Author gets a year off job to focus on writing after claiming top book prize

495001 State Library of WA chief executive Margaret Allen, Bicton author AJ Betts and Minster for Culture and the Arts David Templeman.
495001 State Library of WA chief executive Margaret Allen, Bicton author AJ Betts and Minster for Culture and the Arts David Templeman.

BICTON resident AJ Betts will be able to take next year off her job as an English teacher to focus on her next book.

The young adult fiction author was the major award winner at the Premier’s Book Awards, earning the Western Australian Writer’s Fellowship and a $60,000 grant to develop her writing and, importantly, give her the time to create new work.

She will use the fellowship to write a young adult novel focusing on a teenage band trying to record a song to enter a Triple J Unearthed competition.

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Ms Betts works in the School of Special Educational Needs at the Perth Children’s Hospital.

“To say it’s rewarding is a cliche but I get to work one on one with students and it’s a beneficial learning experience for them,” she said.

“Working with the students definitely impacted my third novel, I was working in the cancer ward and that was how the characters in the book met.

“My next book will look at the relationships and identity of young people.”

Ms Betts said she was stunned to win the fellowship.

“It still hasn’t sunk in because I was shortlisted with some great writers,” she said.

“As a writer, I’ve been used to doing so much of it part-time so I’m hoping to put together a decent draft by the end of next year.”