Second Place Umoja Writing Competition 2016 – Stirring by Kirsten Leggett of Tasmania.
This is the first year we’ve included poetry and the first time a poem has been shortlisted. Of course you’ve heard of Kirsten before because she is last year’s winner. Congratulations to Kirsten for another wonderful entry. It looks like she will have a bright future in writing of all genres. Here is what the judges thought:
“Fabulous use of visual imagery, nouns, groups and figurative language. A fantastic poem, well written. Poems of this quality are difficult to write.”
“Poems, like all art, are subjective. I enjoyed the flow and wording and found it quite beautiful.”
The mountain looked beautiful this morning as the first rays of the sun bounced off its snowy face, its blushing cheeks turned skyward in the presence of peace.
I thought of you nestled in the gentle folds of its rocky slopes, on the leeward side tucked up in the warmth of blankets, dreams forming into memory.
Did you stir as the Currawong opened its eyes to a new day?
Perched in the forest that nudges your door.
Its feathers ruffled by frost bitten breath.
Did you sense the stealth of the winter air rolling over the mountain?
Overwhelming tree tops to seep under doors and slide between the crack that wedges dawn.
Did you pull the blanket a little closer to grasp another minute,
two or three, and linger in the gentle rhythm of the rising sun and the falling moon?
On this perfect day.
Did you feel as though you were held, just there, in that moment in time against the heaving heart of Mother Earth? If only for a second, with nothing but bricks and mortar between you.
We are proud to announce third place in the Umoja Writing Competition 2016.
Comments from our judges:
“This narrative really captured my attention and pulled at the hear strings. This is the job of a narrative. Well-structured and flowed well.”
“This was probably my top pick. I like the descriptive language and, yes, I did shed a tear or two. I felt like I was in the room with them. I also think the theme ‘peace’ was used perfectly.”
Now it’s your turn to read our third placed entry. Please let us know what you think in the comments below. You could also congratulate Kirsten on her writing.
Left Behind by Kirsten Leggett from Tasmania
I sat beside her bed with her hand in mine; hers wrinkled with age and with lines of wisdom etched into the folds. Her skin was thin these days, speckled with the countless hours in the sun, the time spent tending gardens, pegging washing on the line, holding the hands of her children, her grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I was here to say goodbye, to my grandmother but I could not seem to find the words. We had never had this problem in the past. Talking was never hard, like the heaviness of this moment, as though my heart was being dragged along the bottom of the ocean floor dredging up memories. Now, I felt the weight of this moment above me, bearing down on the inevitable.
She motioned with her free hand towards the drawer beside her bed, her eyes barely open and fixed on mine.
“Everyone must leave something behind,” she whispered. “My journal is yours darling; my last gift to you. You will know what to do with it when the time is right.”
I reached into the drawer and my fingers found the familiar feel of the black leather, smooth and worn from the years of my grandmother’s touch. I had run my hand over its surface so many times over the years, as I sat with her in her living area where she would write in the morning sun that streamed through her window. The past few years she had been documenting so much of her life, and the pages were brimming with memories, the ones too precious to abandon. I brought it out of its resting place and under the low light opened the cover. The scent of my grandmother rose from the pages, a blend of talcum powder and French lavender clinging to the animal hide that formed the bookends to her past. Each page was meticulously marked with a date, a memory, a reminder of a life lived. She no longer battled against the ailing this and failing that. That war was over. She had arrived at this place of surrender, and willingly so it seemed from the outside. She was done.
I can still hear the phantom words of the nursing staff; a gentle touch on my shoulder. “She will be at peace soon.”
Peace? A word so often associated with conflict and resolution I thought.
My grandmother’s words echoed in my conscience, “Life is not meant to be a battle. It is a joy, hardships and all. Embrace them as you would a new born child. We are the product of our life experience”.
I turned the page to see a photograph of my grandmother in her twenties, perched on the hood of a car, smiling into the sun as though she had just discovered the meaning of life, shards of light dancing around her, captured through the lens. It was the same photo that sat on top of her piano, nestled deep inside the confines of a mahogany frame, the one that lights up with the morning rays, and then fades back to a lingering memory as the sun passes over rooftops to settle in the west.
I wondered what I would leave behind, when it was time for me to leave this earth. How long would I linger in the memories of those I love? I know for a fact that I will always live on in the hearts of my children, and their children should I be lucky enough to see them born into this world. I wonder if I too will marvel at how advanced children are these days and how much has changed with the passing of time. With emerging wisdom will I see how precious each moment is, and treasure each milestone as they first smile, grow their first tooth and stumble and totter as they find their feet in this world? Their children may not remember me for I will be just a name, another story of a loved mother and grandmother like an ancient legend read from the pages of a story book. I would be no more than words left on pages, the source of genetic markers and colloquial sayings, my sentiments passed like a baton through generations.
Yet somehow, amongst this wondering I know my essence will remain, in the walls of the house I loved, the saplings that grew tall under my nurturing, and on the mountain trails I walked. Here I will linger, where the flowers burst forth under the mounting pressure of spring, where others too will pass, stop and stoop low to rest a paper thin petal on the tip of their finger and say, “My, look how beautiful you are.” I wonder, on the day that my spirit returns home, will the forest dance and sway in the mountain mist and whisper on the wind “Yes, she found it, all that she had been longing for.”
As I turn another page, a flattened sprig of lavender falls to my lap and my grandmother closes her eyes. I kiss her gently on the forehead. “I see you found it too,” and we sat in the presence of peace, together, just one more time.
Congratulations to Kirsten for again entering a well-written and engaging story. It was a pleasure to read it.
The shortlist for Umoja Writing Competition is decided by our judge Deb Lawrence who is a wonderful educator and deputy principal and myself. Thanks again to Deb for being involved in the Umoja Writing Competition.
Our shortlisted entries are in no particular order:
Peace – an essay
Congratulations to these entries. Very soon you’ll find out who wrote them and be able to read them on this blog.
We’d also like to than all the writers who entered. Though you may have not been shortlisted it doen’t mean you aren’t all talented writers. The standard was exceptionally high. Keep writing and enjoying the creative process.
Due to unforeseeable circumstances we are yet to announce our winner. We will be announcing in October, so if you’ve entered good luck and you should hear something once we do announce a winner. Once again thank you to those who entered and raise valuable funds for Umoja Orphanage Kenya.
Here’s another writing quote to keep you motivated to write in the meanwhile:
Entries have now closed for this year’s competition. Thank you to the wonderful writers who have entered. Though the entry fee is small your money goes a long way helping the Umoja Orphanage Kenya Project. Winners will be announced in October. Good luck to those who have entered. Keep coming back so you can read the winning story.
We have to share the most exciting news that the first children have arrived at Umoja Orphanage Kenya. It’s five years to the day that Cathy Booth founded the project. Fundraising ventures like this writing competition contribute to the orphanage. Without these and all the wonderful volunteers the orphanage would not be available to these gorgeous kids who need a home desperately. It’s wonderful to see Cathy’s dream come to life. If you’d like to be a part of it you can encourage your friends to enter this competition. Every little bit helps. I’d like to thank those writers who have already entered, some have even entered twice and donated extra (above the small entry fee) and that is just fantastic. Time is running out so encourage your writing friends and hurry up and enter.
To read the full newsletter about the progress at Umoja Orphanage Kenya Project click on this link NEWSLETTER.
This competition is a small stone in the ocean compared to the other ways you can help the project. You can sponsor a child or equipment for the project, you can even volunteer to travel to Africa to help build the orphanage. So many options to help out. If you don’t want to enter this but want to help just go to Umoja Home to get the full story. The main reason I started this competition was to fund raise for the project but ultimately raising awareness for the project and the bigger things people can do to help is what matters, so I don’t care if you don’t enter as long as you do support the project in some way.
However, if you do love writing – why not enter?
You have the fun of testing your writing skills with the wonderful theme of ‘peace’ and you’ll feel great knowing that you’ve donated to a very worthy, wonderful cause.
I’d like to congratulate Cathy and her team for everything they’ve achieved so far. There’s so much more to do but I know they’ll do it.
And a big welcome to the Umoja children. We all hope you enjoy your new safe home (pictures of them are in the newsletter).
Lots of people think writers live in a dream world, constantly thinking up stories.
It’s not really like that because there’s a lot of thinking that never turns into a story. Ideas twist and turn around a writer’s brain a bit like clay in a sculptures hand, until those ideas turn into actual writing.
Sometimes getting a story down takes years, like a researched novel or life story. Sometimes a story takes moments of scribbled ideas.
It doesn’t matter where your thinking goes as long as you don’t procrastinate. If you procrastinate you can kid yourself that you will write that story one day (and never actually do it).
So even if your thinking hasn’t got you to a full-formed story, just start writing. If you don’t put pen to paper or start tapping on the keyboard your ideas will forever remain in your brain and you can never share them that way.
It’s just like this competition. If you have been thinking you had plenty of time to start and you’re still thinking about it – start your writing now.
And on that note – get your entry in before it’s too late.
Remember this competition is about encouraging writing but it’s also a fundraiser for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Please help them by entering.