Newcastle Herald short story competition 2016: Margaret Leggatt named winner

Passion: Margaret Leggatt said writing "absorbs" her. "I can sit down with something I’m writing and feel like I’m moving into another world.” She thanked her husband Ken for always providing good feedback. Picture: Simone De Peak
Passion: Margaret Leggatt said writing "absorbs" her. "I can sit down with something I’m writing and feel like I’m moving into another world.” She thanked her husband Ken for always providing good feedback. Picture: Simone De Peak

MARGARET Leggatt’s engrossing tale about a woman whose husband is consumed with regrets has won the Newcastle Herald’s annual short story competition.

“This is the best news I’ve ever had,” Mrs Leggatt said.

“I’m really blown away because I have not been sending out my pieces of writing for very long. I’ve just been giving them to friends or putting them away in a folder.”

The Bonnells Bay grandmother was praised by judges Newcastle/Hunter group managing editor Chad Watson, University of Newcastle conjoint fellow at The Centre for the History of Violence and author Matthew Thompson and Hunter Writers Centre director Karen Crofts.

The stories were assessed in a blind judging process.

Mrs Leggatt’s story, Coming Up Roses, is told from the perspective of Miriam, whose discontented husband Graeme is plagued by the “black dog” of negativity and complains about decisions they’ve made together.

“I don’t have personal experience with depression but I know people who have suffered from it and it’s one of the most horrific things that can affect someone,” she said. “Graeme is not meant to be clinically depressed, but is a way to explore how much power we have to change our mood when it weighs heavily on us – and how much is beyond our control?”

Mrs Leggatt said it was also about Miriam choosing to push through difficult times in her marriage.

“If you have faith and confidence you can find good things on the other side. I hope that’s what happens to Miriam, because she’s not giving up on Graeme.”

Mrs Leggatt was teaching English as a second language and writing in her spare time when she relocated from Dubbo to the Hunter three years ago. She scaled back to part-time work, joined the “confidence boosting” Hunter Writers Centre, started writing more fiction and began to see her work published.

Mrs Leggatt has taken a break from work this year to devote more time to her passion.

“I wanted to find out if I could do it and how good I might be able to get. I’m still working on that,’’ she said.

Her goals are to improve, gain confidence and find a genre and voice in which she is comfortable.

“But venturing into fiction has shown me this might be my genre, because it just gives me the biggest kick.” 

Mrs Leggatt won 50 new-release books.

The highly commended stories were In The Reflection by Ashton von Westmeath and The Watcher by Nicole Halton.  Mr von Westmeath won an Android tablet valued at $150 and Ms Halton won a weekend pass to the Newcastle Writers Festival.

All three receive a 12-week subscription to the Herald.

The judges also made special mention of Thy Youth In Twain by Kristen Mair,  Out of The Silence by Jo Fleur, Weaving Baskets by Anthony Wood, I Just Need Margaret by Laura Cashman and The Uke - Man by Lillian Reilly.

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