Heidi gives us hope

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.

heidi-0990The 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.

Poverty and choice in the Glass Castle

How we define poverty and attribute its causes will largely be determined by our political tendencies. Those with right-wing affiliations tend to see poverty as a result of personal choice:  people in poverty choose to have drug dependencies or enter into destructive relationships or, though a series of bad personal choices, end up in low paying jobs.  People on the left pin it on structural causes where society in general, and capitalism in particular, have failed its citizens.  The Glass Castle is a powerful exposition of this debate, and through excellent storytelling we’re compelled to reflect on the relationship between poverty and choice, as well as the bonds that hold families together.

The Cutting Room, by Louise Welsh

This is the kind of novel that makes the Glasgow marketing chaps and business brethren curl their toes.  How can Glasgow shed its grime-infused, murderous-capital, criminal-underbelly stereotype when wee women keep writing about it?  In a city where poverty resides in every second postcode, the marketing machine simply can’t ignore the side of Glasgow that isn’t ‘world class’ in the way we want it to be.

When I refer to women collectively, I am of course referring to Denise Mina, the titan of Glasgow crime and author of the Garnethill trilogy and the Alex Morrow series.  The End of the Wasp Season was, literally, a book I couldn’t put down.  I loved the attention to detail – the reference to the speed bumps in Castlemilk particularly sticks in my mind.