The degradation of a stripper inspired the Sunday Star-Times Overall “provocative” winner of the Short Story Awards 2018.
Aucklander Fiona Sussman said she was moved to write Mad Men after media reports about how a stripper, whose stage name is Scarlette, was treated at a year-end ceremony for the Chiefs Super Rugby team.
Sussman, a published author who grew up in apartheid-era South Africa, said her upbringing had always drawn her into the underdog.
âI remember being very upset for her (Scarlette), that she had to endure such humiliating and scary treatment. For me, it’s part of this larger conversation that we are having right now about how women are processed, and I guess the story is looking at the boundaries that people set. “
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However, Mad Men is a fictional story about a stripper and refers to the TV series Mad Men, defined it in the 1960s, “when overt sexism was an accepted part of the workplace”.
She wants people to wonder if society has progressed since the 60s or if sexism is just better disguised.
Sussman said writing about a stripper was “risky,” but her strong and emotional connection to Scarlette prompted her to do so. âI just felt a real connection for this young woman, and I just felt sad for her,â she said.
Sussman said it was “exciting” to win the coveted Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards 2018 and receive recognition for his work.
The award has previously been won by Eleanor Catton, whose Booker Prize winning novel Lighting is being adapted for film, and Frazer Rangihuna, who has been tasked with contributing to PÅ«rÄkau: Maori myths told by Maori writers.
“What I’m really happy about is that this story, in particular, will find a readership and I hope that in some way it can be a part of this conversation that we need to continue to have,” said Sussman.
The awards were presented by authors Stephanie Johnson and Carl Nixon.
Nixon said Sussman’s story was “clearly remarkable.”
âThe story impressed from its captivating and provocative opening line and hasn’t stopped,â Nixon said.
“A distinctive first-person voice that uses both lyrical and colloquial language without losing sight of the need to take the reader on a narrative journey.”
With an editor as a father, the authors constantly visited their home, and it was full of manuscripts, Sussman said.
She wrote her first play at the age of seven entitled Mrs. Greenfinger and had “always had a love for the written word.”
But it was his childhood in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, when apartheid was in full swing, that most inspired his writing.
“I think, to be honest, that informs all of my writing and all of the choices I make.”
She said her parents made her aware of the issue and her early literary heroes, such as Nadine Gordimer and Alan Paton, were South Africans who were writing at the time, trying to make changes with their pens.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, Sussman began studying medicine because she was inspired by the doctor who looked after her father when he had stomach cancer.
She worked as a general practitioner but struggled with juggling when her two children, now aged 21 and 23, were young.
Her growing need for a creative outlet eventually brought her back to writing and she earned a master’s degree in Creative Writing.
Sussman’s story is published in the Sunday Star-Times and on Things today. She also won $ 3,000, courtesy of Penguin Random House NZ, and a review of her short story by Penguin Random House NZ fiction editor Harriet Allan.
2018 SUNDAY STAR-TIMES SHORT STORIES AWARD – OPEN CATEGORY
Judged by authors Stephanie Johnson and Carl Nixon
1. “Mad men”, by Fiona Sussman
2. “The Singularity of Sleep”, by Eileen Merriman
3. “Emotional Support Animal”, by Kathryn Van Beek
Strongly recommended: “Worries”, by Tiffany Allan; “Connective tissue”, by Craig Cliff; “The Space Race”, by James Paterson.
2018 STAR-TIMES SUNDAY SHORT STORIES PRIZE – SECONDARY SCHOOL CATEGORY
Judged by Paula Morris (University of Auckland) and Melanie Laville-Moore (Michael King Writers’ Center)
1. “A Fool’s Fantasy”, by Amelia Cai, St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland
2. “Her Seat”, by Kate Atkinson, New Plymouth Girls’ High School, Taranaki
3. “Maria”, by Bella White, Villa Maria College, Christchurch
Strongly recommended: “Thompson & Co. Mechanic’s Workshop”, by Hamish Bird-Taylor, Botany Down Secondary College, Auckland; “Little Miss Mensch”, by Benjamin Sneyd-Utting, Tawa College, Wellington