Winner: ‘Wheeler’ (by Benjamin Forbes)

First runner-up: ‘Epilogue’ (by Rosemary Stride)

Second runner-up: ‘How To Leave Your Childhood Behind’ (by Ros Thomas)

Comments on the winning story and the two runners-up:

It was a pleasure judging the 2021 Southern Cross Short Story Competition.

The winning story, ‘Wheeler’, presents a clever interpretation of the competition theme of ‘turning away’. The piece has an amusing and memorable premise, detailing the history of a movement headed by a figure faintly reminiscent of June Dally-Watkins, who advocates for prudent turning as a ‘method of optimising social decorum’. The story is original and engagingly executed.

The first runner-up, ‘Epilogue’, is a deftly structured piece in which an elderly woman reflects on decades of family life in one home. The story is particularly impressive because it covers wide territory in an extremely economical manner yet is still able to elicit an emotional response from the reader.

The second runner-up, ‘How to Leave Your Childhood Behind’, is an account of a traumatic childhood experience at a Royal Show. The narration is vivid and compelling, building to a gut-wrenching climax and denouement.

Comments on my view of the shortlist as a whole:

The shortlist for this year’s prize was strong and stylistically diverse. These thought-provoking stories explore various facets of human experience, with finely drawn characters muddling through their lives, struggling to deal with the past, contemplating difficult decisions, discovering they have been exploited, confronting the reality of losing nearly everything they own, and relying on their inner strength to stand up to opposition. I was honoured to have had the opportunity to read the work of so many talented writers, and hope that they continue to push their writing to new heights.

Julie Koh, November 2021

Note: The judge was presented with a shortlist prepared by a panel organised by Ballarat Writers. All entries were considered blind by the panel and the judge. Highly commended certificates were also awarded to ‘Dogs’ by Timothy Loveday and ‘The Cakemaker’ by David Campbell.