Tasmanian writing trio win $7000, national acclaim
Tasmanian writers Tansy Rayner-Roberts, Philomena van Rijswijk and Mark Joseph have won national acclaim in a new short story competition for their compelling stories of the struggles and triumphs experienced by people learning to read as adults.
Patron of the National Year of Reading 2012, award-winning writer and actor William McInnes, will announce the national winners in Melbourne at a celebration event on Thursday 1 September.
Judges from among the country’s most outstanding writers selected Dr Roberts’ Taking Leaves, Ms van Rijswijk’s The Miracle Calendar and Mr Joseph’s My Neighbour’s Screen Door from almost 300 entries from across Australia, securing the Hobart trio $7000 of a $45,000 prize pool as well as a recording and national podcast of their stories.
Director of the Tasmanian Writers' Centre, Ms Chris Gallagher, said Writing Australia had appointed the Tasmanian Writers' Centre to manage the competition nationally.
"I'm delighted that three Tasmanians have placed so highly on the national scene", she said.
"This is a new level of responsibility for the Centre, allowing us to spread the word about the competition among writers nationally, engaging and working with the judges, and running a large publicity campaign in the national media, promoting the 21 writers who have won prizes in the competition", she said.
"Running large scale projects like this one shows that the Writers' Centre is going from strength to strength, being recognised as a key organisation advocating for Tasmanian writers, as well as playing a significant role in the national literary scene."
National Director of Writing Australia, Mary Delahunty, said the exciting new competition had set the stage for the National Year of Reading 2012, with today’s winners announcement during Adult Learners' Week.
“The competition was held to find and record stories, true or fictional, which would inspire adults to learn to read or improve their reading”, she said.
“There is an amazing range of settings and characters in the winning stories, which will be produced as recordings to help reach the 46 per cent of Australians who struggle with literacy.”
“Running this innovative competition has been the first key project for Writing Australia, the new national affiliation of state Writers’ Centres, and we are delighted that it has attracted entries from Australia’s best contemporary writers, as well as new voices.”
Prize-winning writer Dr Rayner-Roberts said she had always been struck by the idea that people who are unable to read have to be very smart to hide their illiteracy.
“I tried to put myself in the idea of not being able to read, which is a very alien viewpoint for me as I grew up surrounded by books,” she said.
“I tried to tap into the fear and embarrassment and how sharp they would have to be to hide the fact they can’t read.”
“I was also very aware that this is a real-life issue which needs to be handled sensitively.”
Dr Rayner-Robert’s’ story, which includes elements of magical realism, is set in Campbell Town, Tasmania.
Novelist, short story writer and poet Ms van Rijswijk’s entry tells the story of the small miracles that happen in an ordinary life and all the learning that occurs as part of that journey.
“That anyone can read is a miracle,’ Ms van Rijswijk said.
“Most people learn in an experiential and even a physical way, rather than academically.”
“I don’t think anyone can say they’ll never learn to read — there’s no cut off point in your life when you stop learning — it’s just a matter of having a reason to learn and of finding something that has meaning for you and your life.”
Ms van Rijswijk said she has taught adults to read through TAFE.
Previously unpublished writer Mr Joseph said his hope for his winning entry is that it might inspire someone who can’t read to ask for help.
“To reach out, to make some sort of gesture to another person that lets them know you can’t read, is a brave step, particularly as you get older,” he said.
Mr Joseph, who works in community development and has previously written and directed short films, said he has been astounded by the ability of illiterate people to survive.
Judges were Australian authors Leonie Norrington, who herself returned to study literacy as an adult and went on to become an award-winning author; Amanda Curtin, lecturer and prize-winning fiction writer; Rohan Wilson, winner of the acclaimed The Australian / Vogel Award for a novelist under 35; and Sean Williams, New York Times best-selling speculative fiction writer.
The competition and prizes have been funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), through Adult Learners' Week National Grant Funding.
The competition has been a partnership between the National Year of Reading 2012, the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), Writing Australia, the NT, and Queensland Writers' Centres and writingWA.
Twelve previously published writers have each won a $3,000 cash prize, and selected previously unpublished writers, $1,000.
Further information is available at the National Year of Reading, www.love2read.org.au.
1 Sept 2011