The one that won

My 1978 win in the senior section of the Benalla Bookweek Short Story competition doesn’t amount to much now. After all, I was only 13 years old. I had been writing stories for a long time (since about eight), so I fancied myself something of an expert on the craft by then. My prize, ‘The Plum Rain Scroll’ by Ruth Manley, still sits on my bookshelf, a proud reminder that somebody thought my writing was worthy of an accolade, however humble.

The story was an emotionally moving tale about a survivor of a horrific plane crash. At thirteen, having always lived in central Victoria, I’d hardly ever set eyes on a plane, much less flown in one – so I was hardly intimate with my subject matter. Nonetheless I used my overactive imagination to write a highly dramatic story, full of tension and pathos, as only a girl of thirteen could.

I remember well the small ceremony at school, the school principal bestowing me my prize amid the absolute disinterest of the rest of the school. The hours I’d spent buried in books and the ‘other world’ of words crystallised then into something akin to love.

The real clincher was seeing my own words published in the local paper, the Benalla Ensign. That did it for me. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to write. I wanted to write stories that people loved to read. Ever since I’ve hungered for more of that glory, longing to relive the moment of pride when I saw my story in print.

As the years passed, circumstances and excuses left me scribbling, indulgent and alone, my creations sitting dormant in a box that I dragged through two decades and more than twenty homes across Victoria. Occasionally a story escaped from the box and made it into an envelope to a publisher. Polite rejections, however encouraging, were taken as an indication that I had no talent, so I turned my attentions to getting by and let the passion simmer down deep, hoping it might burn itself out.

Of course it didn’t. True love rarely does.

Four years ago I started writing again – seriously.I took classes, joined a writers group, wrote, tore my hair out, wept, sneered at the crap I wrote yesterday, wrote some more, was overcome by a sentence that seemed to have come from God, submitted, failed, got drunk and despondent, persisted, wrote some more, grew a thicker skin, took some more classes, submitted, got shortlisted, failed, wrung my hands, revised, edited, submitted, failed, laughed it off, edited some more, got critiqued, rewrote, submitted, got shortlisted again and – BINGO. I finally clocked the coveted prize.

Two days ago I found myself standing in front of a small gathering of writers in Ballarat accepting the first prize for the Southern Cross Literary Award. The judge, Paddy O’Reilly, was generous with her comments and told me that, notwithstanding a couple of minor editorial misdemeanours, it was the imagery I used in the story that had got it over the line.

And, believe me, I know how difficult it is to get over that line! The literary talent out there sets the bar unimaginably high.

The morning of the presentation it struck that my winning story (Cool change) was also a survival story. A bushfire survival story. Again, I’ve no personal experience of the subject, but Kinglake is not far from my home and I was as moved as everyone else by the stories coming from there and Marysville and Callignee. The story itself was inspired by an interview I heard with Jon Faine on ABC 774 radio with a woman in her seventies who had walked away from her husband and home on Black Saturday because she couldn’t drive and her husband refused to leave. An enormously powerful example of the heartbreaking choices many people were forced to make on that terrible day.

I hope the story stands as a tribute to those people and the courage they showed in making those incredibly difficult choices.

I have fulfilled my dream – I have claimed a significant prize for my story and will sometime next year (hopefully) see it in print for others to read. Thirty three years and countless hours of writing later, I finally wrote the one that won.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kate Rizzetti
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 14:02:54

    Thank you to every one for your warm wishes on this one. Hopefully I will find a place to publish the story next year. Will keep you posted. xx


  2. Dina
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 05:29:36

    Congratulation Kate, I can so relate the to torture you experienced through your journey – but it was worth it. Beautiful piece of writing and I would love to read the short story some time… let me know when it will be published. With lots of love – Dina


  3. Angie
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 09:21:28

    hi Kate

    this is brilliant! well done indeed. it’s wonderful that you kept going, and i’m really pleased that you have been successful.



  4. Lisa
    Dec 11, 2011 @ 09:01:20

    Oh Kate that is the most wonderful news! As someone who adores your novel I couldn’t be happier, truth be told 🙂 I look forward to what happens next, something tells me 2012 is your year 🙂


  5. Writer Jobs
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 13:57:12

    Great post thanks. I really enjoyed it very much. You have a great blog here.

    Love writing? We would love for you to join us!

    Writers Wanted


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