2017 BALLARAT SHORT STORY COMPETITION.
Ballarat Writers Inc. would like to thank everyone who submitted to the 2017 Southern Cross Short Story competition. Two entries were read aloud at our final members’ night for the year, and they were both stunning yet incredibly different.
All cheques and certificates for the winners and honourable mentions are now in the mail.
Maurilia Meehan’s Judge’s Report.
Thank you to each participant in the 2017 Ballarat Short Story competition.
It is an achievement in itself to finish your story and to send it out to make its own way in the world. You are already one in a thousand, as so many lack the basic writerly discipline of finishing a task. So, congratulations to all 119 entrants for taking your commitment to writing this far.
Our dedicated team of pre-readers whittled the field down to 13 stories, each of which display promise. Kangaroos hopped about more than once. Settings ranged from Africa to Ararat.
Themes frequently concerned childhood memories and grief for lost loved ones. Many were related in the first person. Although these stories were sensitive and touching, they were also static and lacked momentum. Many stories presented a potentially creating an interesting character, setting or mood of foreboding that needed to be further developed.
However, few delivered what most readers demand in a story.
And that is Reversal.
Reversal of reader’s expectations at the end of the story. The sting-in-the-tail. The twist in the plot and/or character that we thought we were familiar with. In short, the element of well-crafted surprise.
Which brings me to a consideration of the outstanding entries.
The Man with the Dolphin Teeth. By Suzannah Churchman – Perth WA
The writer of this story is, I suspect, the love-child of Angela Carter and Stephen King.
A story full memorable detail and vivid imagery, it is set in a waxworks in a bygone Melbourne. This story is elevated from being simply a genre horror tale about ‘monstrous’ characters because of the writer’s control of pace and compassionate humanism.
It is filmic in its cumulative effect, as we watch a stranger enter a closed world, on a quest for truth. And, importantly, it is structured around not one, but TWO, Reversals. I do hope it is published.
Safari. By Kathy George – Indooroopilly QLD
Locked into an external environment which she perceives as a death trap, the central character overcomes her parallel emotional fears of falling in love. Classic structure where a change in the protagonist’s emotional life is the Reversal we are waiting for.
Follow Suit. By Maryanne Ross – Ballarat VIC
This story is structured around a quest for truth, this time set among the op-shops and rooming houses of St Kilda. Refreshingly, it features the milieu of an ageing, feisty woman. A gold jacket she buys in an op-shop leads her into a world of ageing ex-TV stars and the unravelling of a mystery.
THREE HONORABLE MENTIONS, in no particular order.
Shazza’s Sheep. By Tee Linden – Sutherland NSW
Interesting psychological study of an artist whose painting of her beloved sheep comes to life and wreaks revenge.
The Devil’s Food. By Susan Bennett – Warragul VIC
An eagle, a Scottish laird, food and mushrooms, moodily evoked, lead to a satisfyingly murderous Reversal.
The Trials Of Saint Lurlene. By Heather McKenzie -Capalaba QLD
A domestic setting. An internal monologue, delivered by a wife about her husband. Lurlene mixes so many clichés that the author makes her unwittingly comic. Excellent control of voice, each of her twisted cliches providing the reader with a mini-Reversal.