As part of this year’s National Young Writers’ Festival, the Spineless Wonders’ Slinkies team has been running the Phone It In competition, asking writers under 35 years of age to contribute a short audio story. They had a great response to this call-out and now with the festival only a week away, it is time to announce the six finalists. They are (in alphabetical order):

Brianna Bullen, ‘Night of the Killer Kittens’

Lauren Grubic, ‘Egg Scrambled and Beat’

Anna Jacobson, ‘Potato Stamp’

Cat McLean, ‘Monophonic Bliss’

Ben Schofield, ‘Lonely Phone’

Ben Volchok , ‘Oh, No! said Jarvis Cocker’

Now for the fun part! The Slinkies team want you to select the winning entry. Those of you going to the National Young Writers’ Festival (Sept 28 to Oct 1) will be able to listen to the six audio stories on the Spineless Wonders’ StoryPhones which will be installed, along with ballot papers, at four locations around the city of Newcastle. But if you can’t make it to the festival we also have the six entries on Soundcloud with a link to the voting form on Facebook. The winner and runners-up will be announced at the Wind Down session in Civic Park on Sunday at 6pm. Prizes include a selection of Slinkies and paperbacks and we will be giving away a Spineless Wonders’ gift pack to a lucky voter. So cast your vote online or at the Festival to be in the draw.


Slinkies team-member, Emma Howe, has been getting to know the six finalists and has produced a series of interviews so you can get to know them too. Today we are thrilled to introduce Ben Schofield.

What was your inspiration for ‘Lonely Phone’?

The inspiration came from the concept. Knowing that people would be picking up a handset to listen to the story rather than reading it, combined with the fact that no one does that anymore (uses payphones or traditional telephones).

Who are some of your favourite writers and why?

Chuck Palahniuk, Irvine Welsh, Kurt Vonnegut. Generally, I like books that do interesting things with structure and deliver content that you can’t get in movies and TV.

What do you like about the microlit form?

After being at work you don’t exactly have a huge amount of time to write. So short fiction gives you a chance to complete something without it taking forever. Also, it’s easy for people to consume rather than some giant 500-page novel.

Did you write ‘Lonely Phone’ specifically as an audio piece or was it originally written for print?

It was always written with the audio concept in mind. Trying to engage people on different levels knowing they are picking up the phone to listen to the story. Holding the handset, hearing it close to their ear. Using those senses to try and make them laugh or creep them out a little.

When it comes to really short fiction, do you generally start wide and then cut it down or was ‘Lonely Phone’ always conceived as a small piece?

It was always a small piece. But generally with word limits I’ll go over a little and then just try to refine it back under 100 words or whatever the limit is. It helps you stick to what’s important and not waffle on.

What is the name and personality of the first character you ever created?

The first story I wrote was a ghost story. I guess the character was naïve, trusting and grief stricken. The poor guy didn’t have a name. I’m not very good at naming characters. Sometimes I write in the 1st person just to avoid that. Otherwise they end up with stupid names like Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo.