We’re thrilled to announce the recipients of the 2021 Affirm Press Mentorship Award with Varuna, the National Writers’ House.

This year’s Mentorship focused exclusively on contemporary middle-grade and YA fiction. Congratulations to the three winning writers, Maha Sidaoui, Alison Whipp, and Annika Herb, who will be awarded a week’s residency and manuscript development at Varuna House in the Blue Mountains in April 2022. Members of the Affirm Press kids team – Senior Editor Meg Whelan, Editor Coral Huckstep, and Project Editor Sasha Beekman – will attend to provide in-depth manuscript development and feedback as well as to establish ongoing relationships with the writers.

Three character-driven stories make up this year’s winning manuscripts:

‘One Arabian Girl by Maha Sidaoui captured our attention for its highly original main character and plot,’ said Meg. ‘This is a fresh exploration of what it means to balance the pressures of family and cultural traditions alongside a changing self-identity.

‘We were instantly drawn in by the rich and loving depictions of family in Alison Whipp’s Love on the Zigzag. These characters are brilliantly crafted and it is a joy to step into their world.

‘The Pieces of You by Annika Herb is a charming, funny and relatable story about memory, growing up and finding yourself. Main character Grace leaps off the page and her voice is warm, engaging and authentic.’

Varuna received 84 manuscripts from writers across Australia and the Affirm Press editorial team selected the three winning manuscripts from a shortlisted selection. Our special thanks to Varuna assessors Melissa Keil and Gary Lonesborough who did an exceptional job of reading and deliberating on a very high standard of submissions.

Meg, Coral and Sasha commented, ‘We had our work cut out for us this year! The judges put together a fantastic shortlist and it was incredibly tough to pick just three winners. We greatly look forward to working with the successful authors at Varuna in April, but we would also like to congratulate all the shortlisted writers for their brilliant work.’

Now in its seventh year, the Affirm Press Mentorship Award has already resulted in four highly regarded published works: Paula Keogh’s memoir The Green Bell, shortlisted for the Stella Prize; Sonia Orchard’s outstanding novel Into the Fire; Angela Williams’s literary memoir Snakes and Ladders, and Katherine Tamiko Arguile’s exquisite debut novel The Things She Owned.