dagger Awards. Her work has appeared in Review of  Australian Fiction, Rex, Peril and Shibboleth and Other Stories. She is the author of a novel, She be Damned, and a novella, The Fish Girl, which won the 2017 Seizure Viva La Novella Prize.

Mirandi’s proposed Fellowship project is a literary novel set in Queensland during the Gold Rush period of the 19th century. The completed novel, On Gold Mountain, will be published by UQP in 2020. An early excerpt of the piece, Gold Mountain Woman, appeared in Griffith Review 61: Who We Are (December 2018).

Amanda O'Callaghan (2016 Fellow)

Amanda O'Callaghan is an Australian writer. ​A former advertising executive, she has published and won awards in Australia, Ireland and the UK. She holds a PhD in English from The University of Queensland. 

Amanda’s proposed Fellowship project was to complete her debut short story collection, This Taste for Silence, which will be published by UQP in May 2019.

Since being awarded her Fellowship, Amanda has won the 2018 Flash500 Annual Short Story Competition and the 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award, and has been shortlisted for the 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award, the 2018 TSS Flash Fiction Award, the 2018 NFFD Micro Competition, the 2018 Doolin Flash Fiction Contest and the 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize.

Karen Foxlee (2015 Fellow)

Karen Foxlee spent most of her adult life working as a registered nurse while pursuing her secret dream of becoming a writer. Her young adult novels The Anatomy of Wings and The Midnight Dress have been published internationally to much acclaim. Her books for younger readers include Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and A Most Magical Girl. She lives and writes in Queensland, Australia.

Karen’s proposed Fellowship project was to complete a young adult manuscript titled Lenny and the Giants. In 2018, this work was published to critical acclaim by Allen and Unwin as Lenny’s Book of Everything; it's due to be published by Knopf in the United States in April 2019.

Since being awarded her Fellowship, Karen had her second book for younger readers, A Most Magical Girl, published by Allen and Unwin in Australia, by Knopf Books in the United States and by Piccadilly Press in the United Kingdom. A Most Magical Girl won the 2017 Readings Children's Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the 2017 Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award. 

David Stavanger (2014 Fellow)

David Stavanger is a poet, performer, cultural producer and lapsed psychologist. In 2013 he won the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, resulting in the release of The Special (UQP, 2014), his first full-length collection of poetry, which was awarded the 2015 Wesley Michel Wright Poetry Prize. David was Co-Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival (2015–17) and is the Co-Editor of Verity LA’s Slot Machine, Australian Poetry Journal 8.2 Spoken and the forthcoming Solid Air: Collected Australian & New Zealand Spoken Word (UQP, 2019). He is sometimes known as Green Room-nominated spoken weird artist Ghostboy.

Since being awarded his Fellowship, David has been a finalist in the 2016 Newcastle Poetry Prize for his prose poem 'The Electric Journal'; received Australia Council funding for his forthcoming poetry collection, Case Notes; and been shortlisted for the 2019 Moth Poetry Prize (worth €10,000, or A$15,930) for his poem 'Octonaut'. He has also co-edited Spoken Air: Collected Australian & New Zealand Spoken Word, which will be published by UQP in 2019.


The Queensland Writers Fellowships are supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and the State Library of Queensland.

Past Fellows