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SBS Emerging Writers' Competition prize-winner Maya Skidmore on navigating loss across cultures

Maya visits in Isfahan, Iran, in 2019 (L) and her grandparents Fozieh and Ali in Iran the 1960s. Source: Supplied

The joint winner of the Highly Commended prize in the 2021 SBS Emerging Writers' Competition opens up about the cultural differences that inform her writing.

“I’ve always grappled with how to define myself, whether as an Iranian Australian or as an Australian Iranian. I see beauty in both cultures, but there are also challenges… you struggle to feel like you belong,” Maya told SBS Persian. 


Highlights:

  • Maya Skidmore jointly awarded the Highly Commended prize in the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition
  • Maya's story draws on her upbringing growing up in Sydney with an Iranian mother and Australian father
  • Competition judges called her story, “a sharp and yet introspective and delicate story of grief and death, and all our gorgeous differences." 

The 25-year-old grew up in Sydney with an Iranian mother and Australian father. She credits this upbringing for her desire to write, tell and listen to stories that swim fluidly between different worlds. 

As I have grown older, I have started to realise I don’t have to fit perfectly into any one space. I can maybe create a new sense of self that encapsulates everything.

In November, Maya’s story, 'The end is green and so is the beginning', was chosen from nearly 4,000 entries to be jointly awarded the Highly Commended prize in the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition. 

The work, she said, was born out of her firsthand experiences of loss and the stark cultural differences that exist around the managing of pain. 

Jumping back and forward in time, the story delves into Maya’s mother’s family leaving Iran and their refugee experience, her own Northern Beaches upbringing and, recently, her attendance at Zoom funerals for two young people taken before their time. 

Maya Skidmore, one of the winners of the 2021 SBS Emerging Writers' Competition.
Maya Skidmore, one of the winners of the 2021 SBS Emerging Writers' Competition.
Supplied

Maya also writes of a visit to Iran in 2019, where she tells SBS Persian she “felt more at home than anywhere else she had been. 

The competition judges called her story, “a sharp and yet introspective and delicate story of grief and death, and all our gorgeous differences. 

“There are displays of literary power and social observation, and yet none of the pretence, nor judgement. A balanced and illuminating story by a talented and promising writer.” 

Maya, who recently graduated from a double degree of International Studies and Media Communications (Journalism) from the University of New South Wales, said she “cried with joy” when she heard the news.  

Maya's mother Atousa, father Peter, and grandparents Fozieh and Ali dancing.
Maya's mother Atousa, father Peter, grandfather Fozieh and grandmother Ali dancing.
Supplied

She hopes to pursue a career in writing.  

“I want to write stories that amplify the voices of those who struggle to have their voices heard.”   

You can read Maya Skidmore’s prize-winning entry here. 

Click on the player above to listen to the full interview with Maya in English. 

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