Any talk about literary prizes invariably leads to a discussion about money. US$10,000 is given for the Pulitzer Prize, £30,000 for the Orange, and Booker Prize winners are almost always asked what they will do with the money even before they take home the £50,000 cheque. However while a monetary reward is sufficient motivation for most writers, there are other (although perhaps not as obvious) benefits of literary competitions, particularly for those entrants with less experience.
All writers struggle at times to fill the blank page, but for many emerging writers battling problems of writer’s block comes second to fears of having someone else read their work. They are often hesitant to enter competitions, fearful that their work will not be able to meet the high standard required. Yet for many writers who have taken the plunge and entered a literary competition, the gains to be had from having an objective and a qualified person read their work can be far more valuable than any prize money. ‘It was the first time that I’d shown any of my writing to anyone else,’ says Jess Baikie, one of the winners of the John Marsden Prize for Young Australian Writers last year, ‘and it gave me the confidence to share it with others and improve it’.