The future of Australian literature is in excellent hands, according to Griffith University Creative Writing lecturer and award-winning poet Dr Anthony Lawrence.

Dr Lawrence was the head judge for the 2013 Griffith Garrets creative writing competition for secondary school students from the Gold Coast and northern New South Wales. Finalists were honouredat a special function at Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus on Wednesday (September 4).

With more than $9000 in cash prizes, Griffith Garrets isone of Australia’srichest writingcompetitionsfor individual students and their schools.

However, Dr Lawrence was most impressed with the literary riches apparent in the more than 60 entries received for this year’s competition.

“The writing displayed such a strong and mature grasp of relationships, and of setting and place, in so many of the entries,” Dr Lawrence said.

“But what I think stood out to me the most was a particular quality, the ability to observe so deeply at such a young age.

“I believe this bodes well for the future of Australian writing.”

This year’s Griffith Garrets winner was 17-year-oldAlstonville High School student Lydia Fleming, whose entry, Cappadocia, was praised by Dr Lawrence as: “An extremely well-arranged and sophisticated discontinuous narrative that avoids easy drama for the more rewarding pleasures of intellectual and spiritual contemplation.”

Lydia won $3000 for first prize, with a further $1500 going to her school. The Year 12 student,whose favourite novel is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, said the competition had inspired her to continue writing.

“I’ve always loved reading and have kept a diary, but my love of writing really beganonce I started high school,” she said.

Lydia’s winning story, Cappadocia, refers to anhistorical region in Turkey anddeveloped by chance after a visit to the doctor.

“I was in the waiting room and just happened to be reading about this place called Cappadocia. The more I read, the more it came to life for me,” she said.

Second place in the Griffith Garrets competition went to Duncan Croker, from Coomera Anglican College, whose story, Him, was described as: “A lovely Chinese box of a story that unfolds into various layers of intriguing and unusual details. A testament to the power of imagination.”

Hillcrest Christian College student Bianca Gay was awarded third place for Between a Side Door and a Hard Place, praised by Dr Lawrence as: “A story that weaves anticipation, frustration and deep human emotion with evocative imagery and a sustained dramatic atmosphere.”

Highly commended was Nocturne, by Marymount College student Sam Pinches, and described by Dr Lawrence as: “A brutally honest portrayal of the anxieties surrounding adolescent desire that manages to evoke strong sympathy for the protagonist. A small hymn to the adolescent male.”

Also commended was King’s Christian College student Sarah Braund, whose story The Last Supper was lauded as: “A sophisticated, dual perspective structure woven together into an affectionate and keenly observed story.”

The Griffith Garrets creative writing competition was launched by the School of Humanities in 2012.