Anne Wilkins knows she must be doing something right after winning the Cambridge Autumn Festival Short Story competition.
As she wiped away tears during a photo shoot with judges, former Waikato Times editor Venetia Sherson and columnist Denise Irvine, at the festival opening in the Cambridge Town Hall last week, Wilkins spoke of how writers needed to have thick skins and be used to rejections.
Cambridge parents-in-law Jackie and Phill Shakesby are the Auckland school-teacher’s biggest supporters and have always encouraged her to enter the festival competition.
Her story Cracks was about Andy, an autistic child, dealing with loss. The theme for the competition was A Hard Day’s Work.
“For Andy he sees the world a little bit differently and he has a hard job to do, but also the adults around him have hard lives as well. I haven’t had anyone in my classes like Andy, but I certainly know of children like him. I do however have an elastic caterpillar that can be pulled and stretched, like the one in the story,” she said.
“There are not many opportunities for writers here in New Zealand. Most competitions cost money, it seems many magazines and publishers don’t allow unsolicited submissions of manuscripts or have limited time periods where you can submit, and some magazines even require a ‘reading fee’ to read your short story before they consider whether they will accept it or not. Writing is not something you do to get rich. It is something you do because you enjoy it.”
That is the beauty of the Cambridge competition, it is free to enter, said Wilkins.
There were 190 entries which compares favourably to the first year when there were only 52.
“Any of these stories is worthy of publication for a wider audience,” said Sherson who said Wilkins’ story shone.
“Beautifully written, spare language, restrained. Very poignant and right on topic.”
Fellow judges Hamish Wright and Jill Carter said the standard of entries was exceptionally high.
Wellington’s Lucy Mouland was second with Lifelong Learning and third equal went to Joseph Janiszewski of Auckland with The Fireman and Dunedin’s Nethmi Peiris with Cicada’s Song.
Read: Inside the mind of Andy.