Sutton Writers member – and former Chair – Ann Pattison was a judge at the Sutton Women’s Centre’s writing competition for International Women’s Day. Here are her thoughts on the talented women in our borough.
I was very honoured to be asked to lead the judging panel for the writing competition run by Sutton Women’s Centre and to present the prizes on the day itself at Cryer Arts in Carshalton. With a dozen adult entries of a very high standard it was not easy to pick the best three, but I advised my fellow judges to pick stories or poems that they could still remember the next day, which has always seemed to be a good test of the impact of a piece of writing.
The writers picked some excellent themes: fight, flight or freeze, a travel piece describing how the author froze when cornered by hyenas in Ethiopia; a story of how a mother is able to connect with her son’s partner, who has just had a miscarriage, by sharing her own sad experience; a tale of a ghost baker two generations back; a poignant memoir about surviving the after-effects of a brain tumour. There were some excellent character portraits too: an Alzheimer’s sufferer finds her little girl has gone missing; a librarian on a cruise ship has her status snatched away from her by one of the officers; a woman who runs out of a party where her husband is flirting with another woman and decides to die on the operating table after being hit by a truck; an actor whose artist boyfriend half-strangled her and encounters him again many years after she ran away; and a poem about a woman grieving for her doggy best friend.
We were all impressed by the poem about surviving domestic abuse and by the heart-rending and powerfully written account of the foster child now on her eighteenth placement and pregnant to boot. In this story there was a stunning image of a snake that had eaten her mother from the inside – the writer vows that she will not let it destroy her.
The piece that transported me to another place was The Sea, the Moon and the Light, which describes how ‘Sometimes Elizabeth time travels’ back to happy times in Hong Kong. The highly accomplished writer achieves this by invoking the reader’s senses – you can just taste those dumplings and mooncakes and breathe in the saltiness of the sea as she does. After IVF and miscarriage, she does have a child but only one, though she would dearly love more. It’s not to be, but the boy’s toothy grin as he tells her he can see the moon from the shore helps her to be achieve contentment.
The children’s entries were a delight to read and some of the writers were as young as four. The girls wrote of their hopes and dreams: becoming a chef, a firefighter, a writer, a zookeeper, a footballer and a pilot. The stories were full of animals, unicorns, dragons and griffins, and people chopping down forests and key themes were kindness and the nature of beauty. Our favourite was about a little girl who tamed a dragon, but we also really liked the tale of the teacher who gave a girl a second chance.
Sutton Women’s Centre holds a monthly Creative Writers Group which meets on the third Tuesday of each month at the Centre, 3 Palmerston Road, SM1 4QL. Judging by the quality of the writing I saw, the group is well worth attending. They also run a short course on Writing for Wellbeing. The next one starts in April. For details see www.suttonwomen.co.uk.