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Shivani Prabhu, winner of the 2020 Judith Rodriguez Prize

12 February 2021

Congratulations, Shivani! Deakin’s 2020 Judith Rodriguez Prize recipient shares what led to her winning story

Congratulations to recent graduate Shivani Prabhu for being awarded the 2020 Judith Rodriguez Prize!

The Judith Rodriguez Prize is an annual University award which recognises an outstanding piece of work in fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and/or scriptwriting, submitted during Trimester 1 or 2 in a third-year-coded unit in the Bachelor of Creative Writing. Student work is nominated for the long list by third-year staff, which is then judged by two members within the Creative Writing discipline.

Shivani’s winning short story, The Bangalore Super-Fast Express, captivated the judges who praised her masterful use of language.  

The Bangalore Super-Fast Express is a brilliant short story: beautifully observed, exquisitely evocative, richly intertextual, and well-contained. I can’t wait to read more work from this author. 

Said another 2020 judge: 

The story deftly weaves in different voices and registers of language within the narrator’s consciousness. It displays a keen eye for writerly detail that draws the reader in; we don’t read the story so much as we inhabit its world. This is wonderfully written and showcases an exciting new voice.

Shivani is an Indian-Australian writer and editor who recently graduated from Deakin with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Journalism, and Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in Rabbit and Verandah among other publications, and she is a non-fiction editor for Voiceworks.

Following news of her Judith Rodriguez award, we asked Shivani a little about herself, what inspires her as a writer and what advice she would share with any aspiring writers among Deakin’s diverse range of students.

How did you first hear about the Judith Rodriguez Prize, and what prompted you to submit a piece?

My wonderful tutor, Dr Josephine Scicluna, actually told me she’d like to nominate it! I hadn’t thought much of the story until then, so I was really encouraged by her to send it in.

What led to you writing your winning short story, The Bangalore Super-Fast Express?

A train ride from Ernakulam to Mangalore last January. I’d always loved travelling by trains in India – the blue interiors, the friendly co-passengers, the stream of food and beverage salesmen that rhythmically call out the names of whatever they’re selling, and I remember thinking I had to document exactly how it felt and pulling out my phone to write it down. When I found out that the theme for our written pieces was ‘Journeys’, I took the excerpt I’d written down and my recollections of travelling by train as a child, and then that opened up a trove of other memories and questions which floated out and swirled into an arrangement as I wrote.

Can we read your story somewhere?

Yes! It’s in Verandah 35, which you can get a hold of online

What influences your work and inspires you?

Memory, curiosity, my culture, my family, the pull towards understanding myself better—I think all these things both influence and inspire me. 

You’re on deadline and you’re not happy with how a piece is going – any tips for overcoming writer’s block?

Just keep writing even if you don’t feel like it and suffer through the first five or ten minutes of frustration. I promise at some point you’ll start to feel the momentum again!

What would you say to any student who may be thinking of becoming a writer (or submitting a piece for an award) but who might lack confidence?

I think I’m still in that position myself and not really wiser or more qualified, but these are the things that help me: immerse yourself in reading, watching, and consuming a variety of different works, find a community that nurtures you, seek out people that can give you honest feedback (a good way to do this is submitting to Voiceworks—they always give feedback, even if your piece isn’t accepted!), and build a habit of writing and keep at it! For submitting to awards—just go for it! What do you have to lose?

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