We are thrilled to announce the winner of the 2016 Patricia Hackett prize: Timmah Ball! Since 1965, the Patricia Hackett Prize has been awarded to the strongest piece published in Westerly each year. Timmah’s powerful essay, ‘In Australia’, appeared in issue 61.2.
We spoke with Timmah recently to celebrate her win and find out more about her experiences as a writer.
Westerly: Your piece ‘In Australia’ is a creative non-fiction piece. What do you feel this form allows you to do?
Timmah: For me it is one of the most exciting ways to write and what really attracted me to start writing again in the last couple of years. I love the idea of writing plays, poetry and short stories but there are so many arresting issues happening in real life that demand to be told and mainstream journalism just doesn’t cut it anymore. We need to a new way to tell these stories which honor the important themes they seek to address and I think creative non-fiction is the perfect way to do it. Maggie Nelson is one of my non-fiction heroes. She manages to tell difficult stories which have happened to her and others using the richness of language to turn essays into prose poetry. I think it’s incredibly powerful and exciting to comment on the world while at the same time thinking about how you can use language in unusual and creative ways.
Is there anyone else working in this space or opening conversations around this topic that you particularly admire?
Yes! There are so many amazing Aboriginal women writers critiquing mainstream Australia and the way it feels that our culture is constantly appropriated for their benefit. Nayuka Gorrie just recently wrote a brilliant piece for The Saturday Paper which looks at the huge popularity of Aboriginal culture but how the benefits don’t always flow onto us. I also love and hugely admire what Alexis Wright wrote for Meanjin last year called ‘What Happens When You Tell Somebody Else’s Story‘. I’m obviously a huge fan of Ellen van Neerven who really started writing about this challenging issue in Heat and Light but I also really love what Eugenia Flynn is doing as well as Alison Whittaker, Hannah Donnelley, Leah Purcell, Nakkiah Lui and Paola Balla.
Have you written more on these ideas since publication of your piece in Westerly?
Yes, I recently wrote a piece for the Griffith Review called ‘Still Talkin’ Up to the White Woman’. It addressed some of feminism’s failings and the way white women want to speak for us.
What are you currently working on?
I feel very excited and privileged to be doing a mentorship with Alice Pung, who is one of our best writers. I’ll be working on another creative non-fiction essay discussing how gentrification is a white thing and how we really need to support Aboriginal communities and people from Refugee backgrounds before we worry about white artists who can’t afford to live in the inner city anymore.
Is there any upcoming work of yours that we can look out for?
I’m working on a profile piece on Eleanor Dixon for The Big Issue which comes out at the end of July. Eleanor is part of an all-female band Kardajala Kirri-Darra that play a dynamic mix of contemporary electronica and traditional music.
Where can we find more of your work?
I don’t have a website but if you Google me a few things should pop up! I also have a zine called Wild Tongue which people can purchase through Hares and Hyenas.
Since 1965, the Patricia Hackett Prize has been awarded to the strongest work published within the Westerly volumes of that year. The prize is then announced in the first issue of the following year. Timmah joins a long list of past recipients including Kim Scott, David Whish-Wilson, Donna Mazza and Siobhan Hodge (joint winners of the 2015 prize), and many more.
The Patricia Hackett Prize is awarded annually since 1965 from a bequest left for this purpose. It remembers the contributions Patricia Hackett made to both theatre and poetry, and her family’s connection with the University of Western Australia. A feature written in remembrance of Miss Hackett was published in Westerly 10.1 in 1965. It is available as a free download from our digital archive here.