• The SBS Emerging Writers' Competition opens on August 16 2021. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
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.
27 Jul 2021 - 8:32 AM  UPDATED 9 Sep 2021 - 10:09 AM

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. Along with the prize pool, there is an opportunity for your story to appear in an official anthology of the SBS Emerging Writers' Competition entries, published by Hardie Grant. 

The competition writing theme is ‘Between Two Worlds: stories from a diverse Australia’ which allows plenty of scope to write a non-fiction memoir piece.

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 9am, August 16 and 5pm, September 16, 2021. Sign up now at https://sbswriters.awardsplatform.com to register and we will notify you when the competition opens. 

The great idea 

The theme this year is 'Between Two Worlds: stories from a diverse Australia'. You are free to interpret this any way you choose. Your 'worlds' may be material or spiritual. They may be cultural or social, or psychological. 

For example you could write about your experiences living in rural versus urban Australia. Or your 'worlds' might be work and home, and the different roles you play in each.

You may be inspired to write about two different countries you have lived in, and their impact on you. Or you could be feeling the pull of two different cultures, or identities, or social groups.  What does 'Between Two Worlds' mean to you? We'd like to hear your unique stories. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers are encouraged to enter

SBS wants to hear particularly from Indigenous voices. 

Judge Tara June Winch, a Wiradjuri author, says she wants to be "inundated with stories."

“We want to see those new writers and new voices from the diaspora. We just want to hear the whole story of Australia. We want voices from our multicultural Australia. We want First Nations voices, we want these emerging voices."

For Winch, and fellow judge Behrouz Boochani, Kurdish-Iranian author of No Friend But the Mountains, they're simply looking for the heart of a story.

"Don't worry if you have never written a story before. Don't mind if you've never written it down. Don't be scared that there are rules that you're supposed to follow, because for sure, Behrouz and I aren't looking at that. We're looking for heart and truth, and just a good yarn."

Just write it down

Fellow judge Behrouz Boochani says the best stories are simple stories. So if you have an idea brewing, just get writing.

"When you think about a story a lot, sometimes it makes it difficult to write it down. That's why I think the best way to write is just write. Writing itself is the way to improve your writing," says Boochani. 

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

Here are a few examples to get you thinking: 

Podcast inspiration

You'll find the answers to all your writing questions and more on the companion podcast for the SBS Emerging Writers' Competition, The New Writer's Room.

The podcast - hosted by SBS Voices editor Caitlin Chang and writer/editor Candice Chung - takes you behind the scenes of the writing process to help you understand what makes a great story.

How do you get your readers to connect with a character? Can you capture memories, smells and tastes on the page? What will make a reader laugh? How does a story change during the editing process?

Each week, Caitlin and Candice will speak to writers about different aspects of memoir writing, as well as judges Tara June Winch and Behrouz Boochani.

You'll also hear from prize-winners of the 2020 Emerging Writers' Competition who share their advice on what it takes to write a successful entry. 

Tips for writing

Starting your story with a description of an image, or dialogue from a conversation can be 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 sbswriters.awardsplatform.com, register and follow the directions to submit your entry.

Entries open at 9am, August 16, 2021 and close at 5pm on September 16, 2021. 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 Tara June Winch and Behrouz Boochani.

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 5, and publicly announced on November 10. They will also be published on the SBS Voices website.

The best entries will also be published in an anthology of the SBS Emerging Writers' Competition, published by Hardie Grant in 2022. 

SBS wants to hear your story...because there's a writer in all of us. Submit your story of 1000-2000 words that speaks to the beauty and/or challenges of being Between Two Worlds in diverse Australia and you could win up to $5000 and kickstart your career. Entries are open from August 16-September 16. Go to www.sbs.com.au/writers for more information and register here to enter.

Listen to the SBS Emerging Writers' competition podcast, The New Writer’s Room, in the SBS Radio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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

The SBS Emerging Writers' Competition returns for 2021
The competition aims to uncover bold new voices that reflect the diversity of contemporary Australia by inviting aspiring writers to share their stories and have their voices heard.
Introducing SBS Voices' new podcast: 'The New Writer's Room'
Thinking of entering the SBS Emerging Writers' Competition? Consider this your cheat sheet.
New anthology showcases the best of the 2020 SBS Emerging Writers' Competition
SBS is proud to announce the release of 'Roots: Home is Who We Are' in partnership with publisher Hardie Grant.
Meet the judges of the 2021 SBS Emerging Writers' Competition
We are thrilled to announce our EWC judges for 2021, Tara June Winch and Behrouz Boochani. Two amazing writers who are passionate about elevating the voices of emerging writers.