Stringybark Open Short Story Award 2024


The Stringybark Tales with a Twist Award 2020

Competition Closed: 19 January 2020

203 entries.  $1020 in prizes.

Judges: Antoinette Merrillees, Julia Robertson, Dr. Rick Williams and David Vernon

Editor: David Vernon

Cover designer: Jonathan Vernon

Layout: Stringybark Publishing

Australian printer: Prinstant, Canberra

A tale with a twist is a tantalising read. Showcased here are thirty-three award-winning stories from Australian and international authors, all which have a neat little twist in the tail. See if you can guess the ending before reaching it.  Written by new and established writers each story has been chosen for its unique contribution to Australian literature as judged by Antoinette Merrillees, Julia Robertson, Dr Rick Williams and David Vernon. Enjoy the journey!

“I know what’s going on between you and Julie.”

Despite the din of the restaurant, Tony had clearly heard what Diana had said. His knife dropped to his plate, and the fork, holding the juicy piece of steak so carefully cut from the T-bone, never made it to his mouth. Tony winced and slowly lowered the fork.

— from A Ridge Too Bizarre by Reg James.

When she gets home, she finds him sitting on their bed, his head in his hands, his breath coming out in guttural groans.  

Arnold was still strung up by his neck from the rafters, his eyes open and bulging.

“Bert,” She looks at him with concern. “Are you okay?”

Eventually Bert looks up at her, struggling to speak through his revulsion. “What … What have you done?”

— from Murdering Arnold by Jan Hayes

33 published stories. One e-book and printed anthology, Just Alice.

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

ISBN: 978-0-6488888-3-3

A$15.95 includes postage within Australia.  Discounts for multiple purchases.  Please enquire for international orders.

Purchase Paperback

Multiple copy discount

Purchase E-book ($3.95 AUD)


Hidden Cause


Andrew Nest


Just Alice


Nicole Kelly


Gregory White's Unordinary Tuesday


Russell Westmoreland


The Voice on the Phone — Mary T D’Arcy

The Biggest Coward — Julie Davies

Dot's Garden — Caro Derkenne

Lemon Meringue Pie — Jana Haasbroek

Roll Play — Doug Hamilton

The Coward’s Medal — Bret Harris

Murdering Arnold — Jan Hayes

Encounter — Daniel Hedger

A Ridge too Bizarre — Reg James

Housemates — Stephen Knox

Sit Tight — Alyssa Mackay

The Swindle — Justine McGinnis

Secret Keeper — Annie McKay

Home Wrecker — Gordon McPherson

Entente — H.L. Moore

Muffin — Tina Morganella

The Dress — Linda Mueller

A Whisper Between the Words — Andrew Nest

One Last Time — Rob Nisbet

Family Business — Joan Padgett

The Librarian — Sandi Parsons

The Storyteller — Gina Pinto

Drama at Customs — Alice Richardson

Mikey's Amazing Career Option — J.S. Scholz

The Inspection — Adam Scullin

Shiver — Dave Sonntag

Blood Moon — Kay Spencer

Crooked Corpse — Kay Spencer

The Handyman — Sharyn Swanepoel

The Falcon — Rita Willsher

This is the third Tales with a Twist Award I have judged for Stringybark Stories. The entries get better and better each time this competition is run. In this collection there were some superb pieces with vibrant settings and well-developed characters — not an easy thing to achieve when the main focus is necessarily on the plot and the writer has a mere 1500 words to enthral the reader.

Disappointingly, there was a significant number of entries that failed to comply with the entry requirements — the most basic being that an entry had to be 1500 words in length or fewer.  We had entries of 4000 and 5000 words!  These are simply not read.  Should entrants in the 400m Olympic hurdles be allowed to do 250m and expect to be judged?  I’m not sure how writers let this happen?  We also had entries that contained no twist whatsoever and thus didn’t score any points on the ‘fit to theme’ criterion.  Grammar and punctuation are again issues for some entrants. We are not particularly strict on this criterion but do expect capitalisation to be correct and dialogue to be punctuated accurately.  Just as we would expect a plumber to know how to fix a leaky tap, we expect writers know how to use tools of their trade.  There are any number of free websites that teach these skills and writers' centres around the country offer short courses in these basics.  Don’t let the reader stumble at a poor sentence and thus miss the wonderful twist you so carefully created because the reader is trying to figure out what you meant earlier in your writing!

As always, the stories that attracted me had strong plots (often quirky), believable characters and a vivid setting. The style was appropriate for what was being written.  If the story was dealing with a tense problem, the sentences were short and pithy, highlighting the urgency of the problem.  Longer sentences and phrasing was used to provide colour and vibrancy to the plot.

This was a wonderful competition to judge and I commend not only the winners and highly commended authors but all entrants. Offering up your writing to be JUDGED can be a difficult task. Congratulations on taking the leap!

David Vernon

Judge and Editor

Stringybark Stories

I love judging the Tales with a Twist award as I am excited with each entry to read a clever twist that outwits me! It is a little unfair, I guess, that as a judge I know there will be a twist at the end of each story, because as I am reading the work I am trying to anticipate what the twist could be. So, for me, a great twist story is one I can’t anticipate and really tricks me. Don’t worry though, despite having read many, many entries over several competitions, I am still outwitted on many occasions. So, the most important criteria for me is a great twist and the more original, the better. I also appreciate good writing. Writing that flows, is appropriate to the tale, as descriptive as necessary so that I can picture what is going on and I can see the characters it is happening to and of course has no spelling mistakes and reasonable punctuation. Mistakes in these, make the tale hard to read and detract substantially from the enjoyment of reading the tale. This is what makes me happy reading these stories and a happy judge marks highly. 

Julia Robertson


Judges Comments