Helen Garner has been reading Brenda Niall’s latest book, about four Australian women writers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In those days, Garner says, you had to be published in London.

‘‘Even when I was first starting out there were still people here who would think it was almost not worth publishing a book if it was not first published in London. I used to think that was awful: ‘I’m never going to cut it out here’.’’

Helen Garner says it's very bracing to be hated.

Helen Garner says it’s very bracing to be hated.Credit:Darren James

But Garner lucked out by showing her first novel, Monkey Grip, to Hilary McPhee and Di Gribble, who had just set up in the publishing business. The book came out to acclaim and controversy in 1977 and Garner has since been one of the most significant figures in the Australian literary landscape, publishing short stories, novels, novellas, hard-hitting non-fiction, masses of journalism and last year the first volume of her diaries – a second will follow later this year.

Now Garner will receive this year’s Lloyd O’Neill award, which recognises outstanding service to the Australian book industry. It has been awarded to a variety of writers, booksellers and publishers since it was first presented in 1992.

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