Directors of Long Way Home writing competition Erin Brady and Claire Aman
Directors of Long Way Home writing competition Erin Brady and Claire Aman

Winners of Long Way Home Short Story competition announced

THE 2019 bushfires were front of mind for Nymboida writer Tommy Welham when he distilled his bushfire experiences into his story, Watermark.

The 37-year old’s life-changing experience and prose saw him take out this year’s Long Way Home short story competition.

“It was something you’ll probably never see again, that fire,” Tommy said.

“I wanted to get it out of myself, but also to give it to others, to help.”

Tommy’s story will be published in Stories from the Clarence Valley 2020, along with 48 Clarence Valley stories selected from the competition’s largest field to date.

Two other outstanding writers to join Tommy as winners in the annual Clarence Valley writing competition are St Mary’s Year 6 student Lucinda Ryder and McAuley College Year 11 student Jacqueline Samms. Both stories also featured bushfire themes.

“The competition theme was land/marks,” Long Way Home co-founder Claire Aman said.

“We thought people might use the idea to talk about the fires which affected so many of us but we didn’t want to force it. As it turned out, we received many bushfire stories. The fires changed landscapes and lives in a terrible way. What could you do but write.

“The winning stories are all deeply moving. In Tommy’s magnificent story, ‘the rockfaces along the river’s edge bear the verses of seasons past – grey lines from floods, a crust of flotsam, and now a layer of charred leaves and bark, messages of death from kilometres away’.

“Jacqueline’s story is of running from a fire, returning to see what is left, a time that ‘will

forever mark our hearts and history’.

“Lucinda’s story is a heartfelt lament for ‘burnt country, burnt land, burnt history’.”

Nina Bibby from Wooli Public School won second place in the primary school category with

Once Upon a Colourful Canvas, a beautiful, imaginative tale.

Third place was Poppy Ross’s Exploring Peters Ice Cream Factory, a clever story about a

true Grafton landmark.

In the high school category, McAuley College’s Harmony Rose Swain-Davies earned second

place for The Art of Eye Contact, a story of urban loneliness.

Third place went to The Fig, by Ryder Gorring of Grafton High School, for his tale of history

and conservation starring a fig tree, a landmark to be respected.

“There were some imaginative connections with the land/marks idea,” Claire said.

“Writers wrote about the damaging marks left by humans on land, the historic landmark of

COVID-19, the sideline marks on a football field. There’s trauma, drama, humour, the

mysterious and the fabulous, and more iconic fig trees.”

Co-founder Erin Brady said she was delighted at the quality of the 2020 competition entries.

“Running though all these stories is a really strong sense of place,” Erin said.

“We are inspired by our rivers, coast, farms, bushland, skies. The Long Way Home

Competition, now in its third year, just keeps on discovering more writing talent rising from

our loved Clarence valley landscapes. We take our hats off to all the writers who took the

time to write a story and send it to us.’

The book Stories from the Clarence Valley 2020 will be published in November. It will

include stories by 49 Clarence Valley writers including adults, primary and high school

students. A totally homegrown book, it will be available from Grafton Book Warehouse,

South Grafton News and Gifts and The Nook Yamba.

The Long Way Home 2020 winners

Open category: First Tommy Welham, Nymboida

High school: First Jacqueline Samms (McAuley High School), second Harmony Rose Swain-Davies (McAuley High School), third Ryder Gorring, (Grafton High School)

Primary school: First Lucinda Ryder (St Mary’s Grafton Primary School), second Nina Bibby (Wooli Public School), third Poppy Ross, (Grafton Public School)

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