Update: SRBEmerging Critics 2021

Callout: SRB Emerging Critics 2021

The Sydney Review of Books invites applications for the 2021 CA-SRB Emerging Critics Fellowships.

Applications close at 11:59pm on Sunday 28 March, 2021.

Apply via Submittable here.

At the Sydney Review of Books we publish the best literary critics in Australia, and we are always on the lookout for new writers and new ways to think about our shared literary culture. That’s why, with the support of the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, we established a fellowship program in 2016 to foster diverse, provocative and original critical voices and to set pathways for emerging critics to develop their practice. With the ongoing support of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund, we’ve expanded this program and now offer five fellowships to the brightest emerging Australian literary critics.

At least one fellowship will be awarded to a First Nations writer and another to a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) writer. Fellowships will also reflect regional diversity and be allocated to critics from a minimum of three states and territories.

What we are offering

Each Fellow will receive a stipend of $3000 to write three 2000-word essays on new Australian books over an eight-month period for publication in the Sydney Review of Books. Fellows will work closely with Sydney Review of Books editorial staff and receive mentoring and editorial support as they write their essays.

Who can apply?

Applications are open to Australian residents and Australians abroad. First Nations critics and CALD critics are strongly encouraged to apply. The five fellowships will be awarded to applicants from at least three different states or territories.

Am I an emerging critic?

There are no age or experience limits to applying for the Emerging Critics Fellowship. That said, we are looking for applicants who are seeking to develop their portfolio and their critical practice. In your cover letter, you may wish to detail the ways in which you envisage this fellowship will serve your professional development.

Applicants who are on an academic career path should explain their particular interest in writing for a general rather than an academic audience in their cover letter.

How to apply?

Apply via Submittable here.

Send us a one-page cover letter of up to 800 words and a writing sample of up to 1000 words. Your writing sample can be a link to a published or an unpublished piece of writing. In your cover letter, please introduce yourself as an emerging critic; tell us about your experience to date as a critic and what it is that shapes and informs your critical practice. Your cover letter should also explain how you will benefit from this fellowship and sketch out brief prospective pitches for three critical essays on Australian literature. We hope that applicants will benefit not only in terms of publication opportunities but also through developing a sustained relationship with an editor. Bear in mind that all essays commissioned and published for this program will be stand-alone review essays of a single new or forthcoming book.

We understand that many emerging critics juggle multiple assignments and deadlines in order to make ends meet. Fellowship recipients will be expected to work on essays slated for publication in June, August and September. Before you apply for this fellowship, please consider whether these deadlines are a manageable addition to your workload.

The deadline for applications is 11:59pm on Sunday 28 March 2021.

Who will judge the applications?

Judges for the 2021 CA-SRB Emerging Critics Fellowships are Ilhan Abdi,  Mindy Gill and Fiona Wright.

In weighing up applications, judges will take into account the following measures:

  • Potential to write great critical essays, as evidenced by cover letter and CV
  • Potential to bring new critical perspectives to the SRB and the Australian critical scene
  • Benefit of the fellowship program for professional development of applicants
  • Access to other paid opportunities, mentorships and professional development
  • Ability to write to deadline three 2000-word critical essays suitable for publication on the SRB

Further Information

The names of the 2021 Emerging Critics Fellowship recipients will be announced on Tuesday 13 April 2021.

Recipients of a SRB Emerging Critics Fellowship will meet with SRB editorial staff in person or via videoconference. In this meeting we will want to hear more about your interests as a critic so that we can allocate the right books for you to review. We will match fellows with books that line up with their interests, affinities and disciplinary formation.

Each 2000-word fellowship essay will contend with a single new work of Australian literature. This will foster the ability of fellowship recipients to approach new literary works and produce original critical responses to them. The editors will map out a firm timeline for drafts, edits, and publication dates. Fellows will be expected to write review essays for publication in the Sydney Review of Books in June, August and September 2021. The SRB editorial team will provide detailed editorial notes and copyedit work in progress.

We are interested in critical writing that examines, among other themes: decolonial futures, the Pacific, the political possibilities of the novel, the critical essay as a form, poetry and poetics, climate catastrophe, gender and sexuality, the novel as genre and commodity, the labour of writing, and much more. Applicants may hold to traditional models for their essays or extend the range and flexibility of the review essay form. We encourage creative and experimental approaches to criticism. In short, we champion critical writing in a range of modes and on a wide range of topics; we see the review essay as a space of great possibility.

Tips for applicants

Applying for a fellowship can be a daunting experience, especially if you’re doing so for the first time. We’re often asked for guidance on what we are looking for in fellowship applications.  Here are some tips based on our experience of running this fellowship program over the last five years:

  • The cover letter is our first introduction to you as a critic and a writer. Treat it as an opportunity to display the critical and writing skills you will bring to the fellowship essays.
  • We know that there are many pathways that lead emerging critics to apply for these fellowships. We have awarded emerging critics fellowships to applicants with postgraduate degrees and to applicants without degrees. Institutional credentials are not the only qualifications applicants might bring to this program. Tell us about the experiences and attributes that shape your critical practice and aspirations, whether that is graduate study, creative practice, self-directed study, lifelong affinity, research in other fields, personal history or other experiences.
  • These fellowships have been conceived to foster emerging critical voices. We want to hear about the criticism that you want to write and about the kind of critic you’d like to be. Tell us about the criticism you have written and/or published, and more broadly about your writing practice.
  • In your pitches, tell us – briefly – what books you want to write about and why you are well placed to do so. Don’t pick books that you think will please the SRB editors. We want to know why the books you’ve chosen are interesting to you, and why you think they merit attention. Give us a sense of the questions you will be asking of the books under review – but don’t feel you need to answer those questions in your pitches.


We invite you to join SRB editor Catriona Menzies-Pike for a Zoom Q&A on the SRB-CA Emerging Critics Fellowship program. We’re running two sessions on Friday 12 March at 1pm and Wednesday 17 March at 8pm. Find out more and register for your preferred session here.

Please direct any queries to the SRB editorial staff, Catriona Menzies-Pike and Ilhan Abdi, via email: editor@sydneyreviewofbooks.com.

The CA-SRB Emerging Critics Fellowships are generously funded by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.