Stringybark Times Past Award 2024


The Stringybark Short Story Award 2024

Competition Closed: 25 Feb 2024

291 entries.  $1428 in prizes.

Prizes sponsored by: Graeme Simsion, Ann Buist and Stringybark Publishing

Judges: Clare McHugh, Antoinette Merrilees,  Daan Spijer and David Vernon

Editor: David Vernon

Cover designer: Jonathan Vernon

Layout: Stringybark Publishing

Australian printer: Prinstant, Canberra

Forty-one engaging and clever short stories feature in this latest anthology from Stringybark Stories. Selected from over 290 entries these winning and highly commended tales are wickedly intriguing, thought-provoking, sometimes sad, sometimes funny but always a rollicking read.

Marco meandered through the checkered picnic blankets in the park, trying not to step on their owners. Plates of potato salad and coleslaw threatened to trip him up. The tasty smell of sausages tickled his nostrils. A trio of vanilla ice cream cones precariously balanced in his hands, dripped down his arms in a sweet, sticky mess. He presented them awkwardly as if returning from an exploratory voyage.

“Um, they melted,” he said shyly, stating the obvious.

Two petite blondes smiled and laughed in appreciation.

— From A New Name for Marco by Fiona Wannenmacher

He really didn’t want to be here, sitting in my office that hot afternoon, dust clouds forming out in the distance on the plain.

“My wife says I’ve got a problem with anger,” he had stated evenly, ambivalence dripping from every word he spoke.

— From Angry by Andrew Heath

41 published stories. One e-book and printed anthology, Crowd Surfing

Edited by David Vernon, e-book and paperback, Stringybark Publishing,

ISBN: 978-0-6454765-8-3

A$21.95 includes postage within Australia.  Discounts for multiple purchases.  Please enquire for international orders.

Pre-Order Paperback

Multiple copy discount

Purchase E-book ($5.00 AUD)


The Stranger Room


Trudi Slavin


Crowd Surfing


Adam Byatt


One More


Robert Padgett


Upside Down Heaven — Karthik Ajith

Just Like Harry — Tanya Allen

A Girl Named Josephine — Kerry Anderson

The Tribute Band — Linda Atkins

Red Ribbons — Jim Baker

Witch's Blessing — Alexandria Blaelock

Should the Children Die — Peter Court

Forgiving Summer — Gina Dawson

Dead Birds — Mo Duggan

Hands — Alexandra Gittins

Angry — Andrew Heath

Poor Girl — Amanda Hemmings

The Search — Tegan Huntley

All the Birds Fly North — Tom Walters

Freefall into Darkness — Roxanne Kalinda

Final Call — Nicole Kelly

Another Day — Nele Leenders

Fluttering Dreams — Amari Leiva Urzua

The Great Prawn Heist — Rosa Li

Never Underestimate a Love Story (Or an Old Woman) — Lauren Loos

Lamb to the Slaughter — Glyn Matthews

Such a Good Man — Angela McDonnell

Rissole — Bernadette Morley

Lost and Found Gayle Neighbour

Buried Within — Carolyn Nicholson

In for a Penny — Tom Penrose

Five Meals with Eileen — Terence Phillips

Another Bike — Terence Phillips

Seat #7 — Kate Santleben

Conversations of Eyes — John Scholz

By Prescription Only — Ned Stephenson

Off Track — Rosemary Stride

Induction — Bob Topping

A New Name for Marco — Fiona Wannenmacher

Undercover — Mike Woodhouse

The Sting — Mike Woodhouse

To create anything takes effort, persistence and inspiration and the fact that this competition received 291 entries demonstrates that storytelling is an art that engages many people. Winnowing the large number of entries down to just the 41delightful tales presented in Crowd-Surfing was a difficult job. To do so we use standard judging criteria related to the elements of good writing. This should not be a surprise but despite the elements being well known (and on our website) I was quite astonished how many entries did not demonstrate the major components of a good story.  Perhaps these factors are worth making explicit.

Here is a short recipe for writing an enjoyable short story:

Commence with a clear, compelling idea. Identify the central conflict or theme that will drive the narrative. Keep the plot simple (you don’t have the word length for anything particularly fancy), engaging, and ensure that there's a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Develop your characters with depth and brevity (this is not a contradiction — the choice of a right word can do a lot of heavy lifting in developing the depth of a character). Focus on creating protagonists with distinct traits and motivations. Utilise dialogue to quickly reveal conflict and your characters’ personalities.

Use vivid, sensory details to establish the setting that influences the characters and plot. Make the setting integral to the story.

Focus on a central theme. Memorable short stories usually explore universal themes like love, loss, resilience, redemption etc. Weave the theme into the narrative, allowing it to emerge through the characters’ actions and the plot progression rather than making it an explicit feature of your story.

Think carefully about language and style. Each word should serve a purpose, given the word limits. This is crucial in 1500-word stories but should also be utilised for all writing.

A memorable end is required. Don’t let your story end with a whimper. Whether it’s a surprising twist, an emotional climax, or simply leaves the reader with questions, ensure the conclusion creates a lasting impression.

Finally, give your story to other people to read. Ask them for honest feedback and evaluate that feedback. Never enter your story into a competition before friends, family, work colleagues or someone else you can trust to give you honest feedback has read it.

And finally, finally, because once I get going, it’s hard to stop. Do keep to the word limit — stories over the limit are immediately disqualified from receiving recognition. What a waste!

While the above comments serve as a recipe, try to think of your writing as more organic. To get this feel into your writing, read, read and read some more — good writers (not Facebook posts and Instagram captions).

Thank you for entering and I look forward to reading your work in the next competition.

David Vernon

Judge and founder of Stringybark Stories

Judges' Comments


The Boy and the Heron


Maya Duel