Editor Susan Keogh Recognised at National Literary Awards

Packing a hoard of information into a flowing narrative structure, and avoiding repetition while injecting a touch of irony, has won author Prof. Jenny Hocking and editor Susan Keogh the 2014 Barbara Ramsden Award. Their prize was presented at the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) National Literary Awards on 10 April.

Susan is a Distinguished Editor and honorary life member of Editors Victoria. She and Jenny received the award for their collaboration on volume two of the biography Gough Whitlam: His Time, published by Miegunyah Press.

Barbara Ramsden award winners

L to R: Susan Keogh, FAW Vice-President Pauline Csuba and Jenny Hocking at the FAW Awards evening (Photo credit: Jim Mynard 0417 567 741)

The Barbara Ramsden award recognises 'the roles of editors and authors in producing literary works of outstanding quality'. The winners receive silver-plated plaques designed by Andor Mészáros depicting 'the origin of communication'.

Editor Cate Blake and author Liam Pieper were highly commended for The Feel-Good Hit of the Year: A Memoir published by Penguin Hamish Hamilton.

The Barbara Ramsden Award, one of 18 nationally contested prizes in the annual FAW Literary Awards, is unique in its emphasis on excellence in editing. At the current watershed in the publishing industry, where the highway to digital publication threatens to bypass literacy, such an award - at no small expense to the all-volunteer FAW - deserves the support of everyone who values professional editing. Book publishers Penguin Random House took up this torch as award sponsor for 2014.

Other prize winners included Don Watson, who received the Excellence in Non-Fiction Award for The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books); John Marsden, who received the Christina Stead Award for South of Darkness (Pan Macmillan); and Alan Wearne, who received the Christopher Brennan Award for his sustained contribution to poetry.

Barbara Ramsden

Barbara Mary Ramsden (1903-1971), MBE, was an editor impressive in both manner and expertise. For 30 years her scrupulous editing of dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and works by Manning Clark, Geoffrey Blainey and Margaret Kiddle secured the reputation of Melbourne University Press as a scholarly authority. On her retirement in 1967, the university awarded Ramsden its medal for exceptional service. She had also served as honorary treasurer of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. In 1971, as her memorial, the FAW created the annual national Barbara Ramsden Award that 'recognises the roles of editors and authors in producing literary works of outstanding quality'. Author Ian Hogbin praised Ramsden's skill in his preface to Anthropology in Papua New Guinea (1973): 'If some of my authors write like angels . . . then it is she who deserves much of the credit'.

Ramsden judges for the past two years have been freelance editors High Court lawyer Julia Maurus and Christina Crossley Ratcliffe, AE.

The FAW publishes the quarterly Australian Writer. Inquiries to writers.asn.au or (03) 9386 2232.

Thanks to Ros Moyes for her profile of Barbara Ramsden in The Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2002, vol. 16.

Christina Crossley Ratcliffe, AE
Margie Beilharz