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Melbourne writer Anna Spargo-Ryan won the inaugural round of The Horne Prize for her essay The Suicide Gene . Praised by the judges for its craft and candour, The Suicide Gene is a poignant yet unsentimental account of the author’s experience of mental illness and questions stemming from her grandfather’s suicide.

In making their selection, the judges said: ‘The essay is shapely and always in the writer's control. It is a dexterous investigation of a complex issue, personal without ever succumbing to sentimentality.’ The Suicide Gene will be published in The Saturday Paper on December 24 and available as a stand-alone publication in Australian Aesop stores for a limited time from mid-January 2017.

Anna has written widely on mental health, relationships, parenting, and creativity, and is known for her short and longform fiction as well as non-fiction work. Her essays have been published by The GuardianOverlandKill Your Darlings and Black Inc., among others. Her first novel, The Paper House, was released to critical acclaim in 2016; the second, The Gulf, will be published in mid-2017.

The judges also highly commended Alexandra O’Sullivan’s essay Losing Teeth– a frank, affecting narrative of domestic violence and its consequences. Also based in Melbourne, and previously a professional jockey, Alexandra writes regularly for social justice and feminist website The Radical Notion.

Aesop and The Saturday Paper are pleased to announce the shortlist for the inaugural The Horne Prize. The five essays were selected from a field of almost 700 entries, a remarkable result that speaks of a prevalent interest in narrative non-fiction and what it can bring to public debate. The selection was made with the aim of the prize firmly in mind: to find those essays that illuminate Australian life, bringing insight and new thinking.

The shortlisted writers are:

Chelsea Bond for Mythologies of Aboriginal Culture
Barry Jones for The Courage Party
Anna McGahan for Brightness
Alexandra O’Sullivan for Losing Teeth
Anna Spargo-Ryan for The Suicide Gene

The winner will be announced and the winning essay published in The Saturday Paper on 24 December. The judging panel comprises Erik Jensen, editor of The Saturday Paper; Suzanne Santos, Aesop’s General Manager, Retail and Customer Service; Professor Marcia Langton AM; David Malouf AO; and David Marr.


Since its inception in 2014, The Saturday Paper has become a weekly fixture in the lives of Australians who enjoy its astute long-form coverage and analysis of news and cultural affairs. It has also become a valued cultural partner for Aesop, and it is our mutual pleasure to announce a new collaboration: The Horne Prize – a major award for essay writing valued at $15,000.
The prize will be awarded in late December for an essay of up to 3000 words, addressing some part of the theme ‘Australian life’. The winning essay will be based on reportage, bringing light to a person or issue that helps us to understand who we are. Entry is open between 6 August and 31 October; all writers are invited to enter.

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