HC Coombs Fellow takes out Miles Franklin award

19 July 2021

It was in a bare quiet room beside the ANU Classics Museum where prize-winning author Amanda Lohrey found the energy to continue writing.

Here, Lohrey spent "three wonderfully quiet undistracted months" as the 2016 HC Coombs Creative Arts Fellow with the ANU School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics.

The fellowship was created to provide creatives with the space and time to undertake their work at the ANU. 

By the end of her time writing in this room, Lohrey had finished her novel, The Labyrinth

"I don't know if I could have finished it without that fellowship," Lohrey says.

"I was stalled in the work at the time and being at the university and turning up every day to that quiet room beside the Classics Museum released something in me."

The novel has just won the $60 000 Miles Franklin Award, Australia's most prestigious literature prize.

"It's a tremendous honour to be associated with the remarkable Stella Miles Franklin, one of the great Australian mavericks," Lohrey says.

The seven-time novelist has appeared on the Miles Franklin longlist three times and the shortlist twice and is the second Tasmanian author to win the award in its 64-year history.

Chair of the prize's judging panel, Richard Neville, described The Labyrinth as a "beautifully written reflection on the conflicts between parents and children, men and women, and the value and purpose of creative work."

"It was just like being a monk and it was perfect because I could go into a kind of zone, which in fact is not unlike being in a labyrinth" says Lohrey of her time writing at ANU.

Story by Isabel Bremner