I’ve never won a writing competition.
I used to enter all the creative writing comps as a kid. Growing up in regional New South Wales probably influenced my choices; the Dorothea Mackellar poetry competition, Banjo Patterson Writing Awards and The Henry Lawson Prize.
I used to enter the comps and fantasise about winning. It wasn’t the prize—the book pack or money—it was the certificate I craved. The cream coloured heavy card with my name printed directly onto it—not just scrawled in felt pen—with the embossed sticker on it that would pick up the light like the scales of a fish in the dam.
To my juvenile mind, that sticker meant something.
Each year when the book fair would take over the school library, the books with the stickers were the ones that always stood out to me. They were put on display. They were winners. I knew nothing of the process that the books and their authors had gone through to get the stickers which I now understand is… well, a process. I just revered them with a quiet awe and one day dreamed that there would be a book with my name on it, on display in a school library, with a sticker on it.
When I was signed to Pantera Press and it sunk in that If I Tell You was actually going to be published, I wrote a list of things I wanted to achieve. Most of them were pipedreams, frivolous thoughts even. Movie deals (or at least Netflix or Stan), making best-seller lists and getting invited to all the festivals.
I’ve only managed to tick three out of eight off—where you at Netflix? But the last item on the list is in CAPs. It says, ‘GET A STICKER.‘
About a month ago, I learned that If I Tell You—and by extension me—was shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Award in the Emerging Writer category. I knew that I’d been entered. I’d diarised the date that the shortlist would be announced. That morning at work I opened Google and typed the words into the search bar—WA Premier’s Book Award Shortlist 2019—and periodically hit enter and refreshed the page.
When finally the top story was the 2019 announcement I could barely bring myself to click on it. My guts were in my mouth because if I’m honest, as much as I’d told myself that my name would probably not be on the list, I wanted it to be on that list so damn much. I clicked the link and there it was. My name and the absolutely kick-arse cover that I still spend time staring at now like the true first born book it is.
I looked at the list, my name was right there with authors who I know and respect. Who are known and respected. And I know that an award isn’t what makes a book great. An award isn’t what motivates an author to write. But for me, who is walking around with a chronic and constant state of imposter syndrome, this nomination reminded me that I am, in fact, an author.
This Friday at the launch of the Disrupted Festival of Ideas, the winners will be announced. I’ll be sitting in a chair that’s reserved for the shortlisted authors. There’ll be drinks and canapes and press and Geoff Gallop. There will be a heavy card certificate that has my name printed directly onto it. And if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get a sticker.
Alicia Tuckerman is a driving force for young LGBT voices within Australia. Raised in rural NSW before she left home at the age of sixteen, she accepted a position to study at the Hunter School of Performing Arts. Described as having an overactive imagination as a child, she recalls writing stories her entire life. Alicia attributes surviving her teenage years to the comfort, release and escape writing offered and she hopes to inspire the next generation of readers and writers to embrace their true passions. Alicia’s debut novel If I Tell You, explores the joys, triumphs and cruelties of modern day adolescence.