A STEP away from work as a bank teller has paid off for Belmont writer Holly Bruce, who has claimed top prize in the Newcastle Herald short story competition for the second year in succession.
Drawing inspiration from Herald photographer Marina Neil’s shot of feet floating in Merewether Ocean Baths, Ms Bruce’s Twinkle Drops painted a portrait of a builder battling with his own mortality after a shattered hip.
Ms Bruce, who is a member of the Hunter Writers Centre, won in 2017 with her story Groundless.
She said the nameless narrator in Twinkle Drops was a composite of people she knew who had gone through hardship and the other swimmers she watched in regular stints at the baths.
“It’s strange, but I feel like I know the character in my story,” she said. “It’s really fantastic to win a competition, but also to feel other people have been able to enjoy your story and relate.”
She said she tried to offer positivity in her writing, a hobby of the last 10 years.
“The message I was trying to convey through Twinkle Drops was that there is always light after loss if we don’t give up and we keep reaching toward it,” Ms Bruce said. “I’m always pleased at the end that he’s reaching for the light.”
The judges included Newcastle Writers Festival founder and director Rosemarie Milsom, Herald deputy editor Matt Carr, Hunter Writers Centre director Karen Crofts and president Megan Buxton, and Fairfax Media’s Newcastle-Hunter group managing editor Chad Watson.
Ms Bruce receives a library of 50 new books, a double weekend pass to the 2018 Newcastle Writers Festival and a tablet device courtesy of Domayne Kotara.
The two highly commended entrants will receive 10 new books plus a weekend pass to the writers festival, with all three earning 12-week subscriptions to the Newcastle Herald in print and digital replica.
Ms Milsom hailed Twinkle Drops’ strong use of language: “I felt like I knew this bloke,” she said of the story’s main character. “The juxtaposition of the title and love this man has for his son with the proud, Aussie voice was well done.”
The winning story was the only entry to earn top-five votes from each judge.
The competition was blind judged, which means stories were assessed without the author’s name attached.
In its sixth year, the Newcastle Herald short story competition was presented in conjunction with the Hunter Writers Centre, a not-for-profit organisation devoted to engaging, employing and educating aspiring and established writers.