• The most successful memoir pieces tend to have a very specific focus. (Moment RF)Source: Moment RF
Your memoir piece may be poignant, humorous or a mix of both. The important thing is that it’s your story, and no one else's.
4 Aug 2020 - 8:39 AM  UPDATED 28 Aug 2020 - 5:28 PM

The SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition is a chance for budding writers to share their unique story and be in the running to win a prize pool of up to $10,000. 

The competition writing theme is ‘Growing up in Diverse Australia’ which allows plenty of scope to write a memoir piece about some aspect of your formative years. 

So if you are an Australian resident with a story to share, and you’re aged 18 and over (and have never published a book), read on. Entries need to be submitted between 15 August-15 September 2020.

The great idea 

Think back to your own experiences during your childhood or teenage years in Australia, and reflect on how they shaped you. 

You may wish to write about an aspect of school, your friends, parents, heartbreak, your community, neighbours, celebrations or anything else that has left its mark. 

Themes of love, loss, identity and culture may emerge. Your memoir piece may be poignant, humorous or a mix of both. The important thing is that it’s your story, and no one else's.  

The most successful memoir pieces tend to have a very specific focus, so choose perhaps a particular person, or event, to centre your piece on rather than making it too broad. Don’t tell us your whole life story!  


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers are encouraged to enter

SBS wants to hear particularly from Indigenous voices, and their experience growing up. 

Judge Melissa Lucashenko, a Goorie author of Bundjalung and European heritage, says real writing requires an “internal excavation”, and advised emerging writers to work on nourishing an authentic voice. 

“[For me], it’s about carving out space for [my] own Aboriginal voice, [my] own cultural perspective and working all the time to give it space and pushing aside those other thoughts and intrusive internally racist ideas. You get better at it as you get older and if you surround yourself with good people.” 

She advises budding writers to ditch the idea they are an ‘outsider’. 

“I don’t see myself as an outsider. I see myself at the centre of my Aboriginal universe. I see the newcomers of all stripes at the margins of my world.”

Your differences are your strengths

Fellow judge Benjamin Law also sees his different perspective as an asset. Growing up gay and Asian, he felt an outsider. 

“Good storytelling, original storytelling means you bring something new to the conversation and to the table. If you’ve grown up feeling different and being an outsider, some might see that as a disadvantage but for storytelling, I reckon it is an advantage."

Make your story  rich in anecdotes, quotes, description and dialogue. For some examples of memoir pieces about growing up in a diverse Australia check out the SBS Voices website for inspiration. 

Here are a few examples to get you thinking: 

Tips for writing

Often starting your story with a description of an image or dialogue from a conversation is a good starting point.

You may wish to use fiction writing techniques such as setting a scene, and building suspense to a climax to keep readers engaged (rather than a straight recount of ‘this happened, then that happened…”). 

Using detailed description also helps bring your story to life.  

The word count is 1000-2000 words, so make sure your entry fits within that range and ideally get a trusted friend to read it over and suggest any improvements or edits. 

Once you’re happy - send it in! Go to sbs.com.au/writers and follow the directions to complete the online entry form (this will be available to see from August 15).

Entries open at 9am August 15, 2020 and close at 6pm on September 15, 2020. You can only submit one entry per person.  All entries must be submitted in English. 

What happens next?

Four entries will be selected for prizes by our judges, writers Melissa Lucashenko and Ben Law.

The winner will be awarded $5000 to support the development of their storytelling. There is $3000 awarded for second place, and $1000 each for two honourable mentions. Winners and runners up will be notified on November 2 and published on the SBS Voices website. 

The winner will also have the opportunity to have a contract to publish a minimum of four stories on the SBS Voices website in the next 12 months to further develop their career. 

Are you a budding writer? Do you have a story to tell about growing up in diverse Australia? Enter the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition for your chance to kickstart your career. Entries close September 15. Go to www.sbs.com.au/writers for more information.

Read our Terms and Conditions here. Meet the judges.  Any questions? Contact queries.writers@sbs.com.au

SBS launches the inaugural SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition
SBS is looking for the next generation of diverse Australian writers.
Benjamin Law's top tips for emerging writers
"Storytelling requires you to see the world from a different perspective. Good storytelling, original storytelling means you bring something new to the conversation and to the table."
Meet the judges of the SBS Emerging Writers' Competition
“The SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition is so necessary and important. Given the rich diversity of Australia’s multicultural communities, we don’t nearly have enough of that diversity in publishing."
Melissa Lucashenko: 'Write what your truth is'
“There’s so much going on in Aboriginal Australia. There’s so much to say, there’s a lot of ideas to put down and a lot of characters to bring into the public eye.”

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