Julian Cowan Youth Award, 2016

WINNER (age 14), for Seven Seconds.

This is an Under 18s award, and I won the Peter Cowan 600 Word Short Story division. It was announced in Perth and because I live in Melbourne, I couldn’t attend.

What the judge said: “. . . the winning story this year was something else: clever, risky, and willing to sit in the messiness of life and all its events. The winner this year was Abigail Strangward, from … Victoria, with her story, ‘Seven Seconds.

Strangward’s story skilfully breaks down memory into seven seconds, the amount of brain activity that’s left after the heart stops. Here the heart stopping is a symbol, a potent metaphor for love, and it’s in her recreation of love’s moments that the author excels. In point, I have read hundreds of short stories about romantic love, and yet I have never read one structured quite like ‘Seven Seconds’ or one as viscerally charged.

In Strangward, I found a writer who either did her revisions or, if she didn’t, then she’s unnaturally gifted. Whatever the case, she has a knack for engaging, memorable storytelling, and I felt blessed to have read her story.”


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