For nearly 20 years, the Boroondara Literary Awards has been unearthing exciting new creative talent in Boroondara and beyond. This year is no exception, as the winning and highly commended stories and poems announced at last night’s awards ceremony attest.

First prize in the Open category was ‘Important, Sentimental Rubbish’ by Jean Flynn, a sweet and lyrical story dealing with the heavy theme of a father and grown daughter clearing up a deceased mother’s belongings.

And the Keith Carroll Award for the best entrant from a Boroondara resident was presented to Lilian Cohen for ‘The Red Umbrella’, an evocative tale of landscape, belonging, trauma and the things that haunt us.

I was also impressed with the quality and variety of the winning stories and poems from the junior, middle and senior categories from children as young as grade five, right up to year 12.

In today’s fast-moving world of digital technology and information overload, the way we communicate has been transformed. Tweets, Facebook posts and text messages prevail, while a cursory glance around any peak-hour train reveals a majority of passengers glued to their phones and very few engrossed in a book.

Yet fiction and poetry remain as vital as ever – if not more so. For starters, they engage the reader’s imagination and concentration in ways that social and digital media rarely do. They also enhance our understanding of humanity. As prize-winning novelist Ann Patchett says, “Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings.”

Research shows that other benefits of reading fiction include stress reduction, improved sleep and an enriched vocabulary. It is not only enjoyable, but good for you.

Meanwhile, writing creatively comes with its own perks. It gives people the opportunity to flex their imaginations, make sense of the world, and express themselves free of character counts or convention. For young people still developing their sense of self and learning how to communicate their ideas, this is especially important.

The Boroondara Literary Awards are made possible by the ongoing partnership between the Rotary Club of Balwyn and the City of Boroondara. We are proud to work together to encourage a culture of creativity and literacy, and to showcase some of the remarkable home-grown talent in our community.

Cr Jim Parke



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