Short Story Contest Winner Natara Ng discusses loneliness in ‘Her Last Day’

In interview with The Journal, Queen’s student talks creative process

Natara Ng’s story 'Her Last Day' was selected as the winner of the Winter 2021 Short Story Contest. 
Supplied by Natara Ng

Natara Ng, Kin ’23, won The Journal’s Winter 2021 short story contest for “Her Last Day,” the subtle tale of a lonely man tending a garden with a twist: both the man and his plants are more than meets the eye.

In an interview with The Journal, Ng discussed her winning story and her writing style. 

“Right now, I think creative writing is more of a hobby and a creative outlet, so I think pursuing it as a career is quite ambitious,” Ng said.  

“But I know that regardless of what I end up doing in the future, I’ll probably continue writing in some way, shape or form, and if that leads somewhere, I won’t hesitate to pursue that path.”

“Her Last Day” is a meditation on loneliness centred on the perspective of a lowly, middle-aged gardener—the type of person who often goes unnoticed. This is the first of Ng’s creative writing to be published anywhere.

“It feels pretty good, pretty unreal,” she said. “It definitely makes me happy that my writing can be shared and hopefully it can resonate with others. “

“The story was based on some truth from my own life. This past year with the pandemic has been tough for a lot of people, including myself, in terms of feelings of isolation and loneliness. I personally realized how important human connection is. I took all of that and put it into a story.”

For Ng, a garden is more than a garden—it’s a living canvas on which she imbues the emotions of her protagonist.

“The early September air is laden with desperate rays of white sunlight and warm winds that brush against me as I walk past the fountain in the middle of the yard. The lily pads bathe in the water, so estranged from the rest of the garden in their little oasis, foreign in the way they never see dirt,” Ng writes.

“I chose a garden as the setting because I spent a lot of time gardening this past summer […] A garden sustains life but what you’re sustaining can’t really give anything back to you.”

In Ng’s story, the gardener is introduced on his last day of work before fall, before the flowers wilt and give way to winter and to death. This scenery forms the perfect backdrop for Ng to explore the effects of social isolation.

“[The story] is about the importance of human connection, how sometimes the voices in our heads can get too loud if they’re not around other people and that’s not always a good thing,” she said. “We need other people to buffer the sound sometimes.”

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