A murder in a cemetery, a time travel drug and a tattoo artist all feature in a speculative novel by postgraduate English student Angelique Kasmara.
Angelique is this year’s recipient of the Sir James Wallace Creative Writing Prize, a $5000 award given annually to the student judged most outstanding in the University’s year-long Master of Creative Writing course.
She says winning the prize “hasn’t quite sunk in yet”.
“I have no idea why I was chosen, there are some really talented writers in my class. I feel very grateful.”
Coming from a varied background which has included writing for magazines, translating, film and TV research and working with people with disabilities, she says she took the course with the aim of getting her manuscript Isobar Precinct to publishing standard.
“I found it well-structured and helpful. The ‘round table' workshops every week lifted my work to a higher standard and improved the quality of my own feedback when it came to other people's work. Good critiques are a gift.”
She was also impressed with course convenor Dr Paula Morris, who as an award-winning novelist, short story writer and essayist herself, is well placed to offer insights into the writing life.
“It was good to see Paula in action, she has a 'take no prisoners' attitude to workshopping and is so thorough.”
She says course highlights were definitely the regular guest speakers, two of whom were internationally known fiction writers Elizabeth McCracken and Michel Faber, as well as several people from the publishing world who gave students “an inkling of the challenges to come”.
One of which, in Angelique’s case, was the difficulties of finding childcare for her pre-schooler and therefore having limited time to write.
“My son was on all these waiting lists but didn't get placed until my final deadline was over, so my writing schedule was 9pm to 2am every night!”
Paula Morris says that while the field this year was strong, Angelique was a clear favourite to take the prize.
“Angelique has something very special as a writer, and this generous award will help her to finish her novel.”
One of the judges, Distinguished Professor Brian Boyd, said Angelique “has real narrative bite, her imagery is first rate, often surprising and at times quite revelatory (and diverse in angle of attack), and the characters connect in ways that count”.
The next step for Angelique is finishing her novel and getting it published.