World

Writer Nearly Dismissed $150,000 Award For Junk E-Mail

| by Sheena Vasani
Helen GarnerHelen Garner

A female Australian writer nearly deleted a Yale University e-mail in her junk folder awarding her $150,000 after she assumed it was a hoax.

Yet the email was the legitimate Windham-Campbell Prize which endows the writer, 73-year-old Helen Garner, with what ABC News calls  "one of the richest literary awards in the world.”

"I nearly keeled over," Garner said, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. "I'm staggered. I feel thrilled and validated."

The Windham-Campbell Prizes were created in 2013. Authors do not apply but rather are nominated.

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This judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:

“[So there’s] no humiliation of applying or being shortlisted, or being in competition with other writers", added Garner.

Garner has been praised for her fiction since the seventies, but this time was being honored for her nonfiction work such as her most recent release, "House of Grief."

"The fact that the prize is for nonfiction is the most gratifying part," she says. "Those books took a lot of skin off me, and over the past year, since This House of Grief came out, I concluded that there was something about the book that was not prize-worthy. It is shaming to care whether you win a prize or not, but something infantile is stirred in you."

But prize-winning they were, with judges commenting, "Helen Garner brings acute observations and narrative skill to bear on the conflicts and tragedies of contemporary Australian life.”

She’s not the only recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize to initially think the prize from Yale was a hoax.

Irish playwright Abbie Spallman told the Irish Times she also thought the phone call she received alerting her of the award was fraudulent.

“I thought it was a scam at first,” said Spallen. “I am beside myself to receive this award. Both in monetary terms and as a recognition of my work.

Like Garner, she, too, felt encouraged by the award.

“I do try to be brave, and I’m aware that I can produce work that may not be palatable to all,” she added. “Sometimes that can feel [like] quite the lonely pursuit. Thank you so very much. I’ll stagger on. Less lonely than before.”

Sources: ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald, Irish Times / Photo credit: Sydney Morning Herald

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