"This year was groundbreaking in its volume and remarkable in the scope of stories."
By
SBS staff writers

10 Nov 2021 - 10:40 AM  UPDATED 18 Nov 2021 - 9:08 AM

SBS today named the five talented writers who have been selected as the winners of the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition for 2021.  

An initiative from SBS Voices, the competition - now in its second year - aims to uncover bold new voices that reflect the diversity of contemporary Australia by inviting aspiring writers to share their stories and providing a platform for their voices to be heard. 

The 2021 competition saw significant growth, with SBS Voices receiving almost 4,000 entries – nearly double the number of entries from last year - on the topic of ‘Between Two Worlds: stories from a diverse Australia’. 

Cat Yen, 25, was named as this year’s winning author with her submission, Minor Details. The first literary piece Yen has ever written, Minor Details is an honest and raw account of a marginalised woman who is so focused on survival that she doesn't dare allow herself to chase her dreams. When she sees herself through the eyes of her middle-class boyfriend, it prompts her to re-examine not just her own life, but that of her migrant parents who came to Australia chasing their own dreams. 

Reflecting on the winning entry, judges and award winning authors Tara June Winch and Behrouz Boochani described it as “masterly storytelling”

Yen, who works as a data analyst,  claims listening to hip-hop music inspired her writing style, saying “It’s attuned me to the rhythm of words.” Awarded $5,000 to support further development of her writing and knowledge, on her win Yen said: “This is the nicest thing that has ever happened to me. I’m so grateful and lucky to win this award.” 

Reflecting on the winning entry, judges and award winning authors Tara June Winch and Behrouz Boochani described it as “masterly storytelling”.  

“This story manages to wrap a story around a story, the outer incarnation is that of outsiders, of a mother and a father and the things that were broken in the process of creating a family, and the inner heart is a tale of that minor detail of love, of having hope and in being understood,'' the judges said.

"There is an elasticity to the writing - allowing the reader to invest and journey in the story and at the same time be shaken by its truths, pulled back into the writer's orbit.”

 

With the high standard of this year’s competition, the judges struggled to name a single runner up, and two submissions have instead been awarded the title - Arky Michael's Songbird and Maya Hodge’s bidngen - with both authors receiving $3,000 for further skill development.  

There were also two highly commended entries with Miranda Jakich and Maya Skidmore, being recognised for their pieces, Coat of Stones and The End Is Green and So is the Beginning... 

All winning pieces have been published on the SBS Voices website today.  

Of the competition, Winch said: "This year was groundbreaking in its volume and remarkable in the scope of stories. The quality of entries was extraordinary and the process of coming up with a collection of prizewinners was particularly challenging, for myself personally, it was the most difficult process I've encountered in any prize judging. What struck us was the range of stories, from the pains of migration to the evocation of Country by some up-and-coming First Nation writers - all these stories encounter many versions of Australia, and dissect the sociological and political times of our lives.

"What grabbed our attention most was the simplicity of the winning stories, and the stylistic artistry used to convey each experience of the authors - these are delicate, deft and accomplished stories. We have great hopes for all of the prizewinning and longlisted authors, and hope to read more of their work in the future. Congratulations to each writer who entered the competition this year, it is a courageous and important process to look back in order to know where to look forward. We hope you enjoy these stories as much as we did."

Being a migrant or a refugee is like taking a tree from the land and planting it on another land. Taking root and growing in the new land is hard but for some people it is harder

Boochani added: "I think this competition was a great opportunity for myself to learn from writers in Australia who are valuing diversity and are resisting the colonial mentality and system. Being a migrant or a refugee is like taking a tree from the land and planting it on another land. Taking root and growing in the new land is hard but for some people it is harder. Being a minority is challenging but also valuable because one understands politics and society on an intricate level, where their very lives are politicised. These stories showed such power. I would like to congratulate all of the winners and also the writers whose work was among the finalists."

Marshall Heald, Director of TV and Online Content at SBS, said: “We are thrilled at the continued success of the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition. and are in awe of the diversity and depth of talent of this year's entries.  We are proud to provide a platform for emerging voices from under-represented backgrounds to be heard, and were overwhelmed to see 4,000 stories submitted this year, showcasing diverse perspectives and insights into Australia today.  

“Our judges were tasked with a tough decision, choosing the winners from so many amazing submissions, and we are excited to share these unique stories with all Australians via SBS Voices.”  

All entries from this year’s competition will be considered for inclusion in an official anthology of the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition, published by Hardie Grant. Approximately 30 entries will be selected for the anthology, to be published in 2022.  

This follows the official anthology of the 2020 SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition Roots: Home is Who We Are, which was published in July 2021.  

Meet the winners
Meet the winners of the SBS Emerging Writers' Competition 2021
Five winners have been chosen from the 2021 SBS Emerging Writers' Competition. Find out more about their stories and what inspires them.
SBS Emerging Writers' Competition 2021 Highly Commended: Miranda Jakich
This is Miranda Jakich's prize-winning entry, titled 'Coat of Stones'.
SBS Emerging Writers' Competition 2021 Runner Up: Maya Hodge
This is Maya Hodge's prize-winning entry, titled 'bidngen'.
SBS Emerging Writers' Competition 2021 Runner Up: Arky Michael
This is the prize-winning entry from Arky Michael, titled 'Songbird'.
SBS Emerging Writers' Competition 2021 Winner: Cat Yen
This is Cat Yen's winning entry, titled 'Minor Details'.
SBS Emerging Writers' Competition 2021 Highly Commended: Maya Skidmore
This is Maya Skidmore's prize-winning entry, titled 'The End is Green and so is the Beginning'.