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Adelaide writer wins national non-fiction prize


Young Adelaide writer Olivia De Zilva has won a prestigious non-fiction prize for what one judge described as “a compelling and wildly entertaining family story”.

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De Zilva’s work Let’s Eat食飯! was selected out of eight entries – spanning essay, memoir, poetry, journalism and experimental creative non-fiction – as winner of the 2019 Deakin University Nonfiction Prize.

The prize is presented jointly by Deakin University and Express Media, with De Zilva winning $3000 and an editorial mentorship with the managing editor of independent publisher Black Inc, Julia Carlomagno.

Let’s Eat食飯! is marked by an original voice that’s funny, touching and charming,” said Carlomagno, who was also a judge for the prize.

“Drawing together elements of Chinese, Hong Kong and Australian culture, the result is a compelling and wildly entertaining family story. I can’t wait to see what Olivia writes next.”

Olivia Ze Zilva (centre) at the Word For Word Non-Fiction Festival in Geelong, where she was presented with her prize. Photo: Hasheem McAdam

Other submissions for the prize explored motherhood, sex work, desire, pleasure, morality, sustainability, industrialism, colonialism and capitalism.

De Zilva is also a poet and co-curator of Adelaide poetry-reading series NO WAVE. She featured in an InDaily article earlier this week about SA’s vibrant collection of young poets.

She hopes that winning the non-fiction prize will enable her to explore her family’s story further through her writing.

“It feels great that a work inspired by my whacky family with pop-culture allusions to Neighbours, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ and smiley fritz be acknowledged by a panel of esteemed judges.”

De Zilva read an excerpt of Let’s Eat 食飯! (the second part of the title is “Let’s Eat” in Cantonese) on the opening night of the Word For Word National Non-Fiction Festival last Friday in Geelong and was awarded her prize by Deakin University Associate Professor in Writing and Literature Maria Takolander.

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