Friday night was a super special occasion. The annual QUT Creative Writing Gala is an exclusive do held at Avid Reader Bookshop and Cafe in West End. At first I felt pretty out of place – I arrived early and found myself teeter-tottering in high heels near a group of my ultra-suave tutors and lecturers. Finally, the venue filled with other final year undergrads and postgrad students. Never before was there a bunch of kookier or more awesome people in one place.
The Avid Reader venue is ideally suited for book events. We walk through the bookshop out onto a terrace set up with a mic for our guest speakers and an open bar. We were well-fed all evening with trays of finger foods.
The gala is the night that the winners of the QUT Undergrad and Postgrad Writing Prizes are announced. My friend Katerina Gibson’s short story, ‘Nesting’, was shortlisted for the undergrad prize. When her name was called as the winner, the crowd exploded with applause. As well as $1000 in prize money, her work is soon to be published in Kill Your Darlings literary journal. This is a big break for an emerging writer, and I am so glad she’s receiving this recognition.
The final highlight of the night was getting to meet author, Susan Johnson. I read her novel, My Hundred Lovers, earlier this year. It came at a perfect time of my life to challenge me to think and feel deeply about myself. I’ve been desperate to meet her, but I narrowly missed out twice since she’s been busy with the launch of her new novel, The Landing. When I saw Susan among the crowd, my heart fluttered before I second-guessed myself. The only picture I’d seen of her was a photo on her book’s back cover. It doesn’t prepare you at all for actually standing face to face with her. Her eyes and smile hold an intensity that a posed author pic can’t capture.
You might relate to the feeling of wanting one of your favourite celebrities to really notice you. I keep forgetting that writers aren’t like most celebrities. Instead of experiencing constant harassment from screaming fans, writers have quiet and isolated existences, struggling alone at a laptop or note pad and even forgetting sometimes that there’s a bigger context beyond. I was humbled by the gratefulness and sincerity with which Susan Johnson greeted me. I didn’t have the words to express how much My Hundred Lovers means to me, but I was glad to have at last met her.
So there you have it. Watch out for Katerina Gibson’s story in Kill Your Darlings in the near future! And if you haven’t already, please seek out Susan Johnson’s books and treat yourself to her confronting but beautiful writing. Don’t forget to add me as your Writing Buddy for National Novel Writing Month!