Bitto was shortlisted for the Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript for an emerging Victorian Writer at the 2013 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, for the manuscript of her debut novel, The Strays. The novel was subsequently published by Affirm Press in March 2014.
The Strays is a fictionalisation of the 1930s group of Australian artists known as the Heide Circle. Bitto has said that she "tried to capture (...) the romance and excitement of that circle; the sense of the new that stirred the stale waters of outer Melbourne when a group of artists came together to work and live side by side, to buck the establishment and create their own small utopia within the confines of an old house and a large, thriving garden."
The Age described it as "an eloquent portrayal of the damage caused by self-absorption as well as a moving study of isolation". It was awarded the $50,000 2015 Stella Prize for the best book of fiction or nonfiction by an Australian woman. The Stella Prize judges described The Strays as "like a gemstone: polished and multifaceted, reflecting illuminations back to the reader and holding rich colour in its depths."
The Strays has been published in the UK (Legend Press), U.S. (Twelve Books) and Canada (Penguin). It was a New York Times Book Review editor's pick, and received favourable reviews from NPR and the New Yorker.
Bitto attended the University of Melbourne where she earned a masters in literary studies and a PhD in creative writing. She lives in Melbourne, where she co-owns and runs the Carlton wine-bar Heartattack and Vine, which she opened with her partner and two friends in late 2014.
Award and honors
- 2016 – International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, longlisted, The Strays
- 2015 – Debut fiction category, Indie Awards, shortlisted, The Strays
- 2015 – Stella Prize, winner, The Strays
- 2015 – Dobbie Award, shortlisted, The Strays
- 2015 – Glenda Adams Award for New Writing, New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, shortlisted, The Strays
- 2013 – Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript by an Emerging Victorian Writer, Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, shortlisted, The Strays
- The Strays (2015)
- Bitto, Emily; Kenneally, Christine; Laguna, Sofie; Neerven, Ellen Van; Clarke, Maxine Beneba; London, Joan (2015-04-16). "Stella prize 2015: the shortlisted authors on the stories behind their books". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
- McGirr, Review by Michael. "Emily Bitto's debut novel of loneliness and self-absorption". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
- "2015". The Stella Prize. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
- Steger, Jason. "First-time novelist Emily Bitto wins the Stella Prize". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
- "Nominees". International DUBLIN Literary Award. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
- Austlit. "Emily Bitto". www.austlit.edu.au. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
- "Awards". Perpetual. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
- 1414, scheme=AGLSTERMS.AglsAgent; corporateName=State Library of New South Wales; address=Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000; contact=+61 2 9273 (2015-09-23). "2015 – UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing". www.sl.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
- "Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript 2013". The Wheeler Centre. Retrieved 2016-11-19.