Stringybark Erotic Fiction Story Award 2023
t is a significant challenge to craft an engaging story in this short format. The authors must ration the available words to set a convincing scene, populate it with plausible characters and then structure an interesting narrative arc.
It can be tempting to include more adjectives, or unusual verbs, or complex experimental structures, in an effort to stand out from the crowd. However, the most compelling stories arose from the authors’ ability to show the reader the story without showing the working of the writing process. In the end, less was almost always more.
There were many really interesting tales in the current round of entries, which made for very enjoyable reading. The diversity of tastes amongst the judges is another challenge facing authors, but this diversity is a good thing because it reflects the diverse readership in the population at large. Several stories that I really liked didn’t appeal sufficiently to others on the judging panel; my favourite story didn’t even make it into the anthology. I sincerely hope that the authors whose work did not make it through the selection process will continue to work at their craft.
Dr Andrew Perry
The Stringybark Short Story Award 2023
Competition Closed: 12 Feb 2023
360 entries. $1740 in prizes.
Prizes sponsored by: Graeme Simsion, Anne Buist and Stringybark Publishing
Judges: Dr Andrew Perry, Margie Perkins, Alice Richardson and David Vernon
Editor: David Vernon
Cover designer: Jonathan Vernon
Layout: Stringybark Publishing
Australian printer: Prinstant, Canberra
Forty-four short stories are showcased in Stringybark Stories largest ever anthology of award-winning short stories. Selected from 360 entries from Australia and around the world, these stories are quirky, clever, poignant, sometimes sad, occasionally scary, sporadically funny, but always entertaining. They are a ripper read. Feral is contemporary short story writing at its best.
She found Julia sitting on her bed with her legs straight out, holding the shell to her ear. Her eyes were wide and seemed to stare through her bedroom wall, eastwards, to the horizon.
“Come on, Darling, dinnertime.”
Julia didn’t move. Rachel had never seen her so transfixed without an electronic device in her hands. She clicked her fingers: “Hello, Earth to Julia!”
— From The Shell by Penny Durham
As if in uniform to go to the beach, an Australian Saturday custom, the women wore sun-tops and shorts, the men, swimming gear and unbuttoned shirts. Joy favoured the ventilation of an African wraparound green and red skirt for the walk home in the heat. The red light flashed, and the crowd bunched as they reached a pedestrian crossing. Joy overheard a woman’s whispered broadside, “I’m your romantic other, not your wife.”
— From Song of the Frangipani by Rosemary Lewis
44 published stories. One e-book and printed anthology, Feral
Edited by David Vernon, e-book and paperback, Stringybark Publishing,
A$19.95 includes postage within Australia. Discounts for multiple purchases. Please enquire for international orders.
Purchase E-book ($4.95 AUD)
The Monday Fisherman
A New Dream — James Alexander
Euphony — Tanya Allen
Heaven — An Angel’s Review — Catherine Beeton
Galvanised — Maria Bonar
Midnight Blues — Connery Brown
The Ties that Bind — David Campbell
The Swaggie and His Spirits — Alyce Caswell
Mending Fences — David Christensen
Bright Young Things — Madeleine Cleary
All the Way — Hayley Coombes
Sunshine — Alessandra Dennehy
The Day the Men Stayed Home — Gia Di Pietro
Morning Tea — Chelsea Emrick
How Silence Works — Ebony Frost
The Visitors — Mandy Gwan
Kirra and the Bunyip — Jan Hayes
Vera and Hemmingway — Michal Horton
A Dying Country — Luke Kains
Clarry's Close Call — Stephen Knox
D-Bot and Tasmin — Benjamin Lee
Song o fthe Frangipani — Rosemary Lewis
The Edge of Existence — Katya Lindsay
Murder Overheard — Corinne MacKenzie
Little Knuckler — Gayle Malloy
Highly Flammable — Lisa Kate Moule
Birthright — Gayle Neighbour
Water Dragons — AZ Pascoe
The Eyes of the Law — Terence Phillips
My Guiding Star — Alexandra Rickert
Daphne — Steve Rogers
Bowlo — Greg Schmidt
The Archimedes Principle — John Scholz
Change Past — Jason Spongberg
Headfirst — Rosemary Stride
Sideshow — Pamela Swanborough
One Measly Pound — Tom Walters
Last Wave — J.J. White
Motherhood is a Shipping Container — Nikki Wilkinson
Last Tango — Mike Woodhouse
The van Gogh Trees — Susan Yardley
Where do you start when faced with 360 short stories to read in a given time frame? How do you ensure that each story is given due consideration and is not affected by what was read before? It’s not easy but we have rigorous judging criteria that assist in this process. There are occasional times when easy decisions can be made — the writer didn’t stick to the maximum word limit (we had about five of those for this competition), the writer didn’t follow the genre guidelines (not likely for this competition when the theme was ‘open’) or the writing was so poor that it was incomprehensible (only two for this competition). But the rest of the stories require much more thought. I have personal ‘dislikes’ and I know that these colour my judging. I am leery towards pieces written in the second person (it doesn’t mean that I mark them down immediately, but I need to be really convinced that second person was a good choice), I dislike American spelling (we are a Commonwealth country, for good or bad, and we have spelling conventions that we follow — I forgive this when the entrants are from North America!), and for reasons that I can’t really fathom, vampire and zombie stories do not float my boat.
So, what does float my boat? I love a good strong plot. I love a twist at the end. I love to be fooled and I love it when characterisation and plot combine to give me a smile of delight and perhaps even an out-loud laugh, or a feeling of sadness. If a story has a message, and it is subtle, then wonderful. Didactic tales are not my cup of tea. Clever and beautiful language is the icing on top. Settings are important but are of secondary consideration to me. I usually want to know in what environment the action takes place and I usually want to know the gender (or otherwise) of the characters so I can picture them in my head. If you can blend all my likes together and avoid my dislikes then you’re going to score in the mid-forties (out of fifty points) and you are nearly guaranteed a highly commended (depending on my fellow judges) in Stringybark competitions.
As an aside, I was struck that, despite Australia being an urban society, so many of our entries placed their stories in a rural or regional setting. This really does confirm that we all seem to think that being ‘Australian’ relies on our relationship with our natural environment. As a rural dweller myself, I like this, but I also want to read stories that take me out of my familiar and comfortable situation.
Thank you everyone for entering. Your contribution, whether we published you or not (this time), you have helped make Australian literature more vibrant and the world a better place.
It is with much anticipation I look forward to the next competition. Happy reading and writing!
Judge and Editor
I love my occasional stints of judging the Stringybark Short Story competitions. I admire all you writers who have had the guts to sit down and write a story and submit it.
I like stories that ring true to life experiences and offer different perspectives.
I like stories that make me think.
I like stories that make me smile or even laugh out loud.
I like stories whose characters I can imagine; they are interesting and consistent within the story.
I like the characters to have a dilemma that gets resolved in some way.
I like writing that is elegant, where verb tenses are consistent throughout and adjectives and adverbs are used sparingly so they don’t swamp my own imagining of your characters and scenes. Just give me enough – make me participate as the reader.
I enjoy good dialogue. I remember a creative writing course stressing the value of reading aloud your dialogue. If it’s clunky you’ll hear it and then work on it some more.
Congratulations to you all. Whether I like your story or it leaves me cold, you have gone to the effort of writing it. Word by word it came into being.
Nothing at All