Spark Prize 2020 Winner and Shortlist | Narrative Non-Fiction Writing Prize | Hardie Grant Books | RMIT

Spark Prize 2020 Winner and Shortlist

3 Dec 2020 | Hardie Grant Books

Spark Prize Winner

Youjia Song, The Pursuit of Impossible Dreams

The story of a woman’s defiant decision to have a second child at the start of China’s One Child Policy, told by the daughter who inherited her mother’s fearlessness.

Youjia Song is an artist, wilderness adventurer and emerging writer. Her article about her 2-year expedition called 'Crossing Kyrgyzstan: A Woman's Journey on Foot Through Land, Culture and History' was published by She Went Wild in 2018. Youjia is currently working on her memoir, and a flash version of it ('I died before I was born') was published as a podcast on Memoria in 2020.

'To write in narrative non-fiction is to recognise the universality of the human condition, and the stories that make us human. I am touched and elated to be the winner of the Spark Prize. Thanks for letting me share my truth.’

– Youjia Song, Spark Prize Winner

‘We were blown away by the breadth and depth of entries that we received in this first year of the Spark Prize: it is a testament to the power and popularity of the narrative non-fiction genre. Youjia’s winning pitch is a fascinating work of family history that sets the personal against the political. Like all great narrative non-fiction, it draws out its story and its characters. The shortlist speaks to some of the best things we saw in all the entries – incredibly honest portrayals of mental health and trauma, and the ability to merge memoir into bigger topics that start conversations and keep people thinking.’

– Emily Hart, Commissioning Editor at Hardie Grant Books


Spark Prize Shortlist 

Anna Jacobson, How to Knit a Human

A split-voice, non-linear memoir following the author's attempts to re-stitch her sense of self and memory after experiencing psychosis at age 23.

Anna Jacobson is a writer and artist from Brisbane. Her writing has been published in literary journals and anthologies including Chicago Quarterly Review, Griffith Review, Australian Poetry Journal, Cordite, Meanjin, Rabbit, and more. She is a current PhD candidate at QUT (specialising in memoir, Mad Studies and Narrative Medicine).

Laura Flynn, Dust

One family’s pursuit to heal their land in South-West Queensland and shift from traditional farming methods to regenerative agriculture.

Laura Flynn is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. She is currently chipping away at her final weeks of an Associate Degree of Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT. Laura writes nonfiction essays, short fiction stories, branded content and letters home when needed.

Gina Ward, The Mind Has Mountains

A memoir on the memory of trauma and self in the decades following the deaths of her parents.

Gina Ward is a freelance writer living in Wollongong. While working on this memoir, she has also written a piece of autofiction and a book of essays, which cover similar ground in some very different ways.


‘That the entries resonated so deeply with the Bowen Street Press editors – often moving them in unexpected ways or arousing their interest in topics foreign and familiar – is a tribute to the uniting potential of narrative non-fiction. As a genre that allows us to encounter ourselves through the lens of individual experience, it promotes empathy, understanding and a deeper sense of being in the world. There has never been a greater need for stories that connect us in this way and, fortunately – if the works submitted to the inaugural Spark Prize this year are anything to go by – no shortage of talented voices with important stories to tell.’

– Zoe Dzunko, RMIT lecturer in the Master of Writing and Publishing