Loving in the Shadow of Tito – a “commended” short essay

Much excitement last week at the Gala Event of the Society Women Writers NSW at which numerous competition winners were announced. Included in these were the Members’ Book Awards and the National Writing Competition (short stories and poems).

I had entered a nonfiction essay to be supportive. Most of my free time is spent on the two full-length manuscripts I have in the pipeline. Each of those run to around 110,000 words, so to confine myself to 3,000 was a challenge in itself.

Imagine my delight to be included in the six short-listed. I have an editor friend who says that being shortlisted is the important thing, and just as significant as winning. So off I went to the event feeling entirely satisfied with that outcome.

Double-delight when my name was the first to be announced in the National Writing Competition categories. I won Commended!

The judge for the award was Paula McLean, who, among her many achievements of advocacy and philanthropy donated a significant amount of money to The Stella Forever Fund. The Stella Prize is a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing. It is named after Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin who is best known for My Brilliant Career, published by Blackwoods of Edinburgh in 1901. Courtesy of her will we have the Miles Franklin Award which is awarded annually to “a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases“. In its 64 years the Franklin has been won by men twice as often as by women. This is something repeated across many writing prizes internationally. There is a perception that both men and women read books written by men, whereas only women read those written by women. (Of course, this doesn’t hold true when we get to such luminaries as the recently deceased Dame Hilary Mantel. Also, I think, the crime thriller genre.)

The Stella aims to close this gap. The A$60,000 prize is awarded annually to “one outstanding book deemed to be original, excellent, and engaging“. The Forever Fund seeks to raise A$3 million to secure prize money in perpetuity to support Australian women and non-binary writers participate in the world of literature. The goal is simple but ambitious: to ensure that the Stella Prize benefits generations of writers and readers to come.  

Having established the judge’s credentials, you can see why I value her thoughtful feedback on my piece. She has given permission for me to share her thoughts and words. As I told her, this has reignited my long-lost interest in writing short stories. Time is the enemy there. Or, more correctly, the time-thief who invades my life.

Emeritus Professor Dianne Yerbury AO, formerly the Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University, Sydney from 1987 to 2005 (and Australia’s first female Vice-Chancellor) presented all winners with their certificates. Here I am with Paula (on left) and Di (on right).

And looking glamorous with another couple of my Society Women Writers buddies (and fellow committee members).

Footnote: I’m reading the 1978 winner of the Miles Franklin at the moment. Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson was written some several years before publication. This character-driven novel centres around the elderly Nora Porteous, nee Roche, as she looks back on events in her life. It is underscored by the need to break free of the shackles of small-town Queensland life. But jumping into an equally repressive marriage ultimately leads to escape to England. The novel is replete with Australian history, the Great Depression, Australia’s participation in the Second World War, post-war migration, but also bohemia, sexuality, divorce, abortion – even face lifts. Lots of topics that would have been ground-breaking when it was written. Remember, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D. H. Lawrence, was banned in many places until the late 60s. A brave book for its time and well-deserved Miles Franklin winner.

57 thoughts on “Loving in the Shadow of Tito – a “commended” short essay

  1. Wonderful news, Gwen. Congratulations! I just received a cheque for $75.00 for coming third in the Gladstone Area Writers Group. A small accomplishment, but none the less, it’s inspired me to keep writing.


  2. Well that’s fantastic – huge congratulations and may I say any writing short or long that can bring a smile let alone makes us laugh these days is to be heartily welcomed. Well done you on that score too. Does it gets published in a collection too???

    Liked by 1 person

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