Tag Archives: writing

In judgement

This year I was invited to judge the inaugural Rockingham City Council Short Story competition. I was judge for the KSP Speculative Fiction comp a couple of years ago and enjoyed the experience (my judge’s report for that one isn’t on their site anymore – might post it somewhere for posterity) so I was happy to say yes. Foolishly, I thought it probably wouldn’t be a huge job – first year of the competition and all. I didn’t reckon with the powers of Lee Battersby, competition organiser and champion! Ended up with nearly 140 entries across three categories (Youth, Open and 50+). The stories had only one theme – the inspiration of an artwork owned by the RCC, the very evocative “The Eviction” by Derrick Carroll.

I did my duty and chose the winners (1st, 2nd and 3rd plus three honorable mentions in each category – 18 in all). It was blind reading – all names stripped from the manuscripts, just numbered. So imagine my surprise when Lee told me that the winner of the Open and 50+ categories was the same person, and the winner of the Youth section was her daughter! I was blown away, particularly as the three stories were all very different. I would never have imagined the Open and 50+ stories to have been written by the same person. I thought that was pretty funny. It was even funnier tonight when all the winners were announced at a lovely little event put on by the Council, when I realised that every single one of the 18 stories I’d selected as winners was written by a woman. Could have knocked me over with a feather!

Am I a gendered reader? I wouldn’t have thought so. Yes, a lot more women than men pass through my hands when I’m reading these days, but fifteen years ago, four out of my top five favourite authors were men (Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Raymond Feist and David Eddings – Anne McCaffrey rounded out the five). It’s changed since then, and while I still do read and enjoy many books and stories by male authors, if I’m given the choice between a new male author and a new female author to read, I’ll almost certainly pick the female.

I don’t think I can put the motive for this change squarely in the court of the company I’ve been keeping for the past several years (I’m looking at YOU Alisa, Tansy, Helen, Alex et al!), although of course that helps. I would suggest that part of it is an exposure to more woman writers, but also my own growth and change as a person. It’s an interesting thing to consider about myself.


Anyway, here’s the gist of my judging report for the competition:

It was a great privilege to judge the inaugural Rockingham City Council Short Story competition this year. The huge number of entries was a surprise for the first year of a competition, but demonstrated the interest in the creative arts in our area and across Australia.

With such a darkly intricate artwork to draw inspiration from in “The Eviction”, it’s hardly surprising that stories were evocative, compelling, disturbing and engaging. While many writers took a very literal interpretation of the work, others used it with a light touch, with satisfying results in both areas.

The image prompted many ghost stories, which was fascinating, and a multitude of works featuring a cat as protagonist. Both types of story can be difficult to execute successfully, and the best took the trope and gave it a unique twist. While many works were very well-written, some were let down by a lack of true story, being instead mood pieces or vignettes. A very short story is possibly one of the hardest types of writing to execute well, as in a limited space there is still a need for plot, character and good writing. Rarely can any one of those three elements stand well enough on its own to create a good story – almost always, all three are required. The very best of stories uses all three seamlessly and integrates them into a work that makes it impossible to tell which of the three are doing the hardest work in making it great!


1st place – While not unique among the entries in terms of the premise (ghost stories were a favourite trope for this competition), this story was executed extremely well. The characterisation and set up of the story were very believable – it was creepy and sad, and above all, written beautifully.

2nd place – An action-packed piece that took me to a completely different place than I’d anticipated! Cleverly done and well-written.

3rd place – One of the few stories submitted that examined the painting itself rather than simply drawing inspiration from it. While not quite as well put together as the first and second place stories, it held my attention and made me want to read it again once I got to the end.


1st place – Eerily beautiful, this haunting story still packs a punch. I love the paranormal premise here, and the writing is excellent.

2nd place – This solid story was a dark little insight into what goes on behind closed doors. A quite innocent facade but not all that pleasant to read!

3rd place – Another behind-closed-doors story – the narrator of this piece was particularly likeable. A little sad story.


1st place – This story took a fabulous idea and pulled off a well-paced, creepy tale. The over-the-top characterisation set off this horror story very cleverly. Great writing!

2nd place – As an editor, I would have advised the author to do some judicious trimming of this story, but it’s overall a very well-written piece. I liked the way the painting played an important role in the story.

3rd place – A number of the submissions tried to use an anti-hero narrator – someone completely unlikeable telling the story. This is a difficult thing to do well and this story did it best. Cleverly done.


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Open short story markets – revised!

A couple of new markets added! Listed in order of closing date – some closing very soon…

1. Twelfth Planet Press is seeking original, unpublished fantasy stories of between 2,500 wds and 7,500 wds, set in the 1920s and fun, for Speakeasy. Details here. Closes September 30, 2010. Twelfth Planet Press also has open reading for the novella and novelette doubles series’.

2. FableCroft Publishing is calling for (Australian only) submissions to After the Rain, a speculative fiction anthology for stories between 2,000-10,000 words. Details here. Closes October 31, 2010.

3. Liz Gryzb is editing More Scary Kisses for Ticonderoga Publications. Paranormal romance stories of between 1,000 and 8,500 words are wanted. Details here. Closes November 1, 2010.

4. Submissions of 1,000 to 7,500 words from Australian and overseas contributors are encouraged to the Aussie vampire anthology Dead Red Heart from Ticonderoga Publications. Closes December 1, 2010. Details here.

5. Although the CSFG website hasn’t been updated to reflect this, submissions for the next CSFG Publishing anthology, Winds of Change, are welcome from 15 September 2010 and 31 January 2011.

Winds of Change will be edited by Elizabeth Fitzgerald. Stories may be any length up to 5,000 words. All approaches to the theme are welcome, as long as they are by nature speculative.

Payment will be contributors’ copies plus $10 for stories under 1,500 words and $25 for all others based on published word count.

Submissions are encouraged from Australian writers of all levels of experience, with special encouragement given to CSFG members.

Submissions should be sent (as .rtf attachments only) to windsofchange.csfg@gmail.com. Please make sure that the following information is in the email proper:

Email address
Name of Story
Word Count
Other contact information

If you wish to contribute to the interior artwork, please contact to windsofchange.csfg@gmail.com.

6. Editor Keith Stevenson is reading for the forthcoming Couer de Lion anthology, Anywhere But Earth. Original and unpublished science fiction stories of between 3,000 and 15,000 words on the theme are welcomed. Extensive details here. Closes February 28, 2011.

7. Midnight Echo 6 is now open for submissions and the editors are seeking science fictional horror stories (or "creepy alien fiction" as one editor puts it!) up to 5000 words – unsure of closing date as the website hasn’t yet been updated, but the guidelines for the issue are available here, and I’m sure closing dates will appear soon.

8. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is almost always open to global submissions of up to 10,000 words (20,000 for Aust & NZ writers). Comprehensive guidelines here.

9. Aurealis is also an open market for Australian speculative fiction between 2,000 and 8,000 words – submissions from overseas by query. Guidelines here.

ETA: Thanks to Ben for reminding me – there are also some online markets (paying and unpaid) open.

a) Moonlight Tuber edited by Ben Payne (surreal, absurdist or otherwise non-realist material).
b) AntipodeanSF edited by Ion Newcombe (flash fiction, unpaid).


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Short Story Competitions

A couple of short story competitions with fairly substantial prize pools have come through my reader recently, so I’m passing them on to you 🙂


To complement our suite of literary competitions, ABR is reviving the Short Story Competition, with a first prize valued at $2000. There are two other prizes. All three place-getters will be published in the magazine. Stories in English of between 1000 and 3000 words are eligible, as long as they have not been published previously or are not on offer elsewhere. Multiple entries are acceptable. The closing date is May 10

CLICK HERE for the entry form, or ring (03) 9429 6700.

ABR now publishes short fiction. We welcome submissions from authors.

Katharine Susannah Prichard
Speculative Fiction Award 2010

Closing date: Friday, May 28, 2010
· Katharine Susannah Prichard Open Awards
· Mundaring National Young Writers Awards (20 years and under)
Both sections are open to all Australian residents.
Minimum 1500 Maximum 3500
· Katharine Susannah Prichard Open Awards – $7.00 per story, to be paid by cheque or money order only, payable to: KSP Foundation Inc.
· Shire of Mundaring National Young Writers Awards – no entry fee.
· Katharine Susannah Prichard Open Awards: 1st $600 2nd $300 3rd $175 Commended 5 of $10
· Mundaring National Young Writers Awards: 1st $75 2nd $25 Commended 5 of $10
· Under-13’s: $25
Highly Commended and Commended Certificates will also be awarded.
Every form of Speculative Fiction such as science fiction, fantasy , horror, mystery and supernatural/superhero fiction are welcome.
The Awards will be announced and presented at the Awards Ceremony at KSP Writers’ Centre on Sunday, August 15, 2010

Katharine Susannah Prichard
Short Fiction Award

Closing date: Friday September 24, 2010
• Katharine Susannah Prichard Open Awards
• Mundaring National Young Writers Awards (20 years and under)
Both sections are open to all Australian residents.
Minimum 1000 Maximum 3000
• Katharine Susannah Prichard Open Awards ‐ $7.00 per story, to be paid by cheque or money order only, payable to: KSP Foundation Inc.
• Shire of Mundaring National Young Writers Awards – no entry fee.
• Katharine Susannah Prichard Open Awards: 1st $600 2nd $300 3rd $175 Commended 5 of $10
• Mundaring National Young Writers Awards: 1st $75 2nd $25 Commended 5 of $10
• Under‐13’s: $25
The Awards will be announced and presented at the Celebration of Katharine’s Birthday at KSP Writers’ Centre on Sunday, December 5, 2010.


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KSP Writer’s Competition CLOSING REAL SOON!

Entries are closing soon for the 2009 Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction competition. This prestigious competition has run since 1998, with some winners going on to successful careers as science fiction and fantasy authors.

Entries close on 29 May 2009, and writers of all ages are invited to apply. Cash prizes are awarded, and winners are invited to read at the Awards Ceremony on Sunday 16 August 2009.

The Speculative Fiction Awards are popular with school groups, and to encourage young writers, there is no entry fee for those aged 20 and under. A fee of $7.50 applies to entries in the Open category.

Stories must be between 1500 and 3500 words, with all forms of speculative fiction welcomed. Further information can be found on the Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation website.

Competitions Secretary Fay Dease has observed increasing numbers of writers from other states interested in the KSP Speculative Fiction Awards.

“The competition has attracted entries from all over Australia, and we look forward to hearing from more interstate authors accessing this information through the website,” she said.

Previous winners include WA author Lee Battersby, who has also won the Australian Shadows Award, the Aurealis Award, and the Ditmar Award.

Source: KSP Writers Centre

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Advice for writers

johnjosephadamsof The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has some VERY good advice for authors making manuscript submissions. While many of the points relate to paper submissions, a process which is being phased out by email submissions, especially for short fiction, this list is definitely worthwhile reading!

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