by REBECCA MUGRIDGE

It all started with a beautifully crafted wedding vow.

Caloundra-based registered nurse Adam Brannigan is the latest local wordsmith success. He has just won the 2021 Kuracca Prize for Australian Literature – and $5000 prizemoney – with his short story Great Grandmother Arrabrilya.

It was on the encouragement of his marriage celebrant that Adam pursued writing.

“The celebrant … said I had a gift, and I should enrol in a writing course,” he says. “I had always wanted to be a writer but I just didn’t have the toolkit. I didn’t really know what the industry wanted.”

Inspired, he enrolled at the University of the Sunshine Coast while continuing his other love: nursing.

“I have a background in mental health and now work in palliative care,” he says. “I am very invested in nursing, and I do love my job. I’ve been on the planet for 50 years; I have got things to write about. I think my nursing, the people’s lives, their stories, their struggles, definitely inform a lot of my writing.”

Adam says winning gave him confidence. 

“It is a mark of acknowledgement from the judges, who are often award-winning writers themselves,” he says. “So if they are choosing your piece over 500 other entries you are doing something right, and this a good feeling.”

His teacher, program co-ordinator Dr Paul Williams, saw something in Adam immediately. 

“Adam has what it takes to be a writer – he grapples with the important issues in life, gets to the nerve end of things and writes about them in a refreshing and entertaining way,” he says. “He reads a lot, writes a lot, tries new things, persists. These are all good qualities of a writer.”

The course was just the environment Adam needed to hone his craft. 

“For a small program and regional university, USC’s creative writing program has produced a disproportionate number of successful writers,” Paul says. “Our students have regularly won or been shortlisted in … many prizes and been successfully published. One of the best-selling thriller/crime writers in Australia, Candice Fox, comes out of our program.”

And there is no stopping Adam now – he is already entered in another competition and been directly contacted by a publisher.

“Maybe I can start calling myself a writer now!” he laughs.

You can read Great Grandmother Arrabrilya in the September issue of Overland magazine.