Once I won first prize. Let me tell you how I did it:
It was the annual competition put out by The Fellowship of Australian Writers and our local library. As previous winning entries were kept in the library I sought to uncover what made these stories winners.
As I read the wonderful tales, I found a common thread. The stories were unmistakably Australian: setting, characters, dialogue. Judges being judges, I concluded that a story set in Malaysia or anywhere else would have less of a chance of winning. Even if set in Australia, the writing had to have an Australian flavour.
As for genre fiction – crime, sci fi, fantasy, horror, romance etc. – none would stand a chance. You don’t submit genre fiction to writing competitions unless specifically asked to. I didn’t have to research that one. Yet this competition didn’t seek out fine high-brow literature either. The winning entries were written in a simple way, yet were poignant. Beauty and contemplation were found in simplicity.
So I wrote an Australian-flavoured entry called “This Page Is Left Intentionally Blank”. When I worked as a lawyer I’d seen this phrase on countless contracts and I knew it to be a lie. That very sentence on a page, unblanks it. I now had a title. And it gave me a story.
Unfortunately, I was overseas during the presentation ceremony and so could not bask in the glory of winning my first ever writing competition. You can’t have everything in life.
Looking back though, all writers are the winners in writing competitions. It’s an opportunity to focus, to write with a purpose and to create. It’s this process that enriches a writer’s life.