Generally speaking, writers can be professional control freaks. After all, they decide what happens in a story and the fate of the characters who inhabit it. Which is why Holly Bruce is a rarity. She is a writer who accepts she can’t control everything.
“For the past eight years or so, I’ve been going to Buddhism classes, Buddhist meditation,” she said. “I’ve learnt that accepting change, and that everything is groundless, is a key to being happy in life.”
Holly Bruce’s outlook and her skill with words have combined to create an award-winning story. She has won the 2017 Newcastle Herald short story competition with her entry, Groundless.
“Wow!”, Ms Bruce replied when told the news. “It never crossed my mind I’d win.”
The competition involved writers using one of five photos taken by Herald photographers as the inspiration for a story. More than a hundred entries were received. Holly Bruce used as her taking-off point a photo by Max Mason-Hubers of a hang glider, applying it as a vehicle to carry her main character, a middle-aged man who learns to accept the flow of life when he is riding the currents of air. Ms Bruce said she regularly saw hang gliders soaring above her when she swam at Merewether Baths or while walking along Newcastle’s coastline. She imagined that hang glider pilots and surfers achieved something that was increasingly difficult to do in contemporary life: they unhooked from technology for a while and freed themselves.
“I think something like hang gliding or surfing allows your mind to settle,” Ms Bruce said.
Writing is Holly Bruce’s hang glider. “I really enjoy the whole process of writing, finding the inspiration and putting it together, rather than worrying about the results, the product,” she said.
Holly Bruce began writing stories about 10 years ago as a creative outlet. While her stories had been recognised in awards and one was published in a local anthology last year, Ms Bruce said she “always had a thing about winning the Newcastle Herald competition because I live in Newcastle, and I love Newcastle”.
“I think the essential message of this story is if we spend a long time trying to control things, we miss all the beauty around us, and in Newcastle, there’s so much beauty,” she said.
Karen Crofts, Director of the Hunter Writers’ Centre and one of the competition’s judges, said Groundless stood out not only because of the way the story was told but Holly Bruce had inserted her voice into her writing.
“Writing in the Hunter is just so alive and vibrant, it’s extraordinary,” Ms Crofts said.
The competition’s three highly commended entrants were:
Unconstrained - Diana Threlfo, of Glen Martin
The Sister of Icarus - Catherine Moffat, of Lake Munmorah
Bloodstained - Jessie Ansons, from Adamstown Heights
Hunter Writers Centre director Karen Crofts, Fairfax Media Newcastle-Hunter Group Editor Chad Watson, Author and academic Matt Thompson and Newcastle Herald Deputy Editor Matthew Kelly judged the competition