Applications are now open for the Affirm Press Mentorship Award with Varuna. Now in its sixth year, the award will focus exclusively on Young Adult and middle-grade fiction (ages 9+) with sci-fi and fantasy themes for entries to the 2020 award.

The three winning submissions will receive a week’s residency and manuscript development at Varuna, the National Writers’ House. The Affirm Press kids editorial team will be in residence with the writers to provide in-depth manuscript development and feedback, as well as establishing ongoing relationships with the winners.

The award has already resulted in three highly regarded published works: Paula Keogh’s Stella Prize longlisted lyrical memoir The Green Bell, Sonia Orchard’s outstanding novel Into the Fire, and the courageous memoir Snakes and Ladders by Angela Williams.

The 2020 Mentorship Program will be the second year it focuses on books for younger readers. Editor on the kids list, Meg Whelan, said last year’s program uncovered some outstanding up-and-coming middle-grade writers and she is excited to see what a focus on sci-fi and fantasy might bring.

‘Last year, entirely by accident, we ended up with three wonderful authors all writing for the same readership. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, and allowed for the kind of in-depth editorial conversations we all dream of. This year, we wanted to recreate that more deliberately. I can’t wait to spend a week up in the mountains talking about made-up worlds with exciting new creators, and to find brilliant additions to our growing list of middle-grade and YA authors, ’ said Meg.

Veechi Stuart, Executive Director of Varuna, said she was keen to see the writing that emerges from this year’s award.

‘At Varuna, our aim is to support excellence, innovation and diversity, as well as the very best of Australian writing. The Affirm Press Mentorship program offers writers a unique combination of mentoring, dedicated writing time and publishing opportunities, and is an excellent way for us to discover talented new writers.’

Applications for the award close Thursday 14 May. The residency week will be held from Monday 2 to Sunday 8 November 2020, and the award includes full board and accommodation, including a private room and writing studio for each writer.

Continuing last year’s initiative to make the award more accessible for low-income writers, application fee assistance and a travel bursary will be available for entrants with healthcare cards.

To find out more details about the award and how to apply, visit www.varuna.com.au/fellowships/affirm.