Gold Coast student Lani Gibson from Miami State High School, was recently announced as the 2020 national winner of Storyfest’s National Novella Writing Competition for her gripping futuristic tale ‘All Eyes On Us’.
Supported by Penguin Random House Australia, Storyfest’s annual competition is open to all high school students within Australia and is highly regarded, thanks to the unique opportunities for exclusive access to some of Australia’s best authors, editors and publicists.
‘All Eyes On Us’ is a dystopian thriller where teens are given access to privileges according to virtual rankings and haunted by the the ever-watchful Stalkers who communicate through their phones. If it sounds eerily familiar, it’s supposed to.
“There are several themes and messages woven into the storyline: body image, isolation, social media, peer pressure, popularity issues… everything young people today are confronted with,” Lani explained.
“Writing for me has become a cathartic process for reflecting on the advancing problems we as young people face in society today.”
As the national competition winner, Lani’s manuscript will receive a full editorial report containing personalised advice from Penguin Random House Australia, in addition to a cash prize of $2,500.
Commissioning Editor, Amy Thomas, from Penguin Random House Australia, said Lani wrote an accomplished manuscript.
“It’s well written with excellent character development… great dialogue that dramatises the unfolding action in an engaging way, wonderful forward narrative momentum and a positive message at the end about freeing oneself from the tyrannies of technology,” she said.
“The manuscript felt well-structured and complete, and the writing flowed beautifully throughout. It was excellent overall.”
Lani has been infatuated with the art of storytelling for as long as she can remember.
“When I was younger, I would try and sell stories I’d written at family gatherings,” she laughed.
Since then her passion has grown, and in recent years, her work has been achieving some notice. Lani’s novella ‘The Culling’ was shortlisted in the 2019 Somerset National Novella Writing Competition and a short story piece ‘When We All Plug In, Where Do We Go?’ was shortlisted in the 2019 John Marsden and Hachette Australia Prize for Young Writers and then awarded Highly Commended.
“Both previous writing commendations inspired me to pursue my passion for writing further,” she told us.
And of course, the support and mentoring she has received along the way has proved invaluable.
“My mentors would have to be my [Miami State High School] English and Literature teachers, Terri Barton-Thomas and Cathy Crawley [Head of English], who have encouraged my journey as a writer immensely. My family, friends and all the staff at Miami State High have been so kind and supportive!” Lani exclaimed.
Somerset Storyfest CEO and Festival Director, Andrea Lewis, commended the remarkable talent attracted by the online competition. Ms Lewis said, “The calibre of writing submitted by entrants was exceptionally high. We were thrilled to see judges announce Gold Coast student, Lani Gibson, as the overall national winner.
“The competition champions emerging writers, offering students to develop their literary growth – connecting them with many of Australia’s elite authors and publishers who can help shape their future development.”
For Lani, the win has not only provided her with excellent opportunities for furthering her career, but also an increase in confidence.
“Winning this prize has really cemented for me that writing is something I can be successful at and need to commit to,” she said.
And given her love of dystopia, there’s certainly no lack of real world material to inspire Lani’s next project.
“It seems our reality is morphing into a science fiction novel right before our eyes,” she said.
“Literature is about humanity and how we react in instances of uncertainty and the frightening ambiguity of our future… so, then, I better get writing.”
This year’s winning stories can be read at storyfest.com.au/competitions/novella-writing-competition. Entries for the 2021 Somerset Storyfest Novella Writing Competition open Monday 27 July 2020. All secondary students attending school in Australia are invited to apply.
Whilst this year’s broader Storyfest programme was cancelled in line with government advice aimed at shielding communities from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Festival is the largest literary youth festival in the Southern Hemisphere and usually includes eight days of inspirational community-based literary events across the city, for children and adults.
IMAGE (c) Sarah Gibson Photography