In 2022, the Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP) and Westerly Magazine came together to offer a joint prize for Life Writing. This competition was open for writers at all stages of their journeys; both emerging and established authors were encouraged to enter.
In judging the prize, we considered Life Writing as a rumination upon memory and experience, and welcomed submissions of autobiography, biography, memoir and essay. We received a rich and brilliant catalogue of entries and were particularly enthused by creative and hybrid approaches which crossed the traditional boundaries of non-fiction and creative non-fiction. As our judges’ report below indicates, the field was extremely competitive.
Today, we are thrilled to announce a winner: Suzanne Hermanoczki, for her masterful essay ‘Doors’! Suzanne will receive $500 and consideration for publication in Westerly, alongside a subscription to the Magazine. Congratulations, Suzanne!
‘Doors’ is a multi-modal work which reflects upon a stay with family in Hungary. The combination of text and image in this piece enhances its evocative and encompassing descriptions.
Suzanne is a writer and teacher of creative writing. Her writing on place, identity, trauma and immigrants, has been published locally and internationally. She first began studying writing while living and working in Hong Kong. She holds a PhD and Masters in Creative Writing from The University of Melbourne.
‘Doors’ is an associative work told mostly in the second person, and through a layering of text and image. The essay is powerfully written, feels both timely and prescient given its ruminations on Soviet occupation, and is strangely chilling too—thanks, perhaps, to the questions it asks of history, memory and representation. Like the various mise-en-abymes it references and works through, the experience of reading ‘Doors’ offers at once a narrowing and a widening; a filtering and an opening. We were thrilled when we first came across it in the submissions pool, and found it growing, and growing again, as we came back to it. The author is to be commended for their technical felicity and storytelling acumen, as well as for their ability to hold the gaze of the reader. Often mercilessly. The consideration of authors such as Szabo and Bachelard adds critical depth too, and helps to build an intricacy which tips, on occasion, into paranoia. This kind of complication is what held us, and what helped us choose ‘Doors’ from a thick and brilliant catalogue of entries. It is an intelligent and masterful consideration of portals, vision and closings and openings.
We would like to thank all those writers who shared their work with us, and wish them best of luck in their future endeavours. Special mention must go to the author of ‘Avatar’, which was our second-place choice, alongside the highly commended works ‘Herinnering’ and ‘Dresses, heavy with water’. There was so much variety in this year’s entries, and so much beauty, which made the choosing of a winner exceptionally difficult. Thank you, too, to the AAWP for partnering with Westerly in offering this prize.