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!

1 comment:

Simonne said...

Congratulations! What a wonderful night that would have been. To have your winning story read would have been immensely satisfying I would imagine. Hopefully my time will come! I'm so glad you've started a blog - seeing you have fans - it's only fair :) I love the title.