Aesthetica celebrates the work of writers through its Creative Writing Award, championing outstanding short fiction that demonstrates creative content and quality of form. Now in its eighth year, the Award supports writers who are longlisted for the Award and publishes their selected works in the Creative Writing Annual. We look in depth at short fiction writer Gemma Hawdon and present an extract from her selected story.
Gemma Hawdon lives in Melbourne, Australia, and writes lifestyle articles and content for magazines and websites across Australia and internationally. Seashell Washed Up In A Storm was one of the first short stories she found the courage to enter for competition, so she was thrilled to have it selected as a finalist.
Since then, she’s submitted her completed work Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure, Hiraeth to a few agents for consideration. Hawdon says “being selected as a finalist in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award gave me confidence in my writing as well as having a notable achievement to include in my biography for cover letters.” She also writes a blog and has just begun writing another book.
Seashell Washed Up In A Storm
I’m not proud of the girl I was, I shed her carcass long ago. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way, when it’s too late and we’re left broken with no choice but to change, to rebuild ourselves, stronger… warier… wiser.
I don’t come into the schoolyard as often as I should, my son now old enough not to care, but occasionally I’m compelled to; a mother needs to know what goes on in her child’s life. It’s stifling hot and the bell clangs as I reach the school gates, children spilling onto the tarmac like oil in a hot pan. I see my son through the crowds, school bag slung over his shoulder. He’s tossing his head back laughing, hand flung to his mouth like he’s just learned a dirty secret. The usual gang swaggers at his side; boys with lacquered hair and shirts that hang loose, girls with their skirts pulled short, chatting and laughing openly… trustingly. The girls apply lip-gloss, fiddle with their hair and recover bracelets and bangles from their bags, slipping them around their soft, pale wrists.
A teacher is waving me down, tottering over in heels that clink on the tarmac. She’s smiling as though she knows me. “Hi there, I’m Danny’s new English teacher.”
I recognize her voice, that same nasal tone. She’s an older, crotchety version of who she used to be, posture stiffened, hips widened, skin hardened by creases. My hand latches to my neck. “Hi, nice to meet you.”
She’s studying me closely beneath her red-rimmed glasses. “You don’t remember me do you? Mrs Lewis? I taught you at Clifton Hill.”
“Of course… Mrs Lewis. It’s been years. How are you?”
Her cheekbones have hollowed out, bony like a cat’s. Her eyes drift slowly up my body. “You haven’t changed much,” she says. “What have you been doing with yourself all these years?”
Out of all the schools, she had to pick this one.
“I’m a receptionist… at a gym.”
“Really?” She pulls her glasses low on her nose and stares over the top, her eyes a kaleidoscope of colours. “I always imagined you’d be a dancer.” She glances towards the grass oval where Danny is pushing a girl around, laughing. The girl’s skirt is too tight, clinging to her thighs like the skin of a plum.
“Can’t have been easy,” she says. “Raising him so young.”
The sun beats down on my head. The tips of trees shake against the stark, blue sky, trapped in the blinding heat. Parents swoop in and out of the schoolyard carting their kids to lives beyond. Out on the oval, Danny piles on top of the girl and they roll around under the shade of a huge oak tree. The girl breaks free and leaps to her feet, throwing her hips about, hair long and loose. Danny is watching, sprawled out on his back.
Pick up a copy of the Annual to read the full story: www.aestheticamagazine.com/shop#cw
Enter the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award at www.aestheticamagazine.com/creativewriting. Entry is £10 and permits the submission of two works into one category. Submissions close 31 August 2014.
Prizes include publication; a consultation with a fiction agency and a poetry organisation; £500 prize money for each category winner; a selection of books courtesy of Vintage and Bloodaxe Books, and a subscription to Granta.
1. Maren C Raaum Gyllenhammar, Life, Interrupted. Aesthetica Art Prize 2014: Three Dimensional Design & Sculpture Longlist. Courtesy of the artist and Aesthetica.
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