Members Book Awards

SWW Members' Book Awards

Every second year, members are invited to submit books published over the previous two years. Separate awards are given for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s books. Two Children’s Book Awards are given – one for a book for younger readers, and one for an adolescent/young adult book.

The next SWW Book Awards for Members of the Society of Women Writers NSW will be held in 2024, for books published between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2024.



FICTION - judged by Margaret Wick

Winner - Kelly Van Nelson ♦ The Pinstripe Prisoner

Highly commended - Susan Steggall ♦ The Heritage You Leave Behind

Highly commended - Maureene Fries ♦ Stones. Bones and Hollyhocks

Commended - Helen Lyne ♦ Love, Disappointment and Other Joys of Life


Judge's Report - Margaret Wick

There were 15 books by 12 authors submitted in the Society’s Fiction category. All showed evidence of relevant and detailed research on a diversity of subjects. Stories crossed the globe, and  the time settings ranged from the preChristian era to the present day. Many of them were able to transfer  the minutiae of everyday life into life changing and life affirming stories that made for compelling reading.

I never cease to be amazed at what a writer can do with the basic story writing framework of a beginning, a middle and an end that pivot on theme, character and plot development. 

Choosing a winner is never easy. I know it is a cliche to say of all entrants that they are winners, and in many ways this can be true. My “Reading Eye“ criteria considered these components:

  •  consistent engagement of the reader
  •  depth of character and plot development and their sustained development throughout the narrative 
  •  the writer’s stated intent/purpose is identified, and achieved in prose that does not ramble. 

A real pleasure among the entries was the re-discovery of the Short Story, a format by its very nature that demands precision and economy of language. The four collections did not disappoint. The flaws and foibles of human nature were presented undisguised, and at times, celebrated. There was plenty of social commentary on a wide range of topics - youth, old age (and the process of getting there), sex, racism, murder, justice and retribution to name some. 

It has been a pleasure sharing the creative talents of capable women writers. 


NON-FICTION - judged by Sybil Jack

Winner - Christine Sykes ♦ Gough and Me

Highly commended - Valerie Clifford ♦ Fijian Shadows

Highly commended - Jan Conway ♦ Skimming the Surface – Expats in Kiribati

Commended - Kate Forsyth & Belinda Murrell ♦ Searching For Charlotte


Judge's Report - Sybil Jack

Non-fiction potentially covers a wide range of writing except for the study of the dance school Randells, which was a key rendezvous for mid c20th century teenagers. These twelve books are primarily addressed to that ‘art of the impossible’, biography or autobiography. All are interesting because they have distinctively different approaches to the genre, most avoiding the established conventional approach and studying the individual life story from a variety of unfamiliar angles not all of them psychological or chronological. They compare favourably with studies that have won the National Biography awards. They fit into recent professional critical debate about the role of the idea of public and private and the subject’s context and persona in biographical writing. For instance, Jessica North’s Mary Ann and Capt Piper raises issues of the nature or necessity of truth in biography when there is little historical material while Carmel Bendon attempts to make the ideas of medieval mystics relevant and creative to the 21st century by setting her medieval mystics in a modern social gathering. In one work which illustrates how many others were structured Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell demonstrate the steps that lie behind a biography’s composition. A work in verse on Olive Pink is uncommon in presentation although familiar in approach.

The autobiographies which are addressed to the ways in which personal identity is formed, revealed or endured by travel (Painters, Philosophers and Poets) or interaction with the living and the dead are varied. Half are focussed on the nature of the individual caught up in an unusual and difficult social situation such as Another Love, presenting a multiple marriage. The others relate to a more common cultural experience, particularly a medical  academic story, Breaking through the Pain Barrier

In selecting a winning title, I was guided by a mental list of innovative approaches likely to result in a novel presentation which would provide a previously unconsidered  but persuasive  interpretation. My winning title Gough and me employed a remarkable interrelationship of the public political and the private individual experience to produce an unexpected insight into how the culture of Australia was altered in the mid-twentieth century at several interlocking levels. Less unusual but distinctive, I would rate second and Highly Commended Fijian Shadows where  the analytic method revealed the course of the hesitant growth of the political understanding of an outsider unexpectedly involved in the racial offensives underlying the 2000 Fijian coup. This is paralleled by my second Highly Commended Skimming the Surface where the ex-pat life is set against the complicated anthropology of different tribes in Kiribati still surviving from the days when Arthur Grimble was a colonial administrator of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. Finally I would commend Searching For Charlotte for its thorough explanations of historical process.


POETRY- judged by Carmel Bendon

Winner - Pip Griffin ♦ Virginia and Katherine, the Secret Diaries

Highly commended - Anne Casey ♦ the light we cannot see

Highly commended - Colleen Keating ♦ Olive Muriel Pink. Her radical and idealistic life. A poetic journey

Commended - Denise O’Hagan ♦ The Beating Heart


Judge's Report - Carmel Bendon

There were fifteen entries, many of which focused on contemporary issues: Covid, climate change, violence against women, nature, relationships. Biographical poems – both imagined and factually-based – also featured.

Poetry is that unique combination of form (cadence, rhythm, sound, visual shape on the page) and content (subject matter, images, emotions), enlivened by a poet’s creativity. It is the paring down of human experience to carefully chosen, evocative words, phrases, lines, to produce something that is new and yet profoundly familiar, and emotionally resonant. All entries found an intellectual response in me but not all resonated on an emotional level.

The shortlisted works exhibited this balance of form, content, creativity, and emotion. They were works that stayed with me, long after the books were closed. 

Anne Casey’s Portrait of a Woman Walking Home is a journey through womanhood, a portrait of all women, in its astute and moving engagement with the experiences of every woman: love, death, grief, sexual abuse, new life, hope.

Anne Casey’s the light we cannot see is a wide-ranging reflection on the human condition and the state of our planet. Loss, Covid, separation from homeland, nature, birth, are intermingled with the vibrant shadow of what lies beyond life. In perfectly structured forms, Casey achieves a mystical evocation of that ‘light we cannot see’ but can sense in our hearts. 

Antonette M Diorio’s Attachments takes the ordinary attachments of life and shines new light on them by means of vivid images, strong and authentic emotions, and poetic lines that are clear and true.

Virginia & Katherine. The Secret Diaries by Pip Griffin takes imagined diary entries of Virginia Woolfe and Katherine Mansfield to put the women in an intriguing ‘conversation’. Based on thorough research and Griffin’s own profound insights into these two great authors, this multi-layered and skilfully crafted work is vibrant, poignant and, at times, erotic in its content.

Colleen’s Keating’s Olive Muriel Pink: Her radical and idealistic life. A poetic journey transforms meticulous research into vivid images and crisp, engaging writing, to bring to light an extraordinary pioneering Australian woman’s life and achievements in this substantial biographical poem. 

Denise O’Hagan’s The Beating Heart is a beautifully observed evocation of time, place, memory, exquisite and painful moments of a life, and of poetry itself. There is variety in the poems but all share rich imagery and perfectly structured lines that enable O’Hagan to touch the ‘beating heart’ in all of us. 


CHILDREN & YOUNG ADULT - judged by Gail Erskine


Winner - Libby Hathorn & Lisa Hathorn Jarman ♦ No! Never! A cautionary tale

Highly commended - Libby Hathorn ♦ The Best Cat the Est Cat

Highly commended - Pamela Rushby ♦ The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin’ Castle


Judge's Report - Gail Erskine

A small number of books were submitted for judging, hence the reason I have shortlisted four titles, with one winner and two highly commended.

Those submitted spread across many genres - contemporary life, historical fiction, fantasy, adventure stories and speculative fiction. All were stories worth telling, especially those telling stories from our past. Some of these books featured young characters with whom the reader could identify. War stories that relate to the author’s own family are told in a relatable way. The fantasy books transported the reader to another world which seemed real and magical.  Realistic stories included the tender story of a boy missing his dead mother and how his father cares for him and an independent young girl learning her place in the world. 

Cover and design are important components in ensuring the book jumps into the reader’s hands. Most books scored highly in this criteria, however no imprint page and poor paper quality was noted. Interesting end papers added to the picture books while maps and additional historical facts supported some middle grade stories.

Above all an authentic voice which was consistent, together with rich language were critical to my choices. Additionally I believe the chosen books are ones which our children would enjoy reading.



The Society's Members Book Awards ceremony was held on 10 February 2021, delayed because of COVID until we could all meet in person back in the Dixson Room at the State Library.
We congratulate everyone who entered, especially the Commended, Highly Commended and Winners, as listed below, and offer our sincere thanks to the judges for their hard work and heart-felt comments.


POETRY - judged by Margaret Bradstock

Winner:  Colleen Keating  ◊  Hildegard of Bingen

Highly Commended:  Pip Griffin  ◊ Margaret Caro
Highly Commended:  Colleen Keating ◊  Desert Patterns
Commended:  Tricia Dearborn  ◊  Autobiochemistry


FICTION - judged by Carolyn Beaumont

Winner:  Christine Sykes  ◊  The Changing Room

Highly Commended:  Diane Armstrong  ◊  The Collaborator
Highly Commended:  Carmel Bendon  ◊  Grasping at Water
Commended:  Cindy Broadbent  ◊  The Revolutionary's Cousin


NON-FICTION - judged by Judith O'Connor

Winner:  Colleen Keating  ◊  Hildegard of Bingen

Highly Commended:  Jo Oliver  ◊  Jessie Traill - a Biography
Highly Commended:  Annabet Ousback  ◊  Red Herrings for Breakfast
Commended:  Jessica North  ◊  Esther


CHILDREN- judged by Paul McDonald

Winner:  Libby Hathorn  ◊  Miss Franklin

Highly Commended:  Georgina Donaghey  ◊  In the Shadow of an Elephant
Highly Commended:  Susanne Gervay  ◊  The Boy in the Blue Glasses


YOUNG ADULT - judged by Paul McDonald

No prizes awarded.




  •     Winner: Carolinda Witt  ◊  Double Agent Celery: MI5's Crooked Hero


  •     Winner: Pippa Kay  ◊  Keeping It In The Family
  •     Highly Commended: Sue Woolfe  ◊  Do You Love Me Or What?
  •     Highly Commended: Melissa Bruce  ◊  Picnic at Mount Disappointment
  •     Commended: Carol Chandler  ◊  Black Mountain


  •     Winner: Susan Fealy  ◊  Flute of Milk
  •     Highly Commended:  Beverley George  ◊  Only In Silence
  •     Highly Commended:  Colleen Keating  ◊  Fire on Water
  •     Commended: Kathryn Fry  ◊  Green Point Bearings


  •     Winner: Helen Thurloe  ◊  Promising Azra
  •     Commended: Rosalind Sharbanee Meyer  ◊  Angel Magic

CHILDREN - Hilarie Lindsay Children's Book Award

  •     Winner: Pamela Rushby  ◊  Lizzie and Margaret Rose
  •     Highly Commended: Libby Hathorn  ◊  Butterfly, We're Expecting You
  •     Highly Commended: Michelle Worthington  ◊  World's Worst Pirate
  •     Commended: Pamela Rushby  ◊  Princess Parsley




  • First Prize: Rosalind Meyer  ◊  Rosie's War
  • Second Prize: Susan P Ramage  ◊  Kokoda Secret: Ian Hutchison, Australian Hero
  • Third Prize: Sue Castrique  ◊  Under the Colony's Eye
  • Highly Commended: Ann Howard  ◊  You'll be sorry. How World War II changed women's lives


  • First Prize: Libby Sommer  ◊  My Year With Sammy
  • Second Prize: Johanna Nicholls  ◊  Golden Hope
  • Third Prize: Isolde Martyn  ◊  The Golden Widows
  • Highly Commended: Johanna Nicholls  ◊  The Lace Balcony


  • First Prize: Cynthia Rowe  ◊  Floating Nest
  • Second Prize:  Karen Throssell  ◊  Motherhood Statement
  • Equal Third Prize:
  • Marilyn Peck  ◊  A Girl in the River
  • Colleen Keating  ◊  A Call to Listen


  • First Prize: Pamela Rushby  ◊  The Ratcatcher’s Daughter
  • Second Prize:  Pamela Rushby  ◊  Flora’s War
  • Third Prize: Libby Hathorn  ◊  Eventual Poppy Day


  • First Prize: Susanne Gervay  ◊  Being Jack
  • Second Prize: Libby Hathorn  ◊  Outside (illustrated by Ritva Voutila)
  • Third Prize: Libby Hathorn  ◊  IncredibilIia (illustrated by Gaye Chapman)



  • Equal First Prize: 
    Carol Baxter  ◊  Captain Thunderbolt & His Lady
    Dr Susan Steggall  ◊  A Most Generous Scholar
  • Third Prize: Clio Calodoukas  ◊  All Roads Lead to Shanghai
  • Highly Commended: Heather Bird  ◊  I Hear You
  • Highly Commended: Colleen O’Sullivan  ◊  Once A Day Dawn


  • First Prize: Felicity Pulman  ◊  A Ring Through Time
  • Second Prize: Susanne Gervay  ◊  Ships In The Field
  • Third Prize: Libby Hathorn  ◊  A Boy Like Me


  • First Prize: Yve Louis  ◊  A Door In The Forest
  • Second Prize: Dr Penelope Cottier  ◊  The Cancellation of Clouds
  • Third Prize: Brenda Saunders  ◊  Looking for Bullin Bullin



  • First Prize: Lindsay Lewis & Sharyn Killens  ◊  The Inconvenient Child
  • Second Prize: Dr Maria Hill  ◊  Diggers & Greeks
  • Third Prize: Yvonne Louis  ◊  A Brush with Mondrian)
  • Highly Commended: Pam Bayfield  ◊  Come with Me
  • Highly Commended: Beverley Earnshaw  ◊  Carss Park


  • First Prize: Mary-Ellen Mullane  ◊  Once on a Road
  • Highly Commended: P S (Penelope) Cottier  ◊  A Quiet Day
  • Commended: Dr Patricia Gaut  ◊  Sympathetic Vibrations


  • First Prize: Susanne Gervay  ◊  Always Jack
  • Second Prize: Cynthia Rowe  ◊  Bad Grass
  • Third Prize: Libby Hathorn  ◊  I Love You Book
  • Highly Commended: Wendy Blaxland  ◊  I Can Cook – series


  • First Prize: Winifred Weir  ◊  Walking on Ashes
  • Highly Commended: Carolyn Gerrish  ◊  The View from the Moon
  • Commended: Libby Hathorn  ◊  Vietnam Reflections