Diplomatic memoir is the winner of the 2016 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award


Congratulations to Jay Martin, the winner of the 2016 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award. The Fremantle resident won the award for her manuscript Learning Polish, a work of creative non-fiction about living as a diplomat’s wife in Poland.

Fremantle Press fiction publisher Georgia Richter said this was the first time a work of non-fiction had won the award since its inception in 1990.

‘The compelling thing about narrative non-fiction is that nobody can change the ending. And ultimately it’s what the writer does with a real-life story that matters. Learning Polish takes us on a wild ride from boggy fields to glamorous diplomat cocktail parties, and deep into rocky emotional terrain as a couple find their marriage falling apart,’ said Richter.

The winner was announced last night at Fremantle Arts Centre in front of around 900 people as part of the Fremantle Press 40 Year Anniversary celebrations.

All five writers shortlisted for the last Hungerford Award have secured publishing contracts shows how important this award is to fostering new talent.

The shortlisted contenders for this year’s award were Catherine Gillard for The Incidental Nazi, Jodie Tesoriero for Barcarola, Tineke Van der Eecken for Traverse and David Thomas Henry Wright for Little Emperor Syndrome.

The Hungerford is given biennially to a full-length manuscript of fiction or creative non-fiction, by a Western Australian author previously unpublished in book form. It is sponsored by the City of Fremantle, Fremantle Press, Fremantle Library and The West Australian. The award is judged anonymously and this year’s judges were Delys Bird, Ron Blaber, Richard Rossiter and Fremantle Press publisher Georgia Richter. The winner receives $12,000 from the City of Fremantle plus a publishing contract with Fremantle Press. Learning Polish will be published in 2018.


Jay Martin said the book starts with the nagging suspicion that there ‘just might be more’ to life than her comfortable existence in Canberra, and ends three years later in a Polish forest with the realisation that doing interesting things not only doesn’t make you happy, it doesn’t even make you interesting.

‘I wrote Learning Polish because I wanted the world to have the chance to know the amazing, crazy, infuriating country that I came to love that is Poland – where three things are certain: death, taxes, and that shop assistants won’t have change. That, and the gossip I collected on what really goes on in the inner circles of diplomatic life, was simply too good to waste,’ said Martin.

Martin said Learning Polish combined her travel adventures with tales of the many diplomatic wife duties she didn’t remember signing up for – duties that included traipsing through a snow-bound Poznan in search of Minister Penny Wong’s preferred blend of coffee, lunching with the president and prime minister of Poland and sorting through three decades of embassy filing.

‘When you find yourself in a country whose national anthem starts, “we’re not dead yet”, you can’t help but learn something about resilience. And until that works, there’s always vodka,’ said Martin.

‘At its heart, Learning Polish is a story about what it meant for me to find myself, an independent, professional woman, not only supported but defined by my husband’s job. I hope this will resonate with – and help – any woman who’s ever parked her career and found herself floundering, as well as those who’ve wondered, “what if?”’ said Martin.



About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
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