New Writers Awards 2016: Victoria MacKenzie

Fiction

Victoria MacKenzie moved from Brighton to Scotland in 2007 to pursue an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews, before completing a PhD which examined how contemporary poets engage with science.

Writing prizes include the Robert McLellan Poetry Award and the Ruth Rendell Short Story Prize, and her work is published in many magazines and anthologies, including Gutter, Magma and the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine Anthology.

Her first novel, Brantwood, based on several years in the life of Victorian thinker John Ruskin, is well underway. For this work she was awarded an Emerging Scottish Writer Residency at Cove Park in 2014 and a Bridge Award from Moniack Mhor in 2015, which gave her retreat time and mentoring from Janice Galloway.

In 2016 a short story ‘Crex Crex’ will be published in The Book of Iona (Birlinn). She will use the New Writer Award to focus on her first short story collection, Creaturely, which explores our relationships with other species.

 

Writing sample

From ‘Pinecones’, a short story:

What’s the loveliest thing you’ve ever seen? When I ask people that question it catches them off guard. They stutter and hesitate and then fall back on conventional responses - their children, their wife, the view from a mountain. Perhaps true, perhaps not. Most people don’t seem to have time for loveliness, they don’t give it much thought.

Tonight the wind was up and brought with it the salt of the sea and wood smoke from my neighbour’s fire. As it blew through the trees at the bottom of the garden it brought other things too - the susurrus of dying leaves, the faint mew of a lost cat, my mother’s voice calling me indoors. But the cat is long dead and my mother is hundreds of miles away, where the wind blows over a different sea and carries other sounds to her ears.

What is she thinking, my mother? I imagine her walking in wet fields, turning fallen leaves in her hands, and feeling her aloneness like a keening wind through her ribs. But that is only my poor, limited imagination. She may be up to her elbows in flour, kneading and shaping loaves of feather-light bread. She may be lost in a Russian novel, mentally dashing across frozen streets in furred mittens and hood, anticipating theatre visits and elegant dances. She may be having sex in the back of someone’s car, for all I know. She was always a stranger to me.

Still, my mother was the loveliest thing I’d ever seen, until I saw Kate.

 

Victoria says:

"I’m chuffed to bits! I’ll be working my socks off to make the most of this lovely award. Thank you Scottish Book Trust!"