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Pamela Miller Prize 2023 Winning Story

The Artist

by Nicole Kelly

Her hands are assured and confident. A skilled professional. 

“An artist for the modern world—truly exceptional” – The Age 

His skin is soft and doughy in her hands. He is a monster of a man, but his bulk seems less imposing now he lays prostrate on the studio floor, leaking into every corner of her tiny room. This is the place where she feels capable—not scared and cowering.  

The stark white of his nakedness catches the golden glow of the moonlight from outside, which streams through the window, lighting her work.  

 “What Mallard can do with a piece of lino is astounding. Her cuts are sharp and clean; the resulting pieces have both imagination and darkness. – The Art Review 

The small scalpel resting in her hand is her favourite, handle smooth from use. She uses the familiar blade to create the distinct, intricate patterns in hard linoleum squares. Swift, sure cuts to make thick, intersecting lines.  

“Mallard’s designs are sharp, witty and astute. Just when you think you know her work, she turns it, and you, on your head.” – H. Golding (Reviewer) 

Her artist’s mind opens her to the exquisite beauty around her. A dawn sky greeting her after a night of frenetic creation. The same shades of pink and purple which he patterned across the tops of her arms when she said she would leave.  

He had stolen her voice. Left her to only speak through her work. So now he is her canvas. 

“Mallard is an expert in making us feel. Feel something. Feel anything. Feel everything.” – National Gallery 

She reaches her hands deep into his chest cavity. The space she has opened in her husband, expecting to find only emptiness. She cradles the lump of muscle which had once drummed the rhythm of life in his chest. Each beat of his heart marking time, as his fists slammed into her in a syncopated tempo.  

‘There is both fragility and strength in Mallard’s pieces. When you see the strength of her lines contrasting with the whimsical nature of her prints.’ – Art Links Magazine 

They were the inverse of each other. Her and him. She had loved his strength and he her fragility. Until her own strength emerged, growing more potent with every success. His fear drove him to hold on tighter. Until his hands became a noose around her neck.  

 “In her hands, everything is art.” – Art Monthly 

She dips her finger in the sticky liquid, thick as honey. Scrawls her initials across the bare wall above where he lay. She smiles. No matter their reviews, the world will be sure that she is the artist. 

Something Overhead

by Roland Renyi

Winner of the 2022 Pamela Miller Prize

Coffee in hand, Richard climbed up to his and Ruth’s bedroom in time for the weekly web team meeting that he chaired. He could feel the stillness of the house now that Ruth and the kids had gone for the day.

Across from the open bedroom window a skylark was trilling and coming from overhead was the almost continuous sound of the planes on their approach to the airport. They made him think of Danylo and whatever might be in the skies above him.

He looked at his monitor, strategically placed so that their bed was out of view, and sipped his coffee. He and Ruth had bought a Krups coffee maker right after the kitchen units had been put in, a funky one that actually hissed as the steam escaped. Now they had temporarily run out of money to finish off the kitchen floor. But if he was going to work from home, he was going to drink good coffee.

Brita called in just ahead of time. Sometimes he could hear church bells from the square outside her apartment in Verona.  ‘Richard,’ she said in a scolding voice, her Italian accent emphasising the second half of his name, ‘I told you not to cut your hair like that. I can’t believe that Ruth would find that sexy.’

‘Lockdown’ said Richard protectively. ‘I got used to cutting it myself. And we’re budgeting. The kitchen floor, remember.’

George’s round face popped up from his shared house in Kelowna, British Columbia. He had once told Richard that his window looked across a lake towards sloping vines. Consequently, Richard had put him under orders to place his laptop opposite a blank wall.

‘Danylo?’ asked Brita.

They had all been following the news, but Danylo’s one condition for remaining on the project team was that it was not to be discussed.

‘We’ll give him another minute’ said Richard. ‘So. Cucumber or strawberries? Aside from lemon. Which goes better with gin and tonic?’

The consensus so far was that cucumber was better with Kendricks while strawberry worked with Gordons.

Richard exhaled when he heard the ping of Danylo’s login. He looked just the same, with his pointed beard, square glasses and shaved head, a typical web designer. He was calling from what looked like a high-tech designer office, recessed lights, potted plants and abstract paintings on the wall. A bottle of Kendricks was on the shelf behind him, next to a bowl filled with limes, cucumber and strawberries.

Then with a jolt Richard realised the obvious, that the background was completely fake; a digital dream constructed by their Ukranian colleague Danylo, who had never missed a call.

‘Sorry to be late’ he said. ‘There was something…’ then Richard heard the tremor in his voice ‘…There was something overhead. But we have internet. And it’s cucumber, guys. Always cucumber.’

‘Well, that’s great – really, Danylo’ said Richard. ‘Now, there’s a problem with the functionality of table 17. Shall we start with that?’

February Words Out Loud

February WOL flyer

February’s theme at Words Out Loud is “Tainted Love”. Wordsmiths are invited to explore the theme or simply ignore it altogether.
This is a great opportunity to road test new material, celebrate a success or share some inspiration, or simply enjoy a diverse range of spoken word — poetry, prose or storytelling; read or recited; your own work or someone else’s.

Date: Thursday February 20

Time: Doors open about 6.30pm, words from 7pm

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May Members’ Night

ballarat writers at bunch of grapes hotel

Early arrivals prepare to sample the menu

Wednesday 25 May will be the next members’ night at the new venue, the Bunch of Grapes Hotel, at 401 Pleasant St South. The gettogether starts at at 7pm, or enjoy dinner beforehand – the kitchen is open from 5.30pm. Hint: the specials won’t only be on the menu for this one!

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