April 2016


Crime Scenes: a tasty tapas

Barry Maitland, author of the Brock and Kolla and Harry Belltree crime novel series, launched Spineless Wonders’ Crime Scenes at the 2016 Newcastle Writers Festival.

The launch followed a packed panel discussion, ‘Partners in Crime’, facilitated by crime writer Jaye Ford and featuring Crime Scenes editor Zane Lovitt and contributors Andrew Nette and Angela Savage.

Maitland, also the author of widely published short crime fiction, described the Crimes Scenes anthology as ‘a wonderful new development for Australian crime fiction’. (Listen to an excerpt from the launch speech.)

He drew on a food metaphor to describe the anthology. ‘These twelve stories are like a tapas meal,’ he said, ‘a series of small dishes which can be consumed over twenty minutes or so, each with its own distinctive character, each complete in itself and each part of a series that goes on to develop an accumulation of effects.’

The launch event also included the official awarding of the Carmel Bird Award for New Crime Writing, which went to Amanda O’Callaghan for her story ‘The Turn’.

Carmel Bird was present to make the announcement and to congratulate O'Callaghan and the three finalists, Melanie Napthine, Michael Caleb Tasker and Eddie Burger, whose stories were all published in Crime Scenes. (Read O’Callaghan acceptance speech.)

Pictured above are Angela Savage, Zane Lovitt, Carmel Bird and Andrew Nette.


Microlit by any other name is not always sweet (but sometimes it’s coy)

Whether it’s ‘smoke long’, ‘palm of the hand’, capsule stories, nanofiction, sudden fiction, flash fiction, flush fiction or ‘a bit of human history on half a sheet of foolscap’, the one thing you say about microlit is that it’s short.

Spineless Wonders publisher, Bronwyn Mehan, introducing the Newcastle Writers Festival panel discussion ‘Short And Sweet’, agreed the form was undeniably short but disputed that it was also necessarily ‘sweet’.

She said that ingenuity or wiliness were its more common hallmarks.

‘The best short shorts have twists throughout – from the title, to careful word choice, puns, inventive metaphors,’ she said. ‘Some do have endings that bring you up short or leave you wondering. But, as in life, there are not many neat endings or closures in this form.’

Also on the panel was Melbourne microfictionist and video artist, Richard Holt, who drew a fascinating analogy between the act of reading microlit with that of viewing a painting such as Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass).

‘Both forms rely on information outside of the frame,’ Holt said. ‘And there is a direct engagement of the viewer/reader who must play an active (not passive) part in making sense of the artist’s work.’

Newcastle writer and teacher, Joanna Atherfold Finn, reported on the inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival Microlit Competition, explaining what the judging panel had looked for and outlining the various ways that the theme of ‘Thresholds’ had been interpreted by the entrants.

Videos based on the microlit texts from the four finalists — Amanda Berry’s, ‘Elbow Room’, Kelly Hawkins’ ‘Blue Light Disco’, Jodi Vial’s ‘Threshold’ and Karen Whitelaw’s ‘Koi’ (pictured above) — were screened at the end of the panel discussion. Whitelaw won the $250 cash prize.

Read more about the panel discussion here and listen to Sydney actor Eleni Schumacher reading the winning microlit.


Life lessons at Little Fictions

April’s Little Fictions show, called ‘Life Lessons: hacks for growing up and being grown up’, featured actors Eleni Schumacher, Alex Williams and Emma Diaz, who was part of last year’s Sydney Fringe season, as well as Jon Steiner, who read his own work.

The two-hour line-up showcased the work of writers from Sydney, Adelaide, Wollongong, Castlemaine and San Francisco.

In the audience were Susan McCreery, joanne burns and Angela Argent.

Highlights included ‘Neighbour Herd’ by the recently-viral, Sydney-based writer and digital marketer Patrick Lenton, who runs Town Crier, a social media and marketing consultancy for authors.

His story depicting the teenage son as a deer and his father as a bird showed us what we can learn about human behaviour from nature.

Life lessons also came from odd places, such as a mother’s handbag (Sue McCreery’s poignant ‘Sakekeeping’), from physical affliction affecting eyesight in jo burns’ quirky ‘wink’ and from contemplating the science of the human embryo in Michelle Cahill’s ‘An exercise in magic realism’.

In Meredyth Cilento’s ‘The End of the Beginning’, a feisty young girl is rocked by the vicissitudes of mortality while Jon Steiner’s ‘Shady Oaks’ provided comic relief in the hilarious portrayal of the daily life of hip baby boomers in a nursing home growing old [dis]gracefully.

All up, it was a tremendous night, with a large and appreciative crowd entertained by the inimitable, hat-wearing MC, Adam Norris.

Why not bring your book club or writing group to the next Little Fictions?

And, don’t forget, we are looking for previously unpublished works of fiction up to 2,000 words in the form of microfiction, microlit, dramatic monologues – in fact, any written form which will enthral a listening audience. The deadline for the current call out closes May 1, 2016.


A festival of Sydney stories

We are very excited to be part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival program again this year and, to celebrate, on May 16 we’ll be presenting a potpourri of tales from the emerald city.

From the Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour to Woolies at Town Hall, from Bunnings to Ikea, from the outer west to the Shire, we have stories of drug addicts, immigrants, office politics — stories from the hood and stories from the Big End of town.

This dazzling night of stories will be compered by guest MC Jack Gow, fresh from the iconic Enmore Theatre with his critically-acclaimed solo show, Everybody’s Doing it! Dying, That Is …  What’s more, special guest Oliver Mol (author of Lion Attack) will perform his freshly-minted Sydney tale, ‘The Most Beautiful Story in the World’.

Tix available at the door only.


‘Quote’ unquote

‘Dominic hid from the world on the day of his brother’s funeral. His mother had laid out a black suit and clean shoes for him the night before. When he failed to answer the knock at his bedroom door she opened it and found the bed empty. The suit was where she’d left it, draped over a chair by the open window. She searched the house and his father went looking for Dominic in the back garden and lean-to garage on the side of the house. The boy was nowhere to be found and his parents had no choice but to leave for the church in the mourning car without him. It was either that or be late for their eldest son’s funeral. Dominic hadn’t hidden in the house or the yard. He’d climbed the back fence in the early light and ran along the track beside the creek. He didn’t stop running until he’d reached the old cannery where he and Pat had spent most of their spare time when they were younger, a pair of trickers on BMX bikes, racing the length of the loading dock and leaping into thin air.’

Extract from ‘Death Star’ by Tony Birch, Crime Scenes



To win a copy of Crime Scenes: What is the name of the crime writer who launched Crime Scenes at the 2016 Newcastle Writers Festival in April?

To enter, email with your answer in the subject line. 


Dates for your diary

May 1 - Little Fictions Call Out deadline.
May 16 - ‘Sydney Stories’, Little Fictions at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
June 20 -  Little Fictions @ Knox St Bar, ‘Addictive Text’, 7pm.


Sluglines is prepared by Marjorie and Stephen from You Need a Writer.