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GIVEN the debate about misogyny in public life, the timing is good: organisers of the Stella Prize, a literary award for Australian female writers, have announced the inaugural prize, worth $50,000, will be awarded in April next year. After much internal debate, the organisers have decided to keep the field wide open: the prize will be ‘‘presented for the best work of literature published in 2012 by an Australian woman’’. So novels and works of nonfiction will go head to head, and also face competition from poems, plays and everything else that comes under the banner of literature. Helen Garner, a Stella Prize ambassador, says this ‘‘graceful flexibility about genre’’ will ‘‘encourage women writers to work in the forms they truly feel at home in, instead of having to squeeze themselves into the old traditional corsets’’. Even so, I don’t envy the judges: writer and critic Kerryn Goldsworthy, author Kate Grenville, bookseller Fiona Stager, actress Claudia Karvan (I know I shouldn’t say this, but that’s one way to sex up a judging panel) and ABC broadcaster Rafael Epstein (and I’m definitely not saying anything about token men). Entries close on November 15. Details at www.thestellaprize.com.au. SPEAKING of book prizes, congratulations to Bill Gammage for taking home the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature this week for his nonfiction work about Aboriginal land management, The Biggest Estate on Earth. Gammage won in a showdown between the five category winners, each of whom receives $25,000. The others were Gillian Mears (fiction, Foal’s Bread), John Kinsella (poetry, Armour), Lally Katz (drama, A Golem Story) and John Larkin (YA, The Shadow Girl). AND of course we had the Man Booker Prize announcement, with Hilary Mantel winning for Bring up the Bodies, the sequel to her 2009 Booker winner Wolf Hall, a triumph that also produced our quote of the week: ‘‘Well, I don’t know,’’ she said, ‘‘you wait 20 years for a Booker and two come along at once.’’ THE recent Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was just about the best literary event I have attended. Why? The Bali setting helps, of course, but it’s more than that: there’s a vibe, for want of a better word, about the festival that is most appealing: serious yet relaxed. And while he may not want to use this description to promote his next album, rock star Nick Cave, with whom I did two events, is an old-fashioned gentleman: warm, charming and generous. Spending time with him defied that adage about it being unwise to meet one’s heroes. CANADIAN author Margaret Atwood is touring Australia early next year. Atwood will be a guest of the Perth Arts Festival, which kicks off on February 8, and later that month will do an outof-season event for the Brisbane Writers Festival, featuring a ‘‘performance’’ of her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood. REGULAR readers of this newspaper will know we are running an e-books promotion: 12 titles, from the poems of Banjo Paterson to the life of John Howard, available for free download. Today’s book is Geraldine Brooks’s American Civil War novel March, which won the Sydneyborn writer a Pulitzer prize for fiction in 2006. To promote the offer, I asked Stella Clarke to write a piece considering March in the context of Brooks’s other works. You will find that, plus details of how to get your free copy, on page 22.