Over 200 entries from 40 schools across Cork and Kerry were in the running for the top prizes in the Young Wirters Awards – #WriteForHome organised by Simon Community Cork.
The competition aimed to discover writing and storytelling talent among the student community; it suceeded in giving students a voice in tackling one of the biggest social issues of our times: the housing and homelessness crisis.
A panel of judges – authors Kathy D’Arcy and Paul Casey, Irish Examiner News Editor John O’Mahony, and Cork Simon’s Head of Housing and Support Services Kerry Brennan, reviewed all of the entries and selected five awardees.
Award-winning author and Irish Examiner columnist, Lousie O’Neill announced the winners and presented students with their awards at a prize-giving ceremony in UCC’s Aula Maxima on Saturday 11 May 2019.
Sophie Hurley was on of the students short listed from the 200 entries and was invited to attend the Awards Ceremony , where she received a Certificate of Participation form Louise O Neill.
Congratulations to Sophie for the wonderful piece she submitted , titled "GOING PLACES"
Going places- A short story
Sophie Hurley - Transition Year
I had it all. I was going places. I was going to make it big. I was going to go to big award ceremonies and wear outrageous dresses and drink champagne. I was going to pretend not to notice the cameras in my face and get up on stage to accept my trophy, just to act like it’s no big deal, and my dad would teach me how to act happy and clap along if I lost my award to Leonardo DiCaprio or some other big shot. And my mom, she would attempt to teach me to apply fake eyelashes, only for me to temporarily blind myself or accidentally glue my finger to my eyelid. But that’s not what happened. That never happened because I threw away all the opportunities I had. Everything. Gone.
And I’m reminded of my many errors, or rather my one very large error, as I stare at the envelope lying on the welcome mat, which lay inside the door of my flat. It was a regular, white envelope, but it was the words on the stamp on the corner of it that had caught my attention. The words “Eviction notice,” within the outline of a rectangle, were stamped in black ink almost carelessly, as if the person who had stamped it was more than sick of doing this job. I could tell because the stamp was lopsided, the corner cut off by the edge of the envelope, and the lines were patchy due to the ink being close to fully dried out. I picked it up and backed blindly across my sitting room until my calves met my couch and I sat down. The springs were on the verge of popping out of the cushion on this particular side of the couch, and that usually would have sent me in a huff to the opposite side of the couch, mumbling about how “I just can’t afford to replace this damn thing.” But not this time, as my attention was on the top edge of the letter as I slid my door key across it to open it. I only quickly scanned the page, knowing I couldn’t bear to go into the details of the letter, and stopped when I came across those words. 30 days. A month to pack and leave.
Why was I surprised? I did this myself. As I said, I had it all. A stable relationship with my parents, supportive friends, straight A’s and a great psychology course. Something that was really going to take me places. I had a great little flat in Cork city, about half a mile from my college. I even had a pet budgie and the time to take care of it. But all it took was a few nice remarks and polite words of encouragement for me to throw it all away. “Oh, you’re going places Naomi” and “Some day that voice of yours will carry you to Broadway.” Broadway. That was the dream. But I somehow ended up here, in London, all alone, unable to pay for my acting classes, unable to pay rent, hardly even able to feed myself from day to day. Jobs were almost impossible to come across in this part of London. My parents weren’t talking to me since I dropped out. They knew this was going to happen. They warned me. But I had my head in the clouds. I couldn’t turn to them now. I often thought about picking up the phone but the shame always overcame me and I would just sit and stare at it on the table, number dialed, until I fell asleep.
A month later find me sleeping on a bench in the underground, only idle trains to keep me company at night as I hide from the security guard. I’ve figured out his routine now. Every hour he comes by my bench, whistling a melody to himself, letting a few words of the song take over from his idle whistling occasionally. God, I miss music. I missed singing, I miss dancing on the school stage with all my friends and starring in little performances in the smaller theaters of Cork. And I miss dancing around my bedroom when nobody was watching, blasting the lyrics to P!nk songs. So now I sing. I sing almost silently to myself, so sure, certain, that nobody around would hear my mumbling. That’s when I feel a hand on my shoulder and I look up, just to be met with the eyes of the underground security guard. Suddenly not stern, but kind. He took my hand and whispered “You’re going places.”
Homelessness can affect anyone from those who grew up in poverty to those who grew up privileged, but homelessness isn’t the end.