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Anneliese Poelsma on winning the 2014 Ada Cambridge Biographical Prose Prize

Anneliese Poelsma was the 2014 joint winner of the Ada Cambridge Biographical Prose Prize. 

She reflects on the impact of her win and creative life in Hobsons Bay.

‘Winning the Adas was life changing for me. For as long as I can remember I wanted to write a book of short stories and have it published, and I would promise myself every year that over the summer I would do it. But I always came up with excuses and reasons not to do it; I know now that I didn’t really believe in myself as a writer. After winning with my story ‘fly’, I suddenly felt this force behind me, pushing me forward, and it was bigger than any excuse I could come up with not to just sit down and do the hard slog. And so I did, I wrote five stories and published them along with ‘fly’ as a collection titled ‘fly and other stories’. It was a wonderful feeling to take that risk and get my writing out there, and to be able to ignore that inner critic, or to use it to extract the best work out of myself.

‘fly and other stories’ is an exploration of the darker sides of the human mind, of the living nightmares of everyday life. But it is also about hope, about how people can cling onto hope and search for joy in the most dire of circumstances, and refuse to give up their struggle. In some stories the character emerges triumphant and in others they don’t, but in each story they fight to the end. As dark as some of the stories are, they show a fighting spirit, however misguided and sad the character might be.

Ada captured the Williamstown of her time in her writing and art, and I think that’s one of the most special things about writing, that it reflects the rhythm and song of a time and place, from a myriad of different angles, so through reading you can endlessly discover all these little nuances and feelings and experiences attached to that place.

I moved to Altona three years ago and I am amazed at the number of artists, writers and musicians who live in the west. There is always something going on, there seems to be this endless celebration of creativity. It is an environment where I have found myself producing more art than at any other time in my life (I also write and illustrate comics and paint). It’s a great place to live and I’m glad I moved here and became eligible to enter the Adas. I also love that entry is free, so anyone who lives in the west can have a go.’

Applications for the 2015 Ada Cambridge writing competitions close on Sunday 1 March 2015.