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Tale of coping with deadly cancer wins book award

Centre for Grief and Bereavement honours performance poet and writer Joel McKerrow

Award-winning performance poet and writer Joel McKerrow this week won the 2017 Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement’s Short Story Award.

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Joel’s story, On Saying Goodbye, is about a farmer who, over a year, has given up everything that is dear to him as his wife falls sick with cancer. They are forced to move to the city for her treatment. The story revolves around her final moments as he sits at her hospital bedside.

“It was rather a way of articulating loss, of trying to name what each of us go through …” – Joel McKerrow

A prominent Christian creative, Joel has performed his poetry on stages all over the world from the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC, to Sydney Opera House and Victoria Parliament House. As one of the two major award winners in this competition, he collected a $1500 prize. On Saying Goodbye will be published in the annual anthology Grief: Stories and Poems for Grief Awareness Month Vol 5.

“It is about grief and absence and the emptiness that is left when someone dies,” Joel explains about On Saying Goodbye. “I wrote the story after my own two grandmothers and my wife’s grandfather passed away within a few years of each other. On Saying Goodbye was not any of their stories specifically; it was rather a way of articulating loss, of trying to name what each of us go through when we lose those closest to us.”

The writing competition is distinct in the sparse landscape of Australian writing competitions. A total of 21 awards are annually presented by the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement and they are sponsored by prominent organisations in the sector including the National Association For Loss and Grief, Australian Suicide Prevention Foundation and Lifeline. The awards are judged by professionals from within the sector, and they aim to provide a creative outlet for those experiencing emotions associated with grief (both as competition entrants and as readers of the anthology).

Grief: Stories and Poems for Grief Awareness Month Vol 5 is available in hardcopy through the Hunter Writers Centre, and will be released as an expanded eBook later this year.

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