Saturday, December 13, 2008


For the legions reading this blog (hey Luke, did you find it?), at last an update. I finally finished the story that wasn't working back on my 'bad writing day' in July (July! Can't believe it!), and it was just accepted for publication in Meanjin in September next year. Also, my story 'Salt' was just published in New Australian Stories, by Scribe. It didn't, however, get anywhere in the Boroondara Awards. Nothing. Nix. Boo hoo.

In more evidence that mine own worst enemy is mine self, I met up with Louise Swinn of Sleepers fame the other day (hey Lou, did you find it?), and gloomily recited to her the plot outline of my novel-to-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-the-question. She seemed to think that I knew what I was doing and what's more, that it might even sell! (I felt a bit bad about this possibility. If it's likely to sell, doesn't that mean that it's kind of crap? :) ) Well anyway, I left this meeting with a spring in my step. Maybe I really do know what I'm doing! I still feel unready to really get stuck into the writing of it, but it has been congealing in my mind since then...

I'm not giving the game away here, but the book is based on my grandfather Osmar White, who wrote Green Armour, a classic first hand account of the war in New Guinea in 1942. I have about 100,000 words of letters he wrote to my grandmother over the course of WWII, a veritable gold-mine. The difficulties are numerous - not least is the problem of fictionalisation: too much, too little? I can't rewrite Green Armour, his own marvellous account of the experiences that left him scarred, transformed and deepened. But I am starting to see a way forward...

Years ago, before I was a writer, I dreamed he gave me a manuscript to complete. Perhaps it was just about continuing the line of writers, writing on the unfinished family story as it were, but I had the sense there was something he regretted having left unsaid. So I choose to take the dream more literally, to try to finish something he failed to complete. As I have no idea what that is, I can only trust that something will lead me to get it right in the end. Perhaps that sense of an imposed mission is the only thing that will give me the confidence to actually write a damn book.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Well, it's been a while. Guess I'm not so good at the daily blog thing. Last week my story 'This Old Man' was published in Award Winning Australian Writing and I spoke at the launch. I talked about the autobiographical nature of the story, or at least its autobiographical basis, and I suggested rather sweepingly that all stories are autobiographical, even if they are in costume, so to speak. Perhaps it was a statement that needed more explanation, since subsequent contributors got up to talk about how their stories had nothing to do with their own lives. Perhaps my original statement was a little extreme, a little provocatively put. But I think there's a defensible point there. All stories must come from our own inner life, whether or not they follow the factual details of our life story. Perhaps it might have been better to say that autobiography is the richest source of stories we have available, and that even the stories we tell that have no superficial relation to our own lives are informed at a hidden level by the experiences that have shaped us into who we are. Enough said.

Thanks owing to my writing group - a little band of former contributors to the Sleepers Almanac who have taken to meeting monthly to workshop our stuff. They gave me some incredibly valuable help with the story that eventually became 'Salt' and which I have now submitted to the Boroondara Literary Awards. I'm not expecting first prize again, but it might rate a commendation or something, who knows?

I've made something of a discovery this weekend - writing freehand is a far better way for me to develop a first draft that writing on a computer. It has something to do with the messy imperfection of my handwriting - mine more than most, let me tell you! - and the fact that there is no capacity to cut and paste, or go back to obsessively 'refine' what I just wrote. My notebooks are turning out to be a far richer source of ore for stories than the innumerable fragments I have in the 'abandoned' and 'in progress' folders on my hard drive. I often love the stuff I stumble on in my notebooks, but frequently find the computer stuff to be lifeless.

Something else I have learned is that meditation helps my writing. It is not only the ability to focus in on the core of one's experience tat meditation teaches, but the discipline of staying with. I find there is a moment (well, in fact, many moments) in writing at which there is an impulse to spring away, to make a cup of tea, tidy my room, check my emails, whatever - anything to escape the discipline of staying with the work. This occurs even when I am on a roll. There is a part that kicks in saying, 'Okay, well done, that's enough for now.' The precise same impulse occurs in meditation - a restless desire to jump up, or at least to escape from the discipline of concentration into some line of fantasy or meandering thought. Meditation is teaching me the importance of pushing through these impulses, going deeper, staying inside the discipline of writing.

Yesterday was a good writing day - I riffed on the theme of a lost lover and found myself moving into a state of poetic intensity, a sort of rhapsodic, hypnotic lyricism. I stand by my statement about autobiography - our personal experiences of loss and love must be the well from which such creative outpourings come. Our writing always reflects the state of mind it was written in. We cannot write with life and passion and originality about things that we cannot experience from the inside.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A bad day at the office

Oh crap writing day! Yesterday was supposed to be a writing day, but instead it got frittered away on nothing, because I could sense in myself that I was empty. So today I tried again, determined to make a better fist of it. I took a notebook down to the Green Grocer in North Fitzroy (where the granola is the best on Earth) and sat in front of the fire, not writing but reading. Two glorious short stories from the Best Australian Short Stories 2007. The first was 'Speak to Me' by Paddy O'Reilly. If you haven't read this story, it's worth the price of the whole book, I swear it. Of course this is a personal thing, but I haven't been so thrilled by a short story in a long time. Forget Nabokov (I've been labouring through his collection) - read this! The other one was Cate Kennedy's 'Tender', as beautifully observed and simply written as all her short stories, and on any other day I would have been wowed. But Paddy O'Reilly's alien in the underwear drawer made it almost pale by comparison.

So after two lattes and two stories I went home again, having written zilch, and then decided to sit in front of my computer and have a go at something equally brilliant as 'Speak to Me'. Yes of course! I realised. All the possibilities that the surreal has to cast light on the human condition! Why hadn't I realised it before? Why was I so earth-bound? Everything is possible in fiction, so go for it...

Nothing, of course. A horrible emptiness. I'm brimming with the sense of everything that's possible, but I got nothing. I open up a story I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It's terrible. Some nice passages, but each nice paragraph, instead of adding up with all the others to something great, cancels out the others, so at the end when I try to deliver a punch line of sorts it's got nothing whatsoever behind it. It's pitiful, laughable. So the protagonist discovers that he cares. Pity that I, the reader, don't.

Still, there's gotta be something that I can salvage from all those fine words. Okay, so how's this bit:

It was the year I first got drunk, up there in that empty space full of echoes and moonlight and scraps of electrical wiring. I suggested an experiment. We would see how far it was possible to mentally resist the effects of alcohol. I’d read books and I believed the mind could do anything. I forced down gulp after gulp of the cold wine until my face went numb and my words slurred. The moonlight sloshed over us and I sprawled out on the bare floor and watched the trees through the window spin without ever completing a rotation. The wine bottle got knocked over and glugged out a great purple stain.

Where will you go? I asked him.

I dunno, I don’t care, he said. His cigarette end moved like a firefly. He was saying that a lot now, about not caring. He didn’t care about school, about the future, about his mum and dad. Anyway what was to care about? Nuclear war was bound to come sooner or later. We’d been expecting it for years. When we were younger we’d made plans to bury tins of food up on the Black Spur. We’d have mountain bikes and leave food on the doorsteps of people with less foresight than ourselves. Even now we still thought a little wistfully about the possibility of nuclear holocaust. At least it would be dramatic.

He opened the second bottle and I guzzled straight from the neck. Yes, hell, who cared? Through the window I could see the house I’d grown up in. It was as familiar as a face, like a big square head with windows for eyes, a head full of memories. But the last lights had gone out, its lids were drawn down. It slept unaware that I was out in the construction site next door, watching it with cold, unsympathetic eyes.

I kind of like that. Gotta be able to take it somewhere. Somehow I've got to make the thing cohere, got to bind the whole narrative together into something tight and compelling, the way those three paragraphs are. So I try starting again, but after two sentences I hit the little red x at top right. Do you wish to save? No thanks. (Which reminds me of something irrelevant but amusing. My nine-year-old son downloaded a picture of Everest from the internet. When he went to save it, he got a message saying 'Mt Everest already exists. Do you wish to replace it?' He found that hilarious, and of course I then had thirty minutes of variations: your arm already exists, do you wish to replace it? etc etc)

I'm labouring against a headwind today. So then I opened up my story 'White Summer' (due to be published in Sleepers Almanac 2009. Pre-order your copy today! Oh. You can't. Never mind.) Love that story! My mother tells me it is miserable, which is sort of true, but it is beautiful too, and ends with redemption of sorts. I have no aversion to sadness in my stories. I opened it to remind myself that I can write, and also because I'm thinking of using the character as part of my novel. I got to the end and thought Yes! I love it! and immediately opened up a blank document and started to write the first chapter of my novel, for the second time. One paragraph before all inspiration had haemorrhaged out of me onto the page and I was left staring at the blinking cursor. It was mocking me so I closed the page.

In the meantime, I was running my 'Word Learner' program in the margin, a little application I've written that helps me to learn, you guessed it, words. For some reason I believe I can multitask while writing the great Australian novel. I stare at the procession of obscure four-letter words that are all worth four points in scrabble.

leat inro neal rial aune raun trin sean ...

Then I go to see if anyone has made a move on scrabulous or chess pro...

There's a guy in my writing group who's written 70,000 words since November or something. He loves it. I hate him.

I check my emails. There's one from a friend I've never met whose life consists of following her diplomat husband across the far continents of the globe, playing scrabble and penning prettily written short stories about her gardeners and the diplomatic parties she has attended with self-important dignitaries where she'd wanted to dance naked on the cream cake. She's a great critic, and I'd asked her to read a couple of my stories, including the bad one that I hadn't realised was bad at that point. I'd then sent her a follow up email begging her not to read it after all, in fact to destroy it all costs, knowing that this was futile, and she was only going to be all the more likely to read the damn thing. She'd sent me a harried email from what I'd imagined was some windswept hut in the rain shadow of the Andes, but which turned out to be a local library in Northern Ireland, where she was having a holiday from her taxing schedule of horseriding in Uruguay. The email said she'd get to the stories when she had a moment, and informed she'd been paid twenty pounds for a story that had been accepted on an internet writing site.

Twenty pounds! Ah this is the life eh, writing? The glamour, the women! The twenty pound notes to throw around like petals at a wedding. The fast cars. The dizzying social calendar. The awards.

Which reminds me. Those champions of fine literature over at the National Jazz Writing Awards rejected my entry! A grand total of 57 entries, and mine failed to reach the short list of ten. The email of doom kindly informed me that this failure didn't necessarily mean my work was no good. It might just not be the right piece at the right time. You don't win the award, but please accept this condescension prize. Ah well, such is life...

It's dark now and raining. My bad writing day has come to an end. And look! Someone's made a move on scrabulous!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Excerpt from 'The Wasps' Nest'

The following is a short extract from my story 'The Wasps Nest', currently unpublished.

In the visits centre Alan was sitting hunched at the plastic table, so shrunken she hardly recognized him when she scanned the room. She was looking for the big strong mechanic she’d married, who’d so often boasted about the dodgy parts dealers he’d bested at the garage — not this frightened old man with his unshaven cheeks and edgy, fast-moving eyes. It was noisy and heckling in there, the kids bored and screaming while their parents huddled, bracketing their snatched intimacy with their backs and trying to grope one another out of sight of the officers. Alan stood and pulled out a chair for her — that was him all over, always polite, knew how to treat a lady. It was why she married him, that old-fashioned courtesy. A true gentleman, she always said. A gentleman at a time when her body and soul thirsted for gentleness like water. The bruises had faded, the bones mended, but after she escaped her first marriage she still suffered a terrible tenderness in her skin. A harsh word made her shake, the abrasion of a doorway hurt like a blow, even the hard light of summer assaulted her and had her wearing her dark glasses again, hiding in them like a shellfish. She had thought she could never bear to let a man touch her again. But then there had been Alan, courting her with flowers, the old-fashioned way.

And she’d told him. She’d said to him that if his intentions weren’t honourable then he could forget it right away; she wasn’t like that. Of course she knew she was damaged goods and was lucky to have him at all, someone to take her to the pokies on a Saturday night, or drive her to Target when she needed a new pair of shoes. But it had given her such pleasure playing the role of someone she wished she’d had the chance to be. Forty-two and acting like a schoolgirl who’d never been kissed. It was such silliness yet such dizzy pretence. And Alan opening doors and kissing her hand, for goodness sake. She shouldn’t have been shocked at the proposal, when it came. Alan was a man and even the sweetest of men won’t wait forever. She’d just hoped to play the game a little longer. Of course she said yes, and then she wept, and Alan thought it was happiness. She let him believe it; how could she ever have explained her grief?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Writer's block

Recently a writer whose work I very much respect mentioned in an email to me how she had no new work. I wrote back that this was splendid news, and that there is in fact nothing more heartening (apart from winning awards) than hearing about other writers' struggles, blocks and dry patches. It sounds like schadenfreude, but it isn't. It's about recognition of the common ground of being a writer. Even writers I admire get stuck, agonise, feel that horrible confidence drain that can kill your productivity (and your creativity) stone dead. As I said to Jess, hearing about her great pile of nothing makes me feel that my great pile of nothing might be a talented pile of nothing like hers!

I have suffered major bouts of writer's block since I started writing my first short stories about three years ago. The first one of these followed my winning the Boroondara Literary Award. Before that I was happily scribbling away without imposing any expectations on myself. Suddenly I felt that everything had to be award-winning, or it wasn't worth bothering with. I knew what was going on, but try as I might, I just could not wriggle out of my own trap. My brother had a good, logical suggestion for a cure. He said I should just sit down with the determination to write, say, 1000 words, regardless of quality. Just crash on through as it were. Great idea. Pity it didn't work. I couldn't keep to the discipline, because what I was writing was crap, and I knew it, and writing crap provides no satisfaction. Nor does it necessarily lead to writing anything better.

It's a bizarre sensation to look at stuff you've written a few months earlier and think, 'How the hell did I do that?' You look inside yourself and find nothing. During this time I started twenty, thirty stories that petered out after three sentences, a page, two pages. Rarely any more than that. The sentences were nice, the paragraphs held up, but the story? What story? After months of this going on, you naturally start to find many excuses for not sitting down to write. I have one day a week reserved for writing, but after completing all the suddenly necessary administrative tasks that needed doing, after playing my next online chess move and making my moves on scrabulous, and perhaps adding a few refinements to my pet programming project... I usually had about half an hour left for the grusesome chore of churning out a paragraph or so of another failed story. Naturally you start to question yourself at that point. You start to flirt with the edge of the abyss of not being a writer any more. It's a bad feeling.

I cannot claim to have any magic cure for writer's block. If I did, I'm sure I could sell it at great profit to half the world's writers. But a combination of things broke the deadlock for me. Firstly, I believe in the power of intention. A firmly held intention has a way of flowing around obstacles. I was incredibly determined to come through the other side, because the thought of not writing any more was just too awful. My dreams provided guidance. And then I had a very simple, very conscious realisation: in every case where I have finished a story, I knew when I started the story where I as going. If not the exact ending, then at least the general gist. On the other hand, in every single case where I failed to finish a story, I had no idea where I was going or (in one case anyway) I discovered that the ending I had planned was not going to work. This was a critical insight. I learned something about the way write. I cannot ad lib as I go. I write teleologically, with a destination in mind.

David Mitchell, one of my favourite contemporary writers, said that a writer should not wait for an earth-shattering novel idea before making a start: write a bad novel and then pull it up by the bootstraps until it's very good. Well, I'm still prevaricating on the novel front, and should take his advice no doubt. I certainly know it works well for short stories. My recipe now is this: start with an idea and write that story, but always be prepared for the possibility that you will end up telling a very different one. Always be open to discovery and change. My most recent story 'Salt' started out as a story about poker machine addiction and duty, and ended up being about morphine addiction and murder. It seems to matter less that I know where I'm going than that I think I know where I'm going.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Excerpt from 'The Changes'

The following is an excerpt from my short story 'The Changes', submitted to the Australian Jazz Writing Competition:

... Julian came to Melbourne from Sydney in 1967, the year I was born. He was twenty-three years old. It was that year in a man’s life when his freedom dawns on him. It was the Summer of Love, and even if Australia was six months out of sync, seasonally speaking, still he could feel the changes moving, something momentous and signifying behind the somniferous hum of lawnmowers and bees. Restlessness was in his skin, an itch for wind and loneliness and sunburn. When he played his guitar it was all diminished scales, edgy and unresolved, evading the root and rolling on like a tumbleweed.

He’d been seeing a girl himself at the time, kind of seriously: they’d even moved in together. But as he lay in her arms in the old Balmain weatherboard they were renting, the mosquitoes whining in the dark and the moon making a slick of light on his chest, he’d felt her slipping off him, like a drowning person slipping from a rock. With every inhalation of the redolent summer air he felt he was growing bigger, too big for her, this pretty, good-natured girl. Her arms were slipping off his gigantic chest.

So he left, drove away down the grassy drive, her image bouncing and shaking in the rear vision mirror and her tears still salty on his lip. It was already late afternoon, and the sun burnished his cheek and the wind through the open window was warm and smelled of wisteria and exhaust. He forced the gear lever into second and caught a last glimpse of her turning and walking back towards the house. Then he faced the road that climbed ahead of him, still hot enough from the dying day that at the crest of the hill a puddle of sky leaked into the bitumen, evaporating as he approached.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Internet writers' groups: birthing ground for new writers or deadend refuge of the talentless?

I've heard the theory that internet writers' sites are for people who will never get published anywhere else. And if you've spent any time on these sites you will recognise that there is more than a speck of truth to this. Some (okay, most) of the writing you find on these sites is pretty bad. I can't claim vast experience, but I've spent time on three such sites, and the overall quality is similar, despite attempts by some sites to differentiate between the good and the not-so-good through various mechanisms. I'm thinking of, where I spent the most time. Writelink had 'spotlighted' writers whose work had averaged four star or above ratings from other users. (I think the system, and the whole site, has more or less broken down now since a rather ill-conceived attempt to jump on the blogging bandwagon). Unfortunately, many of the users were as poor at recognising quality as they were at producing it, and they heaped entirely unwarranted praise on some pretty ordinary stuff. They were also constrained by the usual desire to be liked by the writers they were reviewing, with the result that the ratings were inflated and fairly meaningless. Some reviewers offered poor advice, 'corrected' things that were actually right in the first place, or just failed to 'get' subtle work. There were some astute and insightful readers there too, who offered good advice, but I imagine it could be hard for a new writer on the site to differentiate the insightful crit from the bumsteer.

The reviewing process on writelink was always fraught and controversial. The site used a star rating system, which had the advantage of giving writers a quantitative means of measuring the reception of their work. It was not entirely unsuccessful. 'Five star' work was generally at least readable, sometimes very good. 'Three star' work was generally awful. However, there were inevitably noses put out of joint. An ill-fated 'quill' system was introduced to allow reviewed writers to review their reviewers (!), but this was howled down by the members - a case of the site owners getting too clever by half. Inevitably, egos and jealousy came into play. As a 'star' in the tiny writelink firmament, I was flamed on more than one occasion for posting honest (and I thought, constructively critical) reviews: comments suggesting that in my glory I shouldn't need to tear down others as well to get my jollies!

I feel for sensitive writers. As my blog title suggests, writing is often an expression of our inmost selves, our souls. No matter how humble the forum, it takes courage to put one's writing out there for others to love, hate, shoot holes in, as they will. You are putting yourself on the line, and until you've gotten used to that experience, it can be quite terrifying. I have personally never been overly senstive about people's comments on my work. Occasionally I'd find myself ruminating angrily over some (to my mind) wrong-headed remark in a review and I'd have to remind myself to lighten up. That is one thing that writers' sites can provide: a lesson in desensitisation. You can only get better if you take on board feedback. Over-sensitivity just gets in the way of becoming a better writer.

Another site I posted to,, didn't have a star rating system, but was more or less a simple forum, with users posting work as a new 'thread', then other users posting reviews or comments in that thread. This is the way most such sites work. Good work was distinguished by being selected 'pick of the week' by an anonymous group of behind-the-scenes reviewers. This system seemed rather hit-and-miss, and I came to question the judgement of these all-powerful beings. A piece that I still consider one of my finest was ignored for the honour, one that I now consider pretty poor received it. The reviewing culture on this site seemed less polite than that at writelink - more critical reviews were posted. A good thing, if the quality of the reviews had been high, but I found it lower than at writelink. Some readers 'got' my best work. Others were puzzled: where was the murder, the dramatic denouement, the character who turned out to be a ghost?

Despite these limitations, writers' sites do offer the beginning writer a lot. They provide a community, instant (or at least pretty quick) feedback on your work, and, ironically, they can teach you a lot about writing by exposing you to heaps of bad work. There is a spectrum of quality on these sites from truly dreadful to really very good, with the vast majority falling somewhere more towards the bottom of that scale. You can learn almost as much from others' mistakes as you can from the good stuff. If your work's any good, you can build yourself a little fan base, which is kind of fun, let's face it; we all want appreciative readers. Nevertheless, you tend not to find many really good writers on these sites, writers who are getting published regularly in the 'real world'. There's a good reason. Work posted to an internet site, even a 'closed', membership-only site, is deemed by some publishers to have been 'published', which means they won't touch it. The risk can be overstated - I'm sure many publishers wouldn't care - but why would a writer who knows the merit of his or her work take the risk? Also, what does such a writer have to gain by posting their work on such a forum? Praise is predictable, criticism likely to be off the mark, and there's certainly no financial incentive!

So what happens with many sites is that a certain stable core of writers develops- the 'usual suspects' on a site. These are usually writers who are good enough to be well received in the fishbowl of the site, but not good enough to make it in the bigger pond of 'real' publishing. This is not necessarily to be looked down on. Many of these people obviously love writing as a hobby, and the internet group provides an audience and a community of other enthusiasts. But the risk is you become stuck swimming in the fishbowl and never take the step to grow your writing beyond that level. It is a big leap, and a potentially demoralising one. Even the best writers get their 'fat letters', and the gratification of publication, though far greater than that of seeing your work on an internet forum, is anything but instant.

I won't be returning to writelink. But I still feel gratitude for what writelink offered me. If you are a beginning writer, I would certainly recommend the experience, but I'd suggest trying a number of sites, since they vary significantly in their 'culture', and always bear in mind that the world of real publishing is much, much more demanding. In the end if you want to succeed as writer, you will have to elevate your work to a much higher standard than what passes muster on an internet site.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Excerpt from today's work

How did it go wrong for you? She sometimes asked in her mind as she looked into those pale, hate-filled eyes. It seemed to her that there was a knot in him that every experience only drew tighter. Can the soul form a knot? And if it can, what can untie such a thing, how can it ever come loose? She wished she knew more about these things. She’d offered to move his bed into the sun room so he could look out over the garden. At least then he could watch the birds disporting in the bird-bath, see the wind move through the trees. He might live long enough to watch the jonquils spring up again. She imagined that when you are dying the beauty of such things would be focussed like sun through a magnifying glass. Perhaps the bright spot it made in your heart would sear, but who would not welcome a burn like that? Surely we all long to be purified, and with nothing more to come, no more errors or losses or compromises, the spring garden could have the last word, the final say on it all. Wouldn’t anyone want that? Well, not Jack. He refused to be moved and when she tried to ‘jolly him along’, taking him by the arm he actually struck out at her as if she were trying to lure him into some form of involuntary euthanasia. So he stayed in his dark, musty room with its mouldy walls and its sweet stink of cancer. Go ahead, she thought, eat up your own misery. Knock yourself out. She sat on the side of his bed and tried to get a few spoonfuls of pureed vegetables into his mouth, but he was like an infant, with the added faculty of cunning. After long exhortations, he finally opened his mouth for the spoon then spat the stuff out in a spray all down his front, knowing she would have to find and wipe up every spot. She could have cried. She could have killed him. How ironic that would be.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Alan Marshall Short Story Award 2008

Last night I was presented with the Alan Marshall Short Story Award at a ceremony at the beautiful Eltham Library Community Gallery. It was a very happy night. Although I won a similar award two years ago, this was different. For starters, unlike the Boroondara Award, I knew in advance that I had won first prize, so I was able to invite friends and family along. At the other award, I turned up alone, expecting a commendation or a third prize a best, and was somewhat stunned when I was announced the winner.
The judge of last night's award was Cate Kennedy, whose address was inspiring and surprisingly moving - she read a short excerpt from Alan Marshall's work that illustrated the 'compassionate heart and eye for detail' that she said is what makes a good short story writer. It was simple and devoid of literary ornaments or dazzling 'technique', but it spoke directly to the heart, and there wasn't a person in the room who wasn't moved by it. I saw Cate speak before at the Melbourne Writers Festival and her intelligence, warmth and total lack of pretension impressed me then. It impressed me again last night. She is a natural ambassador for the Australian short story form, and Australian literature in general.
My story - along with the winners of the local and young writers' sections - was read out by a local actor. It was a deeply rewarding moment. I chose the title of this, my new blog, to be 'cri de coeur', because that is the way I see writing. Perhaps the term 'cry of the heart' sounds a little piteous, but it is the best way I know to put it. Writing is a way to give voice to a sort of shout from the soul that says: I have been here, I have seen, I have suffered. It is a way to bear witness, and a search for the expression of truth. The story 'This Old Man' that was read out last night was not pure autobiography, but it was neverthleess the best possible expression I could find in myself for things I have witnessed and that matter: the relationship between fathers and sons, the pain of separation, the impossibility of sheltering those we love from pain. To have this story heard and to see it move people, to know that it struck the place it was meant to, was immensely satisfying.
I am grateful to Nillumbik Shire for supporting the award, and to Cate Kennedy for the sincerity and finely honed sensibility she brought to the task of judging. Congratulations to the other prize winners and commended entrants; Cate made it clear that it was a very close-run thing, and on another day - who knows? - someone else might have taken top honours. To all those who entered but didn't get anywhere this time around: Don't worry, I've been there. Keep writing and good luck!