As I hinted last week, I am pleased to announce that I have achieved my very first writing competition win! 🙂 The +CultureShots writing competition was open to entrants who work in the partner institutions where the project takes place – of which Manchester Museum (where I work) is one. The project itself promotes the benefits of engaging in cultural experiences in order to improve health and wellbeing, and partners museums, art galleries and hospitals to arrange events for patients. The topic for the competition was ‘changes’ and thanks to the writing exercise that I mentioned in my blog post recently, I was able to put together a submission of 700 words titled ‘The Memorial Tree’ that the judges felt worthy to take second place.
As a result not only will the piece be published on the Health and Culture website and Lime Arts website but it should also be included in hospital magazine, Insight. But, there is also another element to this competition that makes it all the more glorious to be a part of. Each of the top three entries will be performed. What this means is that we as the writers get the chance to be partnered with a professional performance artist in order to bring our words to life. Each of these will then be performed on site in the hospitals for patients and staff to come and see. Not only this, but the performance is also scheduled into the opening celebration week for the refurbished Whitworth Art Gallery (in February 2015).
This is a massive achievement for me and I feel so excited and privileged to be able to contribute both to the +CultureShots programme and be a small part of the re-opening of a major art gallery in Manchester. When I was told the news I was also lucky enough to receive some feedback on my entry, and I was immensely flattered by the comments made:
Of all the things this competition win provides – impressive ‘prizes’ of performance notwithstanding – these three sentences are possibly the most valuable for me as a writer. To be informed I have a ‘style’, that my intended metaphor was recognised and understood and that my use of language is both poetic and provides good imagery – it’s overwhelmingly validating. Especially for such a short piece. When I submitted it I did not think it would get noticed. I worried that perhaps it was too focused on nostalgic themes of loss and bereavement and that the judges might be looking for something more upbeat to promote. But I am so glad I entered.
In many ways I needed this recognition. I was beginning to feel disheartened and feared that perhaps I was just not good enough to be recognised. Yet, this opportunity has reassured me that – even though I am still learning – I can do it. Not only that, but the support and reaction from my work colleagues – who, when they found out about the win, asked to read the story – has built my confidence. The chance to see my words performed is exciting and surreal. The fact that the organisers want me to attend performances so that staff, visitors and patients can ‘meet the writer’ has me befuddled: because that writer is me. And the opportunity to collaborate with a professional performer (especially one whose name I recognise because I admire her work) is a particularly rare experience.
All in all, I’m glad this was my first competition success. Not only is it special because it takes place in the arena of my non-writing work-place, but the special honour of having my words performed makes it particularly unique for me. I’ve got some exciting meetings coming up to meet the performers and other winners, not to mention the actual performances: but, I’ll keep you updated via the blog and Twitter. And as soon as the story is published online, I’ll let you know so you can see for yourself if the judges’ assessment is accurate – Click here to read the story!