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Thursday, 20 June 2013

2013 Neil Gunn Writing Competition

I was delighted to win Second Prize (prose) in this year’s Neil Gunn Writing Competition for my story 'The Calf''! The award ceremony was held in Dingwall last week, and since I'm (very) local it felt surreal for it to suddenly be happening right on my doorstep. It was my usual gentle 5 minute commute to get there – quite odd!

It was wonderful to meet the other winners – most of the UK winners managed to attend, coming from as far away as the south coast of England. (Those who were unable to be there were announced and applauded heartily in their absence - in case they were wondering.) It was especially lovely to watch the proud faces of the schools sections winners (and their parents) as they went up to receive their certificates.

By strange coincidence, both the 1st and 2nd adult prose prizes were won this year by parents of children on the autistic spectrum. The First Prize winning story, 'Fault' by Andrew Broadfoot, is excellent – when the hook goes in, it goes in very deep.  Even to a mind rather jaded on the subject (autism is my normal, my everyday, my wonderful, the isolating moat around my life, my shrugged ‘so?’) his story about a severely autistic child in hospital made a huge impact. Worth reading. I wish I’d had longer to talk to Andrew at the award ceremony before we were interrupted by the press photos.

In fact I wish there had been more time to talk to everyone – it was a whirl of names and faces, without having had a chance to read the stories yet.

It was also a great delight to meet lead judge the Scottish poet and author Jackie Kay, someone who lights up any room. Full of heart and humour, she was hugely entertaining and engaging, projecting enormous warmth and personality. With my habit of lurking in the background hoping not to be noticed, I'll need to adopt her as my role model.

Overall my thoughts on the day? That was fun. I’d like to do it again. (Maybe next time I’d manage to worry less about whether I was about to trip over my new shoes when my name was called.)

And this was my favourite bit of the day – a wee hug and photo with the lovely Jackie Kay.

Ever backward at putting myself forward, I was the very last in line to ask for a photo before she was whisked away back to the airport. I’m so glad I did – it absolutely made my day! Which was already just grand.


Winning and commended entries in the 2013 Neil Gunn Writing Competition