Friday, September 26, 2014

Beautiful losers

So I packed my lucky shoes, put on my lucky undies and headed for the city. I drove for five hours to my lucky editor's house, took a quick shower and was ferried to the Prime Minister's Book Prize at the West Australian Museum.
(Sorry but there are no photos here of my lucky undies.)

My daughter Pearlie was supposed to meet me there but she'd got into the city and was busy street preaching so it took half an hour to find her.
I can see you, she texted, I'm with a brother. I'll be with you soon.

The first bad omen was the table of name tags. Pearlie and I went from A to Z and could not find my name. The host was embarrassed.  Eventually I was given an Invited Guest name tag.


Then I listened as the first category winners read out their pre-prepared speeches.

Mmm. Loser.

Anyway, as most folk will know by now, I didn't win the Premier's Prize in the emerging author's category. Yvette Walker, for her beautiful work Letters to the End of Love won. But I got to hang out at a party with the glitteratii, and fuck it, this part of being shortlisted thing is heaps of fun. Richard Flanagan killed it when it came to winners and by the time I jumped in front of him and said "HI!", he was so buzzed he had no choice but to talk to me.
He liked me. I could see that. We talked about fish and the Southern Ocean and then I wished him best of luck for the Booker. He wanted to know about fish - and fishing - and so I talked to the man who wrote Gould's Book of Fish about salmon, mullet, herring and KG whiting and how we used to catch them.

At about the same time, a fellow loser who'd written a riveting north west ship wreck narrative said: "'Drive home safely?'  Yeah right mate! We're hitting letterboxes and rubbish bins the whole way home!"

and then, all of the winners left for a dinner together and I went to the hotel room I'd booked in Northbridge. I filled up the spa bath (which struck me as a terrible waste of water) and sank into it because I'd paid for it. Later, when I went downstairs and on to the street for a cigarette, a FIFO bloke asked me for a rollie.
He was from South Australia. He really wanted his son to come and work up north with him. He was worried about how his son would cope with the culture shock. He worked in the heath system and was hoping to get his kid into bar work. He left me, walking, saying "I'll see what is happening on William street."

I'd started telling him about why I'd driven north that day. About not winning ten thousand bucks. About losing. As he left, I really wished I'd given in to my bastardy instinct and gatecrashed the winners' dinner.


  1. Good to hear you had some fun in your lucky shoes and lucky undies (maybe I need to get a pair); and congrats on coming as far as you have. At any rate, I can't imagine this will be your last shot at something like this.

    What sort of street-preaching does Pearlie do? Or is it best not to ask?

  2. Oh Sarah, you shine through in this post! It was a fabulous night, and I'm envious of your conversation with Richard Flanagan! I don't know much about fishing, but I did love both Gould's Book of Fish AND Salt Story so could have joined in after a few champagnes, I'm sure!

    It was fab to meet you and your beautiful daughter, and look forward to the next time.

    Losers, but still winners :)


    1. absolutely Dawn. How lovely to see you here!
      And wasn't it great?
      From a fellow big fat loser/winner

  3. Lucky undies will always get you unstuck Alex :~)

    Pearlie is part of a fundi, missionary church.
    That is all.

  4. Well this isn't called the 'human race' for nothing - but I don't participate in that. Sorry, you will get no balm for you battered ego here - or platitudes. Maybe it's because I am a bad loser but I decided decades ago that art competitions, or any for that matter, were bullshit. Judging apples against pears - especially if you aren't simply talking about who has the fastest time, or jumped the highest. It's all part of a system that controls people by dividing them into winners and losers. But at least you took advantage of the situation and enjoyed the spa and the people - that's the bit that really matters. Oh yeah, and writing about something you were really passionate about.

  5. Maybe it came across as a battering of the sore loser ego, but honestly I was hamming that bit up. It was great fun! And, as Dawn commented - we were listed. Yes. And a night like that is just good material for me to work with.
    Being invited to the awards night and Big Sky are two huge motivations for me. Gotta finish that next book :~)

  6. Yes - that next book! I was talking to one of the locals. She is about your age and belongs to one of the original farming families with ties to the fishing industry here. A lot like you - been a deckie, works on the farm and has just 'come home'. Sounds like there are many more fishing tales to tell.