Sheffield Woman Wins International Writing Contest For True Life Heroic Memoir

Sheffield Woman Wins International Writing Contest For True Life Heroic Memoir

Ruth Millington, who lives in Sheffield, was announced as the Writing Award non-fiction winner in the Page Turner Awards. This was announced at an online ceremony, where Paul Michael Glaser, from Starsky and Hutch fame, was a special guest to announce the winners.

The Page Turner Awards, sponsored by ProWritingAid and Campfire, offers authors, writers, and screenwriters the chance to enter the first 10 pages of their writing project, where a judging panel of literary experts and film producers will read the work.

Millington is an award-winning writer, passionate adventure world traveller, recipient of three bravery awards and creator and host of the Extreme Holidays Podcast.

She has an MA in Writing and is a qualified solicitor. Over the last 30 years, she has travelled to over 100 countries including some of the remotest areas of the world. She has spoken about her travels on national television and radio, and in the press. She also speaks at schools across the UK about her work, adventures, and career choices, in turn challenging gender stereotypes around bravery, heroism and strength.

Aftershock is the true story of how Ruth Millington and her best friend survived the 2003 Bam earthquake in Iran which killed over 30,000 people. It details their 30-hour rescue attempt to save 12 people with – mostly – their bare hands, Ruth’s struggles with horrific PTSD, and her recent exploration of what really caused their intense friendship to end within months of the earthquake.

In 2003, Ruth Millington was a Christmas visitor to Bam in south-eastern Iran with her long-time friend and travelling companion. On Boxing Day at 5.26am local time, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit the city. The quake destroyed 90% of the town and eventually led to the tragic deaths of over 30,000 Iranians.

Ruth and her friend were staying at a local guesthouse which was levelled to the ground by the quake. She woke to find herself in the rubble and was saved by her friend dragging her out by her feet. Over the following thirty hours, they went on to rescue survivors. They were honoured for their efforts by multiple governments. Ruth also went on to become a director of a charity to help children orphaned in the disaster.

On one level, Aftershock is a visceral tale of heroism, tragedy, and triumph in the hardest circumstances. It also shows how, in the immediate years after the disaster, Ruth suffered from horrific PTSD. She struggled to reintegrate with her old life and job and much of that time is still a black hole. Many memories were lost to her entirely.

However, one of the biggest things she lost was her friend, because, within a few months of the earthquake, their intense friendship detonated under the strain of what happened.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Ruth was the focus of the world’s press, but she carried a terrible secret – falling out with her best friend who saved her life. She was unable to share this secret with anyone out of shame. Only now, since addressing her PTSD and loss, has she found the courage to tell the entire story

Aftershock is a unique story that challenges the gender stereotypes around bravery, heroism, and strength.

The market is saturated with survival type memoirs (Aaron Ralston’s 127 Hours; Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air; Jo Simpson’s Touching the Void) and films of a similar nature (especially Hollywood blockbusters, for example, Everest; Castaway; The Perfect Storm; Dunkirk) where men are portrayed as the strong, brave, action-type heroes whilst women tend to be portrayed as more the cliché underdog on a voyage of self-discovery (noticeably Wild; Eat, Pray, Love).

Even today, society tends to view women as being brave in limited circumstances, mainly in roles such as the caring profession or that as a mother saving her child, or more than often the role of the victim.

If women are portrayed as strong, brave action-type heroes, they tend to be portrayed as fantasy characters such as Wonder Woman and Laura Croft.

In 2003, Iran was deemed part of the ‘Axis of Evil’. Stereotypes still exist of the country and its citizens, and Aftershock aims to dispel such a myth.

PSTD is a debilitating, misunderstood condition. Many of Ruth’s friends and family, even to this day, do not realise she was suffering from it. This memoir also looks at the fragility of life, how we all can carry shameful secrets, and how the strongest and bravest can still be broken by trauma. Ultimately, the human condition is such that, if we chose to, we also have the power to overcome adversity and challenge.

Millington said: “The Page Turner Awards are a great opportunity for writers to progress their careers and they give writers a chance to have their voices heard. It has been a brilliant process from start to finish with a great support team and line-up of judges.”

She added, “It’s an honour to receive this award for a memoir which was extremely challenging to write. I’m thrilled that not only has my work been recognised, but also the thousands who died or were affected by the Bam earthquake, to whom I dedicate this award.”

This year aspiring writers walked off the red carpet with life-changing prizes. One new unpublished writer won literary agency representation while a screenwriter won literary management. Another new writer won a publishing deal, six independent authors won an audiobook production from Spectrum Audiobooks, plus one other won a publishing package (including an edit, book cover and book trailer), and another author won a book adaptation.

The Page Turner Awards winners can be found here:

Submissions for the 2022 Awards will open in January 2022. Find out how you too can enter your writing into The Page Turner Awards: