Gunnedah-born Kamilaroi author, Jacob Gallagher has been awarded a fellowship from black&write! for his novel.

The black&write! fellowship is funded by the State Library of Queensland and is open nationwide to authors of indigenous Australian and Torres Strait Islander descent.

The organisation offers just two fellowships each year for unpublished manuscripts – one which was claimed by the former Gunnedah resident.

Jacob’s partner initially found the opportunity through social media which gave him the initiative to develop a manuscript.

His story, The Doubles, was submitted in 2022 to black&write! and received a highly commended.

The cosmic, horror, crime novel details the protagonist investigating a string of deaths set in the Liverpool Plains.

The feedback encouraged him to submit the manuscript again once it was more developed.

“I basically finished it over the next year with a mad dash of energy right before it was due as I think it tends to happen,” Jacob said.

The more refined manuscript was submitted again in February this year, with the story achieving an even better result. 

“When they called me, I thought to myself ‘they didn’t call me last year, so that is probably a good sign’,” he said.

The organisation had called him to advise he had won the fellowship.

Jacob has now been given the opportunity to work with editors at black&write! in the hopes to publish the manuscript in the future.

He accepted the fellowship at the end of last month and is continuing to move forward.

“I think the biggest thing for me, as a part of the fellowship is, I work with the black&write! editing team, which is also a team of indigenous Australian and Torres Strait Islander-background people,” he said.

“The idea is to bring indigenous authors together with indigenous editors to try and tell cultural stories as well as can be told and appropriately as can be told.

“It is showing me the path forward and how I can be an author in the future and what editors look for and what publishers look for.”

Previous members of the fellowship have had a good record of its stories becoming published.

“I am pretty hopeful that is what it will lead to but if it doesn’t lead to that, just getting the opportunity is amazing,” he said.

Jacob was born in Gunnedah and had lived here until about the age of four or five when his family moved to Dubbo for work.

“In hindsight as an adult, it was not really that far away from Gunnedah,” he said.

“We only really visited for school holidays and so it always seemed really far away.”

His father’s extended side of the family still resides in Gunnedah.

The influence of the area is clear in the book, with the main setting in Currabubula.

Jacob spoke about how his childhood and stories from his family influenced the setting of his story.

“I really wanted to set the story in my home area, around Werris Creek,” he said.

His grandfather was born and raised in Werris Creek. For holidays, he would travel with Jacob around the area and became another setting inspiration.

“The setting is a character of its own. I kind of wanted the story to be the characters exploring the setting,” he said.

“It was always my intention for Werris Creek, Tamworth and that area to be featured prominently.

“The main character is from Gunnedah [and] basically shares roughly my backstory and is coming back to the area after a long time away.”

He mentioned a scene in which a character comes back to Gunnedah.

“Part of the editing process before it gets published is putting that scene back in. So, towards the end of the book there will be a scene where they will go up Mount Porcupine to the lookout,” he said.

“My mum was a triathlete … and we’ve got a photo from the newspaper of my mum pushing me in a pram up Porcupine … they would always pull out that photo and show it off.”

Jacob wants local people to recognise the region in the story and envisions it taking place in the familiar setting.

“I think maybe the thing that is unique to my voice is my background,” he said. 

“Coming from a small town, I’ve been able to observe those who live there and hear my parents’ commentary on things.”

Jacob’s fellowship has been a long time in the making, with writing being his passion from a young age. 

He recalled his teachers encouraging him to write and his enjoyment of the craft grew from there.

“For a lot of high school, the goal was ‘as soon as I get out of high school I am going to write a novel, I am going to get it published and then I will be a writer for the rest of my life’,” he 

Unfortunately, the plan did not unfold that way and he would instead at the age of 19, move to study writing at the University of Canberra.

“I realised I had been a big fish in a little pond and when I got to university, I realised there were way better writers than me,” he said.

“I didn’t intend on it being my career anymore but the ambition of working on it … never left. I think I maybe I gained a more realistic view on what I could do.”

Lucky for Jacob, that ambition has now led to the fellowship that will hopefully result in a published manuscript.

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