My 2nd ever finished story won me $1000.

Every year across Australia, there are thousands of dollars on offer in the form of writing prizes. Some of these are awarded to existing works or published pieces, but there are still plenty open to aspiring unpublished authors to enter.

Sharon Elisara completed our Creative Writing Stage 1 course earlier this year with Pamela Freeman and it was while she was on the course that she noticed the Hunter Valley Writers Group writing competition. The theme was ‘grief’ or ‘grieving’ and the top story would win $1000. Bolstered with the confidence from her course, she edited and submitted a story (in the first week of her next course with us!).

It was only the second story that Sharon had ever written. And it won. Originally from Perth, but currently living in New Zealand, Sharon was thrilled with the win – awarded in Newcastle at the end of August.

Now, of course this isn’t the biggest writing prize ever offered. However, we really wanted to shine a light on it to show you that these things are out there and they ARE within your grasp. When we heard Sharon’s story, we just knew it would inspire other writers like yourself who may have wondered in the past, “is it worth entering?”

When we congratulated Sharon, we also threw a few extra questions at her. They'll hopefully give you some extra insight about her win, and encourage you to seek out similar opportunities.

1. Did you think you had a chance of winning? How did you feel when you found out?

I never thought I had a chance at winning – so was totally shocked when I found out. My aim for this year was to just make a ‘longlist'. I read somewhere that you should write a story a week for a year – as you can't write 52 bad stories in a row – so thought I would test that theory. I only finished two though (plus 4 half-finished ones) so not going so well on that aim! I decided the best way to go was to enter writing competitions as they give you a deadline – which is how I actually finished this story. This competition also provided a topic which helped me focus my thoughts. The fact that I was writing a story for a particular purpose is another reason this story was actually finished!

2. The theme was ‘grief’. What inspired the story you wrote?

My daughter's teacher had a stillborn baby in first term. The subject came up at a parent interview and I was amazed at how easily she talked about it in comparison with my mother who had the same experience 40 years ago. I came home and saw the Grieve competition mentioned on the Australian Writers’ Centre facebook page so knew I had to write a story based around this.

3. How did the courses help you in your story/win?

I had only done Pamela's Creative Writing Stage 1 course at that stage. In the very first week we learned about beginnings so I knew I had to pick an interesting start. (I had never really thought about that before, I just sort of got going – usually with all the boring intro stuff.) I also learned about point of view. My instinct is to almost ‘ observe' characters but I learned that I should get a lot closer so I can communicate what they are feeling as really that’s the whole point. Thirdly, Pamela really stressed the importance of being prepared to rewrite as many times as you need to. It actually took quite a few tries to get this story to read how I wanted it to. I used to feel like a bit of a failure if I had to keep changing things and now I know that the opposite is true.

Wise words from a writing winner!

Select our ‘competitions’ category in this blog to view our latest shout-outs regarding prizes on offer. And do your own searching on the web – because there are just so many out there. Good luck!

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