The road to the Scarlet Stiletto Awards with Jacqui Horwood

Jacqui, who is shortlisted in this year’s Scarlet Stiletto Awards and a winner of both a Scarlet Stiletto and a Silver Stiletto, reflects on the journey.

The road to the Scarlet Stiletto Awards is a series of moments.

The first moment is when you have a tickle of an idea. A thought, a word, an image that stops you dead in your tracks. You hold the idea up to the light and examine it. Is this possibly the start of a short story? You’re not sure so you live it with for a few days. Think about it obsessively at night when you should be sleeping until at last you are satisfied. My story for this year started as a series of images. Images that had been floating around my head for a number of years. They had finally started to make sense and I could see the outline of a plot emerging.

The writing and the drafting begin as you work towards that next moment. The moment when you add the last full stop and hope that you’ve been able to realize your idea. I work at State Library Victoria and a group of us meet every Thursday lunchtime to write. We call ourselves Write Club. It was with Write Club that my story found life, where my co-writers plotted with me and gave me feedback. It was with them that I had that moment when I read my final draft and thought “Hmm, not too bad”.

That moment of satisfaction is followed closely by the moment of elation when you slide your entry into the letterbox. Not often you get to do that these days. The envelope plummets into a black hole and you walk away, telling yourself to forget about it. Telling yourself you can now move onto something else.

The next moment is the best moment. The phone call. The call that tells you that you’ve been shortlisted. It confirms the feeling you’d had that your story was a good one. No matter what happens next, this moment of validation is monumental. The first time I received that call was in 2003. It was the first time any of my short stories had been shortlisted for a competition. The first time someone other than my mum had said they liked my writing. I was on Cloud 9 for weeks. Fast forward 16 years and the feeling has not changed.

In a few weeks’ time, the next moment will come. Regardless of the result, it’ll be a fantastic moment because I’ll be amongst people wearing the same silly happy smile as me. That first phone call I got in 2003? It led to a Scarlet Stiletto trophy and one of the most memorable nights of my life. Since then, a phone call in 2005 led to me winning the best crime story written as a poem. In 2016 I was incredibly fortunate to win the Silver Stiletto, an award category only eligible to previous shoe winners.

Along the way, there have been smaller special moments where I’ve met other writers. Talented women who have gone onto publish successful books. I’m not there yet but it’s that moment that keeps me going.

Geraldine Hakewill, star of Ms Fisher’s MODern Murder Mysteries and Wanted, will present the 26th Scarlet Stiletto awards: Saturday 23 November, 6.00 for 6.30 pm, The Rising Sun Hotel, 2 Raglan Street, South Melbourne.

Tix: $60 (no concession) for event and three-course dinner. Drinks available at bar prices. Brothers in Law welcome.

Bookings (essential): Please book (individually or for groups of any size) by Wednesday 20 November through Eventbrite