NORTHSIDE AUTHORS FEATURE IN 2014 ‘AWARD WINNING AUSTRALIAN WRITING’

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By Charlotte Pordage

 

In October 2014, Melbourne Books released their seventh edition of Award Winning Australian Writing (AWAW), showcasing the best short stories and poems that have won competitions nationally. The anthology features the work of over fifty emerging and established writers and includes competitions such as The Age Short Story Competition, Overland Short Story Competition, the John Marsden Award for Poetry, Alan Marshall Short Story award, Verge AnnualPrize for Fiction and the Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction.

 

The foreword by Jo Langdon, author of the poetry chapbook Snowline and inaugural winner of the Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction, gives readers a taste of what to expect from the anthology: “My hope is that readers – and reviewers – will discover and celebrate these pieces for their potency, poignancy, political clout and their comedy… This is writing that will confront, thrill, surprise and haunt you. As a collection, this book offers us an exciting avenue into contemporary Australian writing.”

 

Out of the many contributors, who come from all over Australia, six of the award-winning writers are based in the Northside area. We caught up with four of them.

 

I remember thinking when I was younger that it would be a pretty incredible job to write stories that could take a reader somewhere else; to help someone completely immerse themselves in a world outside their own.”

 

ELIZABETH DE FÉGELY

‘Smoke and Water’, Elizabeth’s short story, won the Bayside Writing Competition, an impressive achievement for her first independent piece of fiction. She received the news – which she still recalls as an extremely surreal moment in her life – that her story would be appearing in AWAW via an email in August from editor Chloe Brien.

 

“Having ‘Smoke and Water’ published and seeing it in a tangible format in my hand has been one of the most exciting moments of my writing career. Often writing is quite isolating and sometimes doubt does creep in, so as much as I write for myself, receiving the publication tick of approval is a good boost to the morale,” she said.

 

Elizabeth has previously worked in publishing, copywriting, editing and communications. Writing has always been a passion that she pursued on the side but she started taking it more seriously when she began a Professional Writing and Editing degree at RMIT in 2013.

 

She commented that as a child she would “quite happily read a book for hours,” and she believes that this was a major factor in inspiring her love of writing: “I remember thinking when I was younger that it would be a pretty incredible job to write stories that could take a reader somewhere else, to help someone completely immerse themselves in a world outside their own. There is so much power in writing –it can inspire, change opinions or beliefs, change lives, or simply provide a space to escape to. I love playing with language and experimenting with different ways of communicating ideas and stories.”

 

Although Elizabeth has spent much of her time travelling and living interstate, she always returns to the northern suburbs when she gets back to Melbourne. She has been living in a terrace house in Rathdowne Village for the last year and adores the surrounding areas.

 

“It’s such a lovely community. I love that the city is a ten-minute bike ride away, that Curtain Square is just across the road for sunny picnics and that I can drop in for a swim at the Carlton Baths on my walk home from work. There’s always something happening in this area – festivals, live music, exhibitions, markets – and I can’t avoid bumping into people, whether that’s riding down Rathdowne Street in the morning peak hour, or popping into Gerald’s for a wine,” she said.

 

Elizabeth hopes to really make a career out of writing in the future, aiming to find a balance between freelance work and writing fiction. Her recent trip to Nepal has proved a great source of inspiration but she feels most comfortable writing about the Australian country and playing with the ideas of identity and setting, declaring “the Australian landscape has always resonated with me and I find its ever-changing environment great inspiration for writing – it’s so beautiful, but also so volatile and ruthless.”

 

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LAURA WOOLETT

Laura’s short story ‘Fireflowers’ won the Verge Annual Prize for Fiction, and is a coming-of-age story about a pair of precocious sisters who live in a stifling bushfire season backdrop. She was thrilled when she received the email from Chloe saying her piece had been accepted into AWAW, saying “winning a competition is a rare enough thing for me, so being published in an anthology full of award-winning writing feels really special.”

 

Laura has enjoyed a string of successes during 2014, publishing her first novel The Wood of Suicides in January; being part of the Hot Desk Fellowship program at The Wheeler Centre from May to July; and, completing a short screenwriting course at RMIT in October. She graduated with Honours in Creative Writing at Melbourne University in late 2012 and has been pursuing a writing career ever since, working casual jobs to ensure that she has plenty of free time to focus on her creative productivity.

 

Like Elizabeth, she discovered her passion for writing at a young age: “I’ve been writing stories on and off since about the time I could string a sentence together. At university, I tried out a lot of different arts subjects (psychology, philosophy, literature, Latin, linguistics), but creative writing was always my favourite, and the thing I seemed to be best at.”

 

Laura is originally from Perth but has been a Carlton girl for the past five years, feeling very much at home in the northern suburbs. “I take walks to the cemetery, know the neighbourhood cats and have the first morning trams tell me if I’ve stayed up too long instead of singing birds. It’s also nice not to be a total pariah for not knowing how to drive, though I do sometimes get the feeling that I’m living in a bit of a hipster-yuppie bubble,”she said.

 

Laura is keeping her options open for 2015 but she definitely wants to go further with screenwriting and adapt some of her stories to film. She is also considering applying for a Master of Fine Arts program in the US but is still deciding whether she is ready to go back to studying for another two years.

 

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EMMA VISKIC

Emma’s short story ‘The Hero’ won the fiction section of the inaugural New England Thunderbolt Award for Crime Writing, although she almost did not realise this, as the email went straight to her spam folder.

 

Funnily enough, the same thing happened when she was told that ‘The Hero’ had been accepted for the AWAW anthology, which she blames on spam filters not liking messages that begin with the word ‘Congratulations’. She was ecstatic when she received the news, saying “it was pretty hard to wipe the grin off my face; AWAW has a great publishing history and I’m in amazing company in this book.”

 

‘The Hero’ has also appeared in The Armidale Express and Emma has been published in Melbournes Child and Sydneys Child. A number of her other stories have been shortlisted for awards such as The Scarlet Stiletto and Ink Tears Flash Fiction, and she cites winning the Thunderbolt Award and then the Ned Kelly SD Harvey Award in consecutive years as her biggest career highlight to date.

 

This year she has been involved in the WoMentoring Project, which pairs publishing professionals with emerging writers. Emma has been able to develop her new crime novel with the help of an editor and has found the entire experience very rewarding: “Working with her has brought my writing to a whole new level and I’m so excited by the process I can’t wait to get to my laptop each day.”

 

Emma has been living in the northern suburbs for sixteen years; her favourite things about the area are the diverse and chatty people, the public transport, the bike paths, the coffee and the parks.

 

David Francis

DAVID FRANCIS

David’s poem ‘Thalamus’ won the Free Verse Poetry section of the Eyre Writers Awards and he was very pleased when he discovered that this piece had been accepted into AWAW, saying: “it’s always good to have a poem included in an anthology and it’s a good anthology with some very good writers.”

 

He has recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Creative Writing from Melbourne University and hopes to start a PhD in Creative Writing next year, researching body imagery in the poetry of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.

 

Despite doing a large amount of writing in his earlier professional life in the form of articles and book chapters, David had never done any creative writing and only began writing poetry five years ago. He has always enjoyed the process of writing and editing, and has published more than twenty poems and several short stories.

 

David has been living in Fitzroy since 1997 and loves many aspects of the northern suburbs: “This area is very close to the city and it’s got real character. There are lots of interesting places, such as Brunswick Street and Smith Street, and plenty of restaurants and shops. Fitzroy has a really good sense of community; everyone seems quite proud to live there. I like the fact there’s a lot of soul invested in the place,” he said.

Charlotte Pordage is a freelance writer/editor from the UK. She has a degree in English Literature and Latin, and her interests include riding her horse Oscar and exploring Melbourne’s eclectic nightlife. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @charpordage.

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