Next Chapter Award 2017
Karen Campbell, Judge for the 2017 Next Chapter Award, said:
“This submission was brutal and beautiful in its depiction of the ripples that can spread form a single, random event. Expertly handled, with a real mastery of language, lightness of touch and understanding of character, Juile's piece left me with tingles, reflecting on how, in the face of overwhelming emotion, sometimes all we can do is take comfort from tiny acts of tenderness. A real writer, with a clear vision of how to develop and link her collection of short stories, and I can't wait to see what Juile does next.”
The room was quiet since she’d had the ventilator removed. The rhythmic hissing of it had been our soundtrack. Whoosh - pause – whoosh - pause. The bulky dressing was still on her left hand. A nurse picked at the gauze, careful not to wake her. It’s all healing well, she said, your girlfriend will be out of here in no time. I nodded; then left the room while the nurse changed her diaper.
It was a frosty night in January; we were sitting in the parking lot of the high school. She’d seen a flyer taped to a streetlight about a Cardio class in the school gym, every Friday, 9.30pm. Fleetwood Mac was on the radio-something from Tusk, I think? I should remember that. She was trying to soften the leather of her sneakers; they were digging into the fleshy part of her heel. A couple of women, with stretch leggings and their kids’ backpacks on, filed through the glass doors. Why the hell are you doing this? I asked. ‘Cause, she said, clutching a tiny flap of skin at her waist. Yeah, I nodded, you’re huge. She elbowed me in the ribs. The clock on the dashboard glowed 21.33; she grabbed her bag. That sharp elbow nudge was to be a frail piece of driftwood that I’d cling to; it would be the last time she would touch me for many months after.
A blast of cold air filled the car as she got out; the sky looked like a cracked black mirror. She gave a brief wave without looking back. A thumbnail moon was above the football field in the distance; oily blackness, empty bleachers. I was about to drive off when I heard a rap of knuckles on the window. She pointed to the glove compartment; her water bottle. Feel the burn, I said. She grinned, and flipped me the bird. I noticed goose bumps on her arms as she ran back, tightening her ponytail. This is the point I return to, the point where I make her get back into the car instead.
"I was stunned and delighted to win the Scottish Booktrust Next Chapter Award. I’m still pinching myself! The recognition of winning this award is a huge confidence boost. I’m grateful for the wonderful opportunity to learn from a mentor, and very excited about what the following year will bring."