Today, we shine a spotlight on the winning story in our HNSA 2017 Short Story Competition.
Eleanor Limprecht's short story, "The Call of the Stars", was originally written as part of Long Bay, a novel based on the true story of a young woman named Rebecca Sinclair who ended up in Long Bay Women’s Reformatory in 1909 for manslaughter. Rebecca Sinclair was - with her husband Donald Sinclair - performing illegal abortions.
"The Call of the Stars" was originally a chapter in the novel written from a different perspective - one of the other characters whose life was affected by Rebecca and her husband’s actions (we don’t want to give too much away here). Limprecht became fascinated by this character and his profession as a linotype operator for the Sydney Morning Herald. She spent weeks researching linotype machines, which are now obsolete and was a tiny bit devastated when everyone who read Long Bay told her the chapter didn’t fit. Eventually she reworked it into a short story and submitted it to the HNSA short story prize. She was delighted when it won.
"I often write my way into a story, and end up with quite a bit that goes unused," Limprecht explained, 'so this was a rare instance of that unused writing finding a new life elsewhere."
"The Call of Stars" is a tragic, deeply affecting story that brings to light the tension between poverty and unwanted pregnancy and women's lack of choice before reliable contraception. It was recently published in Swinburne University's literary journal Backstory. Here's how it begins...
"He woke at the usual time, before dawn. Andrew closed his eyes again, pulling the coverlet beneath his chin. When he woke the second time he could hear Lucy and the children trying to be quiet in the other room. He sat and stretched, rubbing his eyes, smelling the urine from the chamber pot and the smoke from the woodstove. He stood and opened the window, breathing in the salt air from the harbour and feeling a breeze ruffle his hair." Read more...
Eleanor Limprecht is the author of three novels: The Passengers, Long Bay and What Was Left, which was shortlisted for the 2014 ALS Gold Medal. She also writes short fiction, book reviews and essays for various publications, including Best Australian Stories 2015. When not writing or reading Eleanor teaches as a casual academic at UTS. She was born in the United States and lived many places including Germany and Pakistan. She now lives in Sydney with her husband and two children.