Last Friday I received a phone call from Griffith Review: I am a winner of their 2015 Contributor Circle Awards, which includes a funded week-long fellowship at Varuna House, Australia’s national writers’ residency (read: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!). Varuna is a cornerstone of Australian literary culture. To go there to write is an experience I have pined for since I was eighteen (read: FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKITTY-FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!).
This is how it happened: contributors to Griffith REVIEW were invited to include up to ten pages of a work-in-progress project. Work in progress? Cue terror. Cue cold-sweat, nauseous fear at the thought of having my draft writing read by peers I revere. I would have preferred to send an organ. Nevertheless, thanks to an inherent will from the fire in my belly, and the tireless rallying of my troops, I dug my heels in and wrote the page-long statement outlining my project, got strung out on laptop screen blue-light from overzealous editing, and finally, sent off my application including ten pages of draft writing. Then I collapsed in a heap, and forgot about it (ahem).
Two weeks later we were on an airport mini-bus bound for Melbourne airport. It was Friday the 13th and it felt like it. We’d just kissed the Victorian contingent of dearest friends and family goodbye, we both had absolutely cracker head colds, and I had less waggle in my dance than you could fit on a bee’s wing. Twenty minutes into our bus journey my phone rang. Allow me to mention again that the bus was mini. Close quarters. And full. I looked at my phone. It was a Brisbane number. I answered. The voice of the delightful Jane Hunterland filled my ear. I got a bit lost in it for a second as if her timbre was a snake charmer’s tune, until her words actually registered in my mind. Holly, we’d like to offer you a Varuna fellowship. I squawked. Honked. Spluttered. Swore. Sobbed. Repeatedly. And her magic words kept flowing. This how the proverbial ‘they’ say it happens, at the most unlikely time. On a tiny bus taking me away from those I love, unable to breathe properly, or cough up more than a few words without wheezing, one of my deepest writerly dreams became a reality.
Winning this award is one thing. Being on the receiving end of Griffith REVIEW’s thrilling response to my writing is another thing entirely. I now experientially understand how this kind of support and encouragement can be life-changing for a writer. My residency will take place later this year. I have read all about Sheila’s infamous cooking, not to mention Varuna’s magic. The eighteen year old version of me is mute with joy (no mean feat, indeed). Thirty-four year old me is floored with gratitude. And, ready.
The publication which inducted me into Griffith REVIEW’s contributor circle is my personal essay, Might be rainbows. For more information on Griffith REVIEW, including submissions, I highly recommend signing up for their wonderful newsletter or following them for tasty tidbits on Twitter.