Lift and drag: on being voted Pemberton’s Favourite Writer

The Best of Pemberton issue that Pique newsmagazine puts out, landed a month ago. Everything is moving slowly in me these days, so it took a while to formulate a response to being anointed Pemberton’s Favourite Writer. As a friend recently shared, compliments tend to make one’s mind explode. Well, specifically the phrase that The Oatmeal uses is, it can create a “wrinkle in the fabric of brain-time.”


But there’s a difference between wanting to be gracious about receiving a compliment or some recognition, and dodging it and seeming completely ungracious… so, I logged on from a mostly off-line summer, to take a moment to acknowledge that getting voted as Pemberton’s Fave Writer is really meaningful to me.

There’s something so supportive about being affirmed by your community for an identity that’s really important to you. I hope for this throughout our community – that we see each other’s truest selves and lift each other up for those things we do or share or dream of being.

I have been thinking lately about lift and drag.

When I was at University, I rowed, and mornings out on the river with my crew of best mates was magic. The most magic part was when we’d somehow sync in to rhythm with each other and the boat would lift up, on a bed of air bubbles, and then, for as long as we could keep it together, every stroke was like the power of 10.

And then one of us would tilt a little to the side, or crab the oar, and we’d be out of balance, and wrestling again to align ourselves with each other, find the sweet spot, battle the friction of the water.

Lift and drag. We all have limited capacity to make effort – and being supported by things that give us lift, so that each stroke we make has the power of 10, is so incredible. We could literally feel ourselves flying above the surface of the water. And when you feel the drag, when things are out of balance, every stroke takes huge effort and it is frustrating and it doesn’t seem to get you very far, even though you’re trying just as hard, you’re pulling just as hard.

Recognition from my community is like riding on a giant bed of air bubbles. So gratitude to the people who took the time to check a little box next to my name. Thank you for the lift. And lift to all the other amazing creatives and writers and secret novelists and poets who are working quietly on projects, or who don’t identify so overtly as “Pemberton” writers so tend to get overlooked in this, despite being prodigiously talented.

I am also aware that I live in a community where many people experience constant and systemic racism… and the drag of that means that it’s so much harder for them to exert their genius, follow their hearts, make progress, or just feel the momentum of their own amazingness. So, appreciation for my privilege and the opportunities and lifts that have come my way. I hope to use the lift I enjoy to make space for others and redress the systems that drag people down, so we all know that feeling of flying.

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