Maybe great writing happens when readers understand themselves in the global. All of the winning entries were about Australia’s place in the world or the world’s place in Australia. It’s hard to pull off characters that are both personal and universal – but that was the core strength of these three pieces. We’re taken beyond ourselves, and in that process, recognise ourselves.
Winner ($300): ‘10.42 to Sydenham’ by Mark Smith
This is a short-short story about a girl being bullied on the train from the perspective of an African migrant. It’d be easy to overdo this, to rely on stereotype or the grotesque – but by using tight, controlled language, the writer expertly leads the reader through the shifting loyalties of the story. There’s set-up, tension, and a resolution that’s not as smooth as we were expecting. And this discomfort is what makes the story.
Runner-up ($100): ‘happy’ by Hilary Hewitt
This prose poem follows Hao Zianzhang and his boutique pear venture. The poem tackles consumerism, waste, communism, infanticide and poverty in thirteen lines and the reader wants more. It’s crazy. But each word is precise and this kind of care is riveting.
Runner-up ($100) ‘cities that are not dublin’ by Mark Roberts
This writer uses great detail (‘all the girls seem to be dressed in orange and green’) and there’s a wonderful sense of Australia answering back to the colonial canon. The lulling pace and use of white space add to the ambience so that the reader, too, feels like they’re tucked beside a train window, burrowing into Ulysses.