''I am living proof that a women-only prize can be career-changing" ... author Kate Grenville. Photo: Gary Schafer

WHEN a group of women were considering launching the Stella Prize, a new major prize for women's writing, author Kate Grenville (right) contacted us unprompted to tell us how important winning the Orange Prize (the women-only UK literary prize) had been to her career.
''I am living proof that a women-only prize can be career-changing. The year I won the Orange Prize there was a parallel (non-voting) jury of all men. They praised the book enthusiastically and said they'd have given it the prize. It was obvious from their comments that they'd never have picked it up otherwise … Yes, a prize for women's writing wouldn't be necessary in an ideal world, but that isn't the world we live in.''

The Stella Prize, named after the iconic Australian writer and feminist Stella Maria Miles Franklin, who wrote under the pen name Miles Franklin, aims to celebrate women's contribution to Australian literature, to raise the profile and sales of books by women, and to provide female role models for girls and women embarking on a writing career.

This is a difficult climate for all writers, as the publishing and bookselling industries undergo painful transitions, with huge discounting by overseas online bookshops and the digital revolution transforming their businesses. Writers' incomes have fallen significantly over the past decade, down from an average of $23,000 to just $11,000 by 2011, and so prizes can be a very important source of income for them.