Clare Wright shares the story behind the Stella tradition of All That Swagger
At the 2016 Stella Prize Award Night, Charlotte Wood became the first winner to participate in a new Stella tradition. Clare Wright, 2014 winner of the Stella Prize, has donated a first edition of Miles Franklin’s novel All That Swagger to the Stella Prize. Signed by all previous winners and housed in a custom-built box, the book will be passed to each winner, to be held in her possession for a year, before she passes it on to the writer who succeeds her.
Clare Wright passes the book to Charlotte Wood at 2016 Stella Prize Award Night.
2014 Stella Prize winner Clare Wright shares the inspiration for this remarkable new tradition:
Days after winning the Stella Prize in 2014, Carrie Tiffany (the inaugural winner in 2013) and I participated in an event at the Wheeler Centre, facilitated by Aviva Tuffield. In front of a rapt audience, we discussed Carrie’s experiences at the helm of the Stella movement, and my aspirations for the year ahead.
Later that evening, I commented to Carrie that it felt as if she were passing the baton to me, rather like a Miss Universe pageant when the new It Girl is crowned. We laughed, and she mimicked the action of placing a sparkly tiara on my head.
But amidst the odd, slightly self-deprecating, somewhat disparaging moment, Carrie came up with a great notion: why not pass on a copy of a Miles Franklin book from winner to winner? We riffed on the idea. I said why not make it a first edition? What if every year the new winner signed her name in the front, creating not only an ode to Stella/Miles, but an archive of female accomplishment?
The event ended, but the idea lingered. Over the next few months, I became a bit obsessed with hunting down a first edition. Finally, e-Bay came through. There was a first edition of All That Swagger for sale in a Queensland second-hand bookshop, for a measly $35.
I had never read All That Swagger, but the title struck me as tailor-made for the task.
Swagger (v): strut, parade, stride, prance; walk confidently.
Swagger (n): boasting, bragging, bumptiousness, brashness, swashbuckling; informal showing off, swank; literary braggadocio
Look at us Stella chicks — past, present and future — parading our talents, swanking around town, walking confidently in the literary world, no matter its unconscious gender bias. Swashbuckling even!
By the miracles of modern technology and a creaking postal system, I had the book in my hands within a week. It was tired and musty, no dust jacket, without a skerrick of adornment. But it was perfect.