Writers are a weird bunch, not least in what they choose to do when they are not writing. For me, at this time of year, there is nothing quite so engrossing or entertaining as judging writing competitions. I look forward to finding those little gems of brilliance that pop out of the bundles of stories from two competitions that I judge each year. Funny stories, wildly unlikely stories, refreshingly unusual stories, and the ones that make me cry. I enjoy the stimulating discussions with fellow judges as we all wrestle with difficult choices in our own categories then come together to decide the overall winners.
It is a time-consuming process, exhaustively thorough and scrupulously fair, as the team of judges makes sure that every entry is given its best possible chance of winning. Of course there are no names on the copies we receive, just a code of letters and numbers. Only the organisers know the names of the students before the final announcement is made, so I always try to attend the Presentation of Prizes event. These are such exciting occasions, full of joyful people, and for the first time I can actually see the young writers whose work I have read, re-read and agonised over during the judging process. I know just how life-changing it can be for emerging writers to have their work read and acknowledged by independent judges and I like to be there, cheering them on.
Congratulations to everyone who entered the Young Writer’s Contest and the Tim Winton Awards. Whether it be a Highly Commended, Merit Award, a place in the top three in your category, or simply the sense of achievement that comes from getting your story finished, presented neatly and in the post on time. Don’t be disheartened if you didn’t win this time. There is always next year!
I hope to be reading other stories you have written next year and for many years to come.