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‘I wrote this novel for anyone who has struggled’: Manuscript about growing up gay in regional WA wins Hungerford Award

 ‘I wrote this novel for anyone who has struggled’: Manuscript about growing up gay in regional WA wins Hungerford Award

A writer who grew up in small-town Australia feeling ‘truly unseen’ will have a novel based on his experiences of growing up gay published by Fremantle Press after winning the City of Fremantle T.A.G Hungerford Award.

Perth writer Holden Sheppard won the $12,000 prize for his YA manuscript, Invisible Boys, which follows three 16-year-old boys coming to terms with being gay in their regional Western Australian town.

Sheppard wrote the draft for Invisible Boys in just two months, and said, ‘I feel less like I wrote it and more like it came screaming out of me, with the roar of a V8 engine.’

Invisible Boys is pure fiction, but it was born of the trauma of my own adolescence,’ explained Sheppard, adding that the novel, ‘includes elements of the gay teenage experience that are disturbing, exciting, embarrassing and graphic.’

‘The novel also stares down the barrel of male mental health and suicide, and it was important for me to be unflinching and unfettered when dealing with these topics.’

The Hungerford Award is open to all WA writers and is judged anonymously. Winners of the prize are offered a publishing contract with Fremantle Press.

Publisher Georgia Richter said that Invisible Boys is ‘a valuable contribution to the growing voices of younger LGBTIQA+ people.’

Sheppard wins the award just as Australia celebrates the one year anniversary of the Yes vote result in last year’s controversial marriage equality survey.

‘After everything we went through getting marriage equality across the line, it is so exciting to see the conversations now shift from fighting for our rights to people being genuinely curious and empathetic about our lives and our experiences,’ he said.

‘I wrote this novel for anyone who has struggled, or still is. I want the pain of these characters to be visible to the world. I want the world to understand that boys and men suffer, and for gay boys in particular, even in 2018, this struggle can feel like the end of the world, but it isn’t.’