I recently spent an enjoyable evening at the Queensland Writers Centre’s Christmas break-up. The highlight of the evening was the announcement of the recipient of the 2011 ‘Johnno Award’. This award was established by the QWC and named after David Malouf’s seminal novel. Whereas the novel brings Queensland alive in Australian literature, the award honours individuals who have shaped literature in Queensland and who have provided support to its writers.
This year the award went to Craig Munro who served as Publishing Manager of UQP from 1981 to 2005. He was responsible for attracting such influential authors as Hugh Lunn, Murray Bail, Ray Evans, Olga Masters, and Barbara Hanrahan to UQP. Craig has also mentored emerging Queensland authors as well as editors. Not least, he was responsible for establishing the QWC in 1990.
QWC Secretary, Kevin Gillespie, said that it was fitting to honour Craig with the award on the twentieth anniversary of the QWC.
During his acceptance speech, Craig expressed warm approval of the Queensland Writers Centre’s current accommodation. He said:
‘The QWC has finally found its true home – here at State Library – right in the heart of the city’s world-class cultural precinct.’
He delighted the audience with his reminiscences:
‘Before moving to its former Metro Arts location, the QWC occupied a decommissioned medical laboratory on Wickham Terrace, which Errol O’Neill and I remodelled with crowbars – as if editing a manuscript for publication…’
He recounted a favourite memory of his first reading of Malouf’s manuscript of Johnno back in 1974:
‘it had no title and David had been working on it for ten years, polishing it to perfection. Apart from the lack of a suitable title, the only problem I could see was the central character’s name – Johnny Milner. David’s novel had started life as a memoir and still featured the real name of his old school friend so I suggested changing the surname to Johnson – Johnno for short. At last we had our title . . . and a quintessentially Australian one at that.’
The evening provided a valuable opportunity to meet writers as well as QWC executive staff, other QWC members and volunteers.