Like many people, Joe Brown leads a busy lifestyle that doesn’t always leave much time for creative pursuits.
Although she has a deep-rooted love of writing, she admits that her passion has taken a backseat to the demands of family and career.
In fact, when Best Australian Yarn came around, Ms Brown often had just 30 minutes a day to work on her long-listed story Sunset. She now has a one-in-50 chance to win the world’s richest short story prize for professional and amateur writers, and is in the running for the $2,000 Readers’ Choice Award.
“I used to write a lot when I was younger, but as is often the case, life got busy with family and work commitments and I stopped,” Ms Brown said.
“In 2019, after a family holiday, I renewed my creativity and returned to writing. I started slowly at first, trying to fit in where I could.
“I’ve found that I write best in the early morning when the house is quiet.”
The mother-of-three, who works in the banking and finance industry, said joining a local writing group was particularly helpful in honing her skills.
“There are a lot of talented members, and we write together and learn from each other,” she said.
“Last year I attended a writing course by northern suburbs writer David Allan-Petale, who was running the City of Wanneroo. I learned a lot of skills that I put into practice and it really pushed my creativity.”
An initiative of The West Australian in partnership with Andrew and Nicole Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, the Best Australian Yarn competition has received more than 4,700 entries from across Australia since it began in February.
The top 50 will be shortlisted to be announced next month before the winners, including the top prize of $30,000, are announced on November 18.
Ms. Brown’s poignant, sad, and sometimes despairing story follows a woman named Stella as she travels home on the train after another long day. As the sun slowly fades outside the windows, she reflects on the life that has passed her by – creative sparks and simple pleasures that have been swallowed up by the exhaustion and monotony of careers, children and mortgages – culminating in a chance encounter with a young woman playing the cello .
She said she wrote a lot of it on her daily commute into the city for work.
“At home, my daughter was learning to play the cello,” she said. “I put these elements into the story: the train ride to add a sense of monotony, and the cello to give the story a way between now and then.
“I think it’s easy to get lost in the monotony of life and everyday life.
“It’s nice to think that we can have a moment like Stella’s that wakes us up and reminds us that life doesn’t have to be this way.”
She said The Best Australian Nirn making the top 50 has encouraged her to continue to indulge her passion for words.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “It’s definitely a motivation to keep writing.”