Meet the winner of the Herald’s short story competition Stephanie Holm

Winner of the Herald’s short story competition, Stephanie Holm. Picture: Peter StoopSTEPHANIE Holm’s gripping tale of a childhood memory blurred by a tragic event has won the Newcastle Herald’s annual short story competition.
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Read the winning story here

‘‘It’s very exciting and nice that people liked reading the story and could appreciate its dark undertones,’’ said Ms Holm, who was a finalist in last year’s competition.

‘‘I’ve always wanted to be a writer so to have other people reading my work and for the story to have a life of its own is great.’’

The judges said Ms Holm’s story The Witness was a standout among the 125 entries.

The judges wereNewcastle Herald editor Chad Watson, Herald journalist and director of the Newcastle Writers Festival Rosemarie Milsom and best-selling local writer Wendy James.

‘‘The Witness is an evocative response to the image of the lone figure in the rain,’’ they said in a statement.

‘‘The Witness is an evocative response to the image of the lone figure in the rain,’’ the judges said in a statement.

‘‘The narrator does not experience a happy day at the beach, but that is what makes the story so appealing.

‘‘Ms Holm brings both the narrator and setting to life with an eye for detail.

‘‘There is underlying tension and mystery that keeps the reader engaged.’’

Ms Holm, 25, said she had been putting pen to paper ever since she was a child.

She took creative writing courses as electives in her Natural History Illustration degree at the University of Newcastle and is planning this year to juggle her PHD studies with attending a course at Sydney’s Faber Writing Academy and drafting a mystery.

‘‘I try and create an illustration – through words – of a place,’’ she said.

‘‘I do a lot of reading and just like telling myself fictional stories and building worlds.

‘‘I eventually want to combine writing and illustrating – not necessarily in children’s books – but in some form, perhaps in the same vein as The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen.’’

Ms Holm was rewarded with a library of 50 new-release books valued at $900, a weekend pass to the 2015 Newcastle Writers Festival, as well as a Kobo Touch e-reader and silicon case package valued at $110, courtesy of Domayne Kotara.

The highly commended stories were The Scented Flower of Chiang Mai by Annie Freer, of West Wallsend and The Blow by Kynan Cliff, of Cooks Hill.

The judges also made special mention of Driftwood by Janet Haigh, of Mayfield, and Crooked by Kelli Hawkins, of Hamilton East.

The two highly commended entrants will each receive a $150 voucher from MacLean’s Booksellers, Hamilton.

All three winners will receive a 12-week subscription to the Herald.