The Award for an Unpublished Manuscript

The Award for an Unpublished Manuscript by an emerging Victorian writer offers a $15,000 prize for an unpublished fiction manuscript – which may be a collection of stories or a novel. Each year, the Award for an Unpublished Manuscript is open for nominations in March – with the winner announced at the opening night of the Emerging Writers' Festival.

Read about the 2015 Award here.

2016 winner

Melanie Cheng – Australia Day

Judges' notes: The short fiction in Australia Day is mature, engaging, structurally sound and beautifully nuanced. The stories, varied in length, combine to form a coherent kaleidoscope of characters and situations that sensitively explore contemporary Australia through themes of family and chance encounter. Here is a unique contribution to Australian short fiction.

Melanie Cheng is a writer of fiction and non-fiction from Melbourne. Her work has been published in MeanjinOverlandGriffith ReviewSleepers AlmanacSeizurePeril and Visible Ink among other publications. 

Read an extract of the manuscript here.

Shortlisted entries

Jay Carmichael – Ironbark

Judges' notes: Ironbark is an exquisitely poetic, stylistically sure literary novel set in a stiflingly small Australian country town. With sharp attention to character and place, the author deftly weaves hope and beauty through a story of fear, loss and alienation. Here is an accomplished new voice in Australian literary fiction. 

Jay Carmichael is a copywriter and editor. He’s completed work for schools, not-for-profits and small LGBTIQ organisations. He moved to Melbourne from rural Victoria five years ago and is currently studying a Master of Writing and Publishing at RMIT University.

Susan Johnston – Wildgirl

Judges' notes: Wildgirl is a romantic, laugh-out-loud novel with serious underlying themes exploring what it means to be human. The writing is engaging, the characters are vividly drawn, and the imaginative premise skilfully straddles the boundary between the unlikely, and the possible. Wildgirl introduces a quirky and exciting new voice to Young Adult fiction. 

Susan Johnston is a writer of young adult and teen fiction. With a background in social work and a Masters in Social Science (International Development), Susan has worked with newly arrived migrants and refugees, with children and teenagers in residential care, and in India as part of Australia’s international aid program. She recently completed a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. In 2011, Susan’s first manuscript, Bangalore Bakery, was selected for the QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and two boys.

Jay Carmichael, Melanie Cheng and Susan Johnston

Jay Carmichael, Melanie Cheng and Susan Johnston


  • Jacquie Byron – Trouble Sleeping
  • Katy Barnett – The Earth Below
  • Chris Quigley – Failed Manhood
  • Mark Brandi – To Skin a Rabbit


The judges of the 2016 Award for an Unpublished Manuscript are:

Key dates

  • Entries open Thursday 24 March 2016
  • Entries close Thursday 14 April 2016
  • Shortlist announced Wednesday 1 June 2016
  • Winner announced Tuesday 14 June 2016 at the launch event of the Emerging Writers' Festival