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BQ Judge's Report 2021


Firstly, thank you all for the wealth of reading you have offered me in the entries to this year’s competition. I was deeply impressed by the honesty of voice which shone through in almost every entry, offering authenticity and a sense of genuine engagement in even the most mundane of daily experiences. This was reading which moved from touching to searing to humorous, and moved through a huge range of experiences. At times, it was challenging, at others, enlightening – no piece submitted failed to offer me something of value.

There were an array of questions raised in this reading. Many of the concerns taken up were marked by contemporary anxieties, and circled in one way or another the various global crises we are facing – namely, the COVID-19 pandemic and insecure ecological future of climate change. This is of course fitting and appropriate for the genre. More surprising for me in this reading was the diversity of perspectives offered on the pandemic – which has been, in our media, fairly well trodden ground. The pieces collected here found new points of approach through everyday experiences, memory and imagination. For this, I applaud you!

Of special note, however, I need to acknowledge a handful of pieces which offered something deeper again – stories of personal trauma, shared often with a simplicity which speaks to the bravery of this writing. The vulnerability of these works has its own power. To these writers, and I am sure you will know yourselves, beyond anything else, I wish to say thank you for entrusting me with your words.

Finally, a handful of writers took up the call I made in my workshop with you all to play with form in your nonfiction, and use the space of the page itself to explore conceptually some of the underpinning assumptions we make in the genre with regards to writing as a medium for knowledge. As a whole, these experiments with form were highly successful, and made for some very interesting reading.

Before acknowledging the pieces I have selected for honours here, then, I want to congratulate you all, and thank you once more for offering me this wealth. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with your work.

CN [Catherine Noske]


‘Fish are Destressing’ – Helen Iles

‘The Best Seat in the House’ – Wendy Stackhouse

‘Cyclone – Lynne Cairns

Highly Commended:

‘The Man’ – Maria Bonar

‘A Cottage by the Sea’ – Rose Van Son

Very Highly Commended

‘Lick Your Lips’ – Lucy Cotton

This wide-ranging essay explores the practice of kissing. Opening with a frame offering the experience of a first kiss, it lifts away from the personal to exhibit an enthralling curiosity and some brilliant detail in its enquiry, while managing to keep the work light, engaging and fast-paced. Very clever writing.


‘Fit For Nothing’ – Lyn Tolliday

This piece has a wicked sense of humour which carries the reader along beautifully – the work offers an intimate characterisation and invites the reader to join in its self-deprecation. It is lively, with a light touch and a brilliant sense of timing with each punchline.


‘Another Room for Solace’ – Rose Van Son

This piece united shifts in form and time-sequence to the difficult terrain of loss, grief and memory. It played through apparently mundane scenes to offer a tangible sense of a life well lived, and rich with love. There was a delicate balance to the work which was enhanced by the movement from moment to moment, and which made it joyful to read.


[end of Report]




Updated 15th July 2022