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Rebecca Jessen

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October 2015

TWENTY (Just The Way It Is)

I received my family inheritance young. I remember this, I’m ten, it’s a quiet Sunday afternoon, around four or five. Mum pushes a few coins into my hands and asks me to walk across the road to the servo and buy some milk. I agree, I don’t recall if there’s something in it for me, fifty cents, maybe. I’m wearing my new favourite outfit, a pink ribbed singlet and a pair of pink shorts – this is hard to admit, even now. I leave the house with the coins jingling in my pocket, I reach the end of our street and I stand looking across the busy road at the servo. It might be a 7/11.

I know that it’s where I have to go. I know I have agreed to this task and I didn’t have to. But something in my mind makes my feet stop working. I look left, then right, then left again. I watch the people in the cars rushing by me without a care in the world. They aren’t stuck. They keep moving. Just go to the lights and cross, I tell myself. Don’t be stupid. But still, I stand there, not moving, just watching. I watch the cars enter the 7/11, I watch the people who get out of the cars and enter the store. Some of them leave with milk and bread, some leave with nothing.

I turn around and run home. When I get home I am breathless and empty handed.

‘Where’s the milk?’ Mum asks.

‘I didn’t get it,’ I say.

‘Why?’

‘There was a man,’ I say. ‘He looked scary and I didn’t want to go over there.’

‘Okay,’ Mum says.

I’m relieved, she isn’t angry, she doesn’t demand I go back anyway, she just says okay and takes the money when I give it to her. I have school the next day so Mum tells me to have a bath.

Mum is talking to my dad on the phone when I get out of the bath and she passes the phone on to me. I tell him I’ve just had a bath.

‘Did you dry your hair properly?’ he asks. He always asks me this when he calls. And then he tells me I should get Mum to blow-dry my hair, but I never do.

I hand the phone back to Mum after a while, and when she hangs up I say, ‘Mum?’

‘Yes?’

‘There wasn’t really a man, I made that up. Sorry.’

Mum doesn’t even get angry then, angry that I’ve lied, that I’ve seemingly just refused to go and get the milk. She says it’s fine, she says it doesn’t matter.

When I got home empty handed I didn’t know how to tell her that there wasn’t really anyone scary lurking by. I didn’t know how to say that it’s just what happened in my head when I thought about crossing the road. So I didn’t. I couldn’t. Perhaps, this is where it starts, this obsessive anxiety I’ve inherited.

Winner of the 2015 QLD Premier’s Young Publishers And Writers Award

As many of you will now know, I am totally thrilled to announce that I am one of the winners of the 2015 QLD Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards. The awards were announced at a ceremony at the State Library of QLD last Friday night. There was a wonderful, upbeat vibe at the awards this year, with the Queensland Premier and Minister for the Arts, Annastasia Palaszczuk in attendance, along with Leanne Enoch, Minister for Science and Innovation. The Premier kicked off the ceremony with a wonderful speech about the importance and value of arts in a society, and especially Queensland. I was lucky enough to meet the Premier before the ceremony for a photoshoot, and accept my award from her on stage during the ceremony which was a real thrill.

I would like to congratulate my fellow winner Megan McGrath, and shortlisted writers, Michelle Law, Sam George-Allen, and Andrew McMillen on their incredible achievements. It was a tough field, and an honour to be in such talented company.

During my speech I talked about the importance of receiving such support so early on in my career, and this award recognises the value of doing so. My career as a writer really started for me after winning the 2012 State Library of QLD Young Writers Award, for which I am very grateful. The 2015 winners of the SLQ Young Writers Award were also announced on the night, with Grace McCarter taking out the 18-25 category and Rosie McCrossin taking out the new 15-17 category. You can read both of the winning stories here, along with the runners up and highly commended stories.

I would like to give a big shoutout to the wonderful people at the AMP Foundation, whose AMP Tomorrow Maker grant last year, and continued support and promotion of my work has been a wonderful blessing. Without their continued support I wouldn’t be in the position I am now.

My thanks to the Queensland Literary Awards, and all those involved in keeping it going, the sponsors and patrons, judges and volunteers, the State Library of Queensland, State Librarian Janette Wright, my publisher University of Queensland Press, the O’Hara sisters, my family, friends and peers, and anyone who has ever read and supported my writing.

A special thank you again to my beautiful partner Nike Sulway, whose continued belief and support means the world to me. I said this on Friday night and I’ll say it again, you are my sounding board, you keep me calm, caffeinated and never without my daily fix of cute baby animals. I don’t know where I would be without you.

The official media release and list of winners can be found here. Please share the list with all your friends and contacts and buy the winning and shortlisted titles, readers are what keeps our writing alive.

New Poem in Cordite Poetry Review Issue 51.1 Umami

I’m really pleased to have my poem ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Helicopters’ featured in the latest issue of Cordite Poetry Review: Issue 51.1 Umami, guest edited by Luke Davies. The issue is a collaboration between Cordite Poetry Review and The Lifted Brow – the latter will publish a response of sorts to this issue later this month.

I would recommend reading Luke’s editorial and then checking out the rest of this great issue. I’m still diving in and discovering new and wonderful words. One of my favourites so far is ‘Kacey’ by Andy Jackson. I only recently discovered Andy’s work at the Brisbane Writers Festival last month after hearing him read. There’s something so delicately beautiful about his poems that I can’t help but keep returning to them. Hearing Andy read was a special treat.

Check out the rest of the issue hereRemember to keep an eye out for the second instalment in The Lifted Brow later this month.

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