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Erica Bell Award

The Erica Bell Foundation was established in 2014 to celebrate excellence in literature and medical research in Tasmania, by awarding annual cash prizes to an emerging novelist and a first-time, first author of a medical research publication.

The two prizes represent the highest annual awards of their kind in Tasmania, with each winner receiving $10,000. In each prize category, the runner-up  also receives $1,000 and the second runner-up receives $500.  Anne Blythe-Cooper was awarded First Runner Up 2014.

The Erica Bell Foundation celebrates and honours the extraordinary life and work of Dr Erica Bell and is supported in-kind by the University of Tasmania (Faculty of Health) and the Tasmanian Writers Centre.

The Erica Bell Foundation Alumni was created following the inaugural prize presentation on 5 December 2014, with the aim of fostering and mentoring academic and creative thinking in literature and medical research.


Comments by Vogel Prize Winner, Rohan Wilson

A work of historical fiction in the truest sense is how I would describe The Shape of Water. It takes the brute facts of history and weaves them into a narrative thread that is no longer purely historical, but also not quite purely fictional. It focuses on the life of Sophia Degraves, wife to Peter Degraves, the founder of Cascade Brewery and one of Tasmania’s most prominent early entrepreneurs. Like many other historical wives living in the shadow of their husbands, Sophia has received little scholarly attention over the years. The Shape of Water sets about righting this injustice. We follow Sophia as she makes the long journey to Van Diemen’s Land, children in tow. She suffers, she learns, and eventually makes a home on the island.

The manuscript is full of perfectly chosen details that never overwhelm or interfere. The Hobart town of 1824 feels fully realised. The modes of dress, of thought, and of speech are captured in ways that never fail to convince. Overall, the effect is of a historical verisimilitude that sweeps us along as if we were walking beside Sophia in the shadow of Mt Wellington. It is a thoroughly charming book that brings to life a woman and a period that are both fascinating.    

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