I’m a feminist. Every day I notice how women’s lives have been shaped to sustain male privilege. I get angry when I think about the gender pay gap. I’m furious about the prevalence of family violence. The way that women in particular (but men too) are poked and prodded into hating their appearance by global beauty companies makes me livid. But I am nowhere near as angry as Clementine Ford.
I have a deep sense of pride that an actual person that I know has won a writers’ prize in a hugely competitive and highly esteemed writing competition. The person I am referring to is, of course, Heidi Catherine. Heidi has won herself, and her story The Extra Piece, a commendation in the Hope Prize short story competition and therefore a place in the very recently published Hope: An Anthology.
The Hope Prize was held for the first time this year by the charity the Brotherhood of St Laurence to encourage Australian writers to tackle the subject of poverty. It’s a vital topic that simply doesn’t get enough coverage in our press, despite the alarming statistics: one in eight people and over 600,000 children are living in poverty in Australia.
I spoke to Heidi about how it feels to win a national competition centred around such a vital topic and to be commended by a judging panel which comprised actress Cate Blanchett, author Kate Grenville and the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce.
A year ago, I moved back to Australia after 10 years in Scotland. Over these last 12 months, I’ve been relearning what it is to be Australian – not in the cliched sense, but in terms of the nuances of daily life that I’d just clean forgotten about (such aggressive driving, for example) or never even known about (the oddities of school drop offs).
But more than anything, I’ve had to confront and compute my country’s attitudes to its indigenous people and its asylum seekers. I feel like I’m seeing these issues with fresh eyes, and I really don’t like what I see.
I’ve just finished reading what I reckon will be one of my top books of the year, The Dry by Jane Harper. Within minutes of starting this book I knew I was in safe hands, and right to the very end I couldn’t put this book down. It’s the kind of book that makes you miss your train stop; it’s an engrossing and very satisfying read.
Back in 1969, American short story writer and novelist John Cheever complained of the underdog status of short stories, calling the short story ‘something of a bum‘. I bought Six Bedrooms after being exhorted by Charlotte Wood (winner of 2016 Stella Prize) to support the Australian book industry by buying more books; it turns out I am easily persuaded on such matters. Otherwise, I probably would’ve passed over this collection. Like a lot of folk, I don’t tend to gravitate to short story collections, and my last exploration into this territory with Hot Little Hands left me feeling a little meh. However, Tegan Bennet Daylight’s skill with this form has me recalibrating my position.