Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rose & Julie's big adventure - 2012 - National Literary Awards - Fellowship of Australian Writers

What a thrill - for our little writing group to win a Highly Commended award in the 2012 National Literary Awards with the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) Victoria Inc. - for the Anthology we submitted to the FAW Community of Writers Award competition.

Rose and I decided we'd go to the awards night in Melbourne representing our group.

Our adventure began with me checking the alarm clock yet again, scratching my head at our choice of a 6:00 am flight. I rose in the dark at 3:30 surprised and delighted at the smell of coffee wafting upstairs. Graham and Elwood were troupers, sending me on my way much more alert with a coffee ingested, waving me goodbye under a clear star studded black sky. Only the wallabies and possums were on the road as I went to get Rose. We grinned at each other - then both laughed out loud, unable to contain our excitement about our trip.

Although Rose had warned me she wasn’t a morning person, and wouldn’t be speaking before 11AM, we nattered our way down the highway. I did wonder if this was her ploy to keep me awake.

We arrived with what we thought was plenty of time for a coffee and toast, our only hold up was me getting checked for explosives on the way through. Hmmm, how did I look more suspicious than Rose? It was a good thing we were early as it took 15 minutes to be served our coffee and toast, leaving us just enough time to scoff our snack before the plane loaded.

We discussed the likelihood of the plane having a flat tire as we were buffeted around on the short trek to lift off.

Luck was with us, when we got to the hotel, as our potential 7-hour wait for the 2:00 pm check in was waived, Hooray!  We dumped our luggage in the room and wandered back to the airport not game to spend over $30 each for breakfast at the hotels. We did a reconnoitre of the Airport shops to work off breakfast after, then decided to walk back for a snooze. 

I had itchy feet, and couldn’t settle, and since I’d previously decided I needed to brave the big city and have a little adventure, I left Rose and headed out. I took my phone so I could call her if I ran into any trouble. At the front desk they told me a cab to the nearest shopping centre was $30 each way, and I already knew it was $50 to town, so decided couldn’t be bothered spending that kind of cash for a few hours of shopping so wandered back to the airport leaving Rose in peace to relax.

Domestic isn’t as interesting to shop in as International. I can’t tell you how many book fly covers I read, but I did manage to sniff out a bargain along the way. Flush with my purchase (I’d convinced myself with the money I saved not taking a cab into town, I was justified in splurging on a beautifully hand painted purse) I came back and laughingly confessed to Rose my big adventure alone in the big city was actually spent walking through the parking garage back to the airport. Some adventuress I was. Rose said as soon as I left, she couldn't get back to sleep but did a lot of reading until my return.

We relaxed watching "the Life of Pi" on the “in room movie”, then cleaned up for the awards ceremony. The front desk organised a "driver and car" as they said it would be the same price as a cab. We felt rather swish at this, and settled into the bar for a pre trip tipple.

Our driver was fun and we joked a lot about what we might find when we got to the Masonic Hall, sandwiches, cookies and cakes from the local CWA (hmmm, does CWA in the big city mean City Women's Association?).

Pulling up to the Masonic Hall at 6:30 we entered the foyer, were given a name tag, marked present, asked to sign a waiver as they had cameras on site to film the event, and sent through the doors advised we were booked in on table number 15.

I think the funniest moment of the trip for me was the look on Rose's face as we walked into the Hall. She stopped dead, eyes widening as her hand fluttered to her chest, then her quick recovery. Our feet shuffled on the worn wooden floors as our eyes slowly took in the room, the walls were lined with multi coloured banners of various designs like those of knights gone by... or football teams. I wish I knew what the Masonic significance was. There was a stage at the end of the room with a podium and mikes set up, a table with some projection equipment and raffle prizes which drew our eyes to the number 15, sitting on our table, front row centre in front of the stage.

The hall was filled with long lines of tables, adorned with vases of tall brightly coloured silk orchids. The scrapping of plastic chairs rang out as people claimed seats along the flimsy coloured poly table cloths dotted with our appetisers for the evening, little bowls of nuts, chips and lollies. We stopped at the bar on our way to our table, to be asked if we would find a seat and bring back the empty glass at our pace, a job I was quick to fulfil.

As the event progressed, we appreciated the resourcefulness of this bunch of dedicated volunteers on a shoestring budget. This Masonic Lodge kindly loans their venue to the FAW for free for their regular meetings, workshops and events, which caused us to review the room in a new light. We warmed to the venue, and appreciated the efforts, as we listened to them speak about the passion of the wholly volunteer staff of FAW who’s focus is supporting Australian writers of all ages and genres within the limited resources they have to hand. Their work is commendable.

Not that we need to name drop - but Chris and Sue Marsters were there (Sue fresh from winning a Logie - both of them investigative journalists - having worked on Four Corners, Date Line, Insiders etc) just to reinforce the calibre of those associated with FAW. Chris won the FAW Excellence in Non-Fiction Award and spoke very highly of the work of FAW.

We were seated at a table with other award winning Tasmanians young and old – the organiser mentioned to Rose, there must be something in the water in Tasmania as an inordinate number of Tasmanian writers had won awards this year.  I was pleased to see people there from all over the country - Cairns, Perth and other interstate winners. 

We had a Mother and Son across from us - the Son was the winner of two awards. The Mother’s unbridled exuberance soon necessitated my quick return to the bar but she did provide some interesting suggestions on places to look for competitions and submissions, then the lights dimmed and the awards started. 

I kept sniffing the air hopeful for a hint of what dinner would bring, or even that it was imminent, rueful we hadn’t had a snack before we came. The awards went solidly for an hour as everyone was called forward who had won anything from a commendation to the winners. Most folks gave a quick thank you, but here was still a fair pile of envelopes on the table when they broke for dinner at 8.

Our award was called mid way before dinner, and up I went, thankful I didn’t stumble on the steps, and was given first go at the mike - which I took.  Don't worry, I was quick - thanking FAW on behalf of the group for the honour and expressing our thanks for the encouragement and validation this award provided to pursue our various creative writing projects.

Rose thought the most tiresome part of the night was queuing for the food, for me it was the wait, as we were the last table called  number15 (for crying out loud) so didn't eat until around 8:30. I considered eating my shoe at one point, but was glad I waited for the roast dinner, which was tasty and well presented.  

I would have liked to see the kids get called for their awards earlier as they weren’t presented after we started up again around 9. It was really encouraging to see so many kids interested in writing, most of which after thanking family and friends remembered to say a special thank you to an encouraging teacher - and to FAW for organising the competitions for them to enter.

We enjoyed the whole adventure but admittedly we did bolt at the end of the evening, feeling the strain of our 3:30 wake up call, but both felt the trip was worth it.

That special moment which came when our group's name was called, drove home the satisfaction from being acknowledged, and having worked on something, which an external audience had enjoyed.  Well done "Write Offs".