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2021 PC600 Short Story Competition Judge’s Report

Judge: Brooke Dunnell

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of reading over 300 works of flash fiction entered into the Youth, Novice and Open categories of the 2021 Peter Cowan 600 Short Story Competition. So much about judging this competition has been heartening: the number of entries, the quality of the writing, the range of approaches, and the very fact that the competition exists and has been promoting flash fiction and emerging Australian authors for such a long time.

Entrants to the Peter Cowan 600 set themselves the difficult task of creating something recognisable as a story in six hundred words or fewer. In two to three double-spaced pages, characters appear and move and speak; their surroundings solidify; their hopes and dreams are shared, questioned, shattered. They experience events and sensations both mundane and extreme. They are left changed in major, minor, or even barely perceptible ways.

Many, many submissions across all three categories were impressive, and for a variety of reasons. I encountered beautiful descriptive writing, snappy dialogue, moments of eye-widening familiarity. I was allowed to dip into lives I would otherwise have no concept of. I read endings that left me stunned at the author’s perceptiveness or that forced me to immediately return to the beginning to see how it all came together. Every single story had something going for it, if not several things. To the many submitters who haven’t ended up with an award or acknowledgement, this doesn’t mean your story failed. The competition was very strong, which is exciting for the flash fiction genre in particular and the writing community overall. In order to reflect this, five pieces have been shortlisted in each category to accompany the winners.

For those looking to improve their creative writing skills, there are a few areas where weaknesses are more common. The strongest pieces of flash fiction are those that feel self-contained and provide a sense of awareness, realisation or change for the characters. This is, of course, extremely tricky: how does a writer convey a meaningful moment with so little space for description, backstory, and stakes? For me, the answer is specificity: choose those details that tell readers a lot in the shortest amount of time. Stories that were very general or that spent too many precious words on extraneous detail were less likely to do well.

The beginning and ending of a story are also extremely important in throwing us in and then pulling us back out. It’s much harder for a story without a distinct ending to have as strong an impact. (This doesn’t mean that everything is resolved, but rather that readers are left with a sense that the moment being narrated is now complete—more difficult to achieve than it sounds.) In reading the submissions, I was sometimes disappointed by strong stories that petered out in the final paragraph. Conversely, some that were humming along fairly well delighted me with the deployment of an ending that felt well-earned and just right.

If your story wasn’t chosen this year, don’t be disheartened. Think of how many other moments you could capture and shape in under six hundred words—thousands, right?—and please submit again in 2022.

2021 WINNERS AND SHORTLISTS

Youth Category

Julian Cowan Youth Award: ‘Please Hold’ by Eva Mustapic (Western Australia)

Written with a clear eye and steady pacing, the events captured in this story are made all the more suspenseful and chilling through the effective use of the first-person point of view, leaving readers and the narrator equally unsettled.

Shortlisted entries

‘A Case of You’ by Joel Keith (Victoria)
‘Forever’ by Olivia Nigido-Scott (Victoria)
‘Inalienable’ by Christina Quan (Victoria)
‘It’s That Simple’ by Erin Williams (Western Australia)
‘Mother’ by Meh Menush Menhood (Western Australia)

Novice Category

Novice Award: ‘Fuel’ by Katy Knighton (Victoria)

This piece of flash, like its narrator, is unique, quirky and endearing. The protagonist’s efforts to play it cool around a celebrity feel familiar, and the simple clarity of the ending fits the story and its characters.

Shortlisted entries

‘Eating the Virgin’ by Andrew Macleod (Western Australia)
‘Hashima’ by Indyana Horobin (Queensland)
‘Serrations’ by Andrew Ward (Western Australia)
‘Still Life’ by Tanya Edlington (Victoria)
‘Tin Shed Antiquities’ by Mitchell Suursaar (South Australia)

Open Award

First place: ‘In the Womb of His Truck’ by Kit Scriven (Victoria)

The shifts between photograph and memory, adulthood and boyhood in this story are deftly handled, creating a sense of desolation and melancholy. The precision of the detail is remarkable, allowing readers to understand the situation through careful implication.

Second place: ‘Girl in Short, Red-Cotton Pyjamas’ by Shey Marque (Western Australia)

The writer’s effective use of second-person point of view gives readers sharp insight into a sensitive and important issue. The protagonist’s reactions to her traumatic experience are distinct and realistic, as, sadly, are those of other characters.

Third place: ‘Some Things About Laundry’ by Sarah Leighton (Western Australia)

This rumination on ‘things about laundry’ appears deceptively commonplace at the start, but by the end readers come full circle to share a sense of sadness at the realisation at what has been taken for granted.

Highly commended

‘Boi’ by Donald Linke (Victoria)
‘Glitter’ by Emily Winter (Queensland)
‘It Had to be Love’ by Carolyn Parker (Western Australia)
‘Serenade for End Days’ by Scott-Patrick Mitchell (Western Australia)

Commended

‘Clear Blue’ by Susan McCreery (New South Wales)
‘Names’ by Alan Fyfe (Western Australia)
‘Punch Up’ by Isaac Abbott (South Australia)
‘Siren of the Sea’ by Sherry Mackay (Queensland)

Shortlisted entries

‘Air Fantasy AF34’ by Ross Jackson (Western Australia)
‘At Your Table’ by Carmel Lillis (Victoria)
‘Free-camping’ by Peter Perkins (Queensland)
‘The Poetry of Sunrises’ by Carmel Lillis (Victoria)
‘Three’ by Therese Lloyd (New South Wales)

Congratulations to those writers whose work has been recognised. You should be very proud of your achievement! My sincere thanks to Gayle Malloy and the Peter Cowan Writers Centre for asking me to judge this year’s entries and for collecting, anonymising and sharing them so efficiently, making my part of the job seamless in the process.

Brooke Dunnell, 17 May 2021

2021 Peter Cowan 600 Short Story Competition Results

The PCWC would like to thank all entrants who entered the PC600 Short Story Competition in 2021 and for your patience while the judging process was completed. The competition attracted over 300 entries this year from around Australia.

This year’s judge was WA writer and mentor, Brooke Dunnell. Brooke was a finalist in the 2020 Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award with her short story collection, Female(s and) Dogs, and is currently short-listed for the 2021 Fogarty Literary Award for her novel The Glass House.

The full Judge’s Report for the PC600SS can be accessed HERE:

The winners and shortlisted entrants for the PC600SS are:

Open Award

First place: ‘In the Womb of His Truck’ by Kit Scriven (Victoria)

Second place: ‘Girl in Short, Red-Cotton Pyjamas’ by Shey Marque (Western Australia)

Third place: ‘Some Things About Laundry’ by Sarah Leighton (Western Australia)

Highly Commended

‘Boi’ by Donald Linke (Victoria)
‘Glitter’ by Emily Winter (Queensland)
‘It Had to be Love’ by Carolyn Parker (Western Australia)
‘Serenade for End Days’ by Scott-Patrick Mitchell (Western Australia)

Commended

‘Clear Blue’ by Susan McCreery (New South Wales)
‘Names’ by Alan Fyfe (Western Australia)
‘Punch Up’ by Isaac Abbott (South Australia)
‘Siren of the Sea’ by Sherry Mackay (Queensland)

Shortlisted entries

‘Air Fantasy AF34’ by Ross Jackson (Western Australia)
‘At Your Table’ by Carmel Lillis (Victoria)
‘Free-camping’ by Peter Perkins (Queensland)
‘The Poetry of Sunrises’ by Carmel Lillis (Victoria)
‘Three’ by Therese Lloyd (New South Wales)

Novice Award 

Novice Winner: ‘Fuel’ by Katy Knighton (Victoria)

Shortlisted entries

‘Eating the Virgin’ by Andrew Macleod (Western Australia)
‘Hashima’ by Indyana Horobin (Queensland)
‘Serrations’ by Andrew Ward (Western Australia)
‘Still Life’ by Tanya Edlington (Victoria)
‘Tin Shed Antiquities’ by Mitchell Suursaar (South Australia)

Julian Cowan Youth Award (sponsored by Ms Diana Cowan)

Youth Winner: ‘Please Hold’ by Eva Mustapic (Western Australia)

Shortlisted entries

‘A Case of You’ by Joel Keith (Victoria)
‘Forever’ by Olivia Nigido-Scott (Victoria)
‘Inalienable’ by Christina Quan (Victoria)
‘It’s That Simple’ by Erin Williams (Western Australia)
‘Mother’ by Meh Menush Menhood (Western Australia)

2020 Members Only Prose Competition Judge’s Report

2020 PCWC Members Only 500 Word Prose Competition

JUDGE’S REPORT – BROOKE DUNNELL

General comments

As the writers who contributed to this competition would know, just because flash/micro-fiction is short doesn’t mean it’s easy to produce. The challenge involved in creating a world and evoking feelings in readers within the space of a page or two is a great one, and I was delighted to read so many entries that were able to meet it. Strengths common to many of the stories include powerful descriptions, a strong sense of place, and the creation of a mood that lingers beyond the span of 500 words.

One of the hardest things for a flash fiction writer to do is leave readers with the impression that something fundamental has shifted over the course of so few pages. Experiencing a ‘slice of life’ is one of the pleasures of reading, but the biggest payoff comes when a seemingly minor moment depicted in a piece of flash fiction has an impact greater than the sum of its parts. This may be something to consider in future for those entrants who didn’t receive an award or commendation this time around.

Congratulations to all the writers who entered. Every single story had qualities that made for an enjoyable reading experience, and you should be proud of your efforts!

Novice Award: ‘Spawned’ by Christine Eyres

The author of ‘Spawned’ is able to give a sense of the main characters’ past, present and future in less than 500 words, and the power shift at the end is subtle but effective. The imagery is beautifully rendered, making the reader feel as if they too are night diving.

Novice Commendation: ‘The Fear’ by Carolyn Parker

This piece of horror flash fiction throws the reader into the action from the first sentence and its suspenseful, malevolent atmosphere is maintained throughout. The motif of watching and being watched is cleverly deployed to give the ending extra impact.

Member Award: ‘Going Home’ by Elizabeth Brennan

On first reading this story I was genuinely surprised and touched by the twist at the end, which is earned by the writer’s attention to detail and mood. The voice of the narrator is clear and authentic, eliciting reader sympathy and adding weight to the final revelation.

Member Commendation: ‘The Love Affair’ by Laila Miller

This piece is structured not according to typical narrative conventions, but through the natural elements of weather patterns and passing time. The elegant use of language and precision of the descriptions creates the same magical feeling as is experienced in the story.

Thank you for inviting me to judge this competition and good luck to all the entrants in their future writing endeavours!

Brooke Dunnell, 6 November 2020

2020 Members Only Prose Competition Results

The results are in for the 2020 PCWC Members Only Prose Competition. Congratulations to the following winners:

Open Award:           Elizabeth Brennan for ‘Going Home’

Commended:           Laila Miller for ‘The Love Affair’

Novice Prize:          Christine Eyres for ‘Spawned’

Commended:          Carolyn Parker for ‘The Fear’

Our thanks to all members who entered the competition.

Thanks also to our Judge, WA writer Brooke Dunnell. You can read the Judge’s Report here.

Stay tuned for the return of our national prose award, the PC600 Short Story Competition in February 2021.

 

2019 Peter Cowan 600 Word Short Story Competition Results

The results for the Peter Cowan 600 Short Story Competition are now available. This years judge, Nathan Hobby, gave feedback from his judges report on the Awards Day, before announcing the winners and listening to the finalists’ read their work. There were 300 entries in this years competition so thank you to everyone who entered, and keep writing.

Nathan Hobby (Competition Judge)
Nathan Hobby (Competition Judge) and Martin Lindsay (First Place).
Left to right, Lottie Berinson (Commended), Sal De Freitas (Novice Award), Nathan Hobby (Competition Judge), Martin Lindsay (First Place) and Jessie Speers (Youth Award).

Please click here for the Judges Report

Please click here for the Longlist

Longlisted stories impressed the judge and were close to winning one of the awards. To be longlisted in such a large competition is an achievement.

Results:

  • First Place was awarded to Martin Lindsay for Grounded.
  • Second Place was awarded to Arna Radovich for Diana.
  • Third Place was awarded to Suzi Mezei for Incubation.
  • The Novice Award was awarded to Sal De Freitas for Hurt.
  • The Judges Encouragement for Youth Award was awarded to Jessie Speers for The Old Car.

Four Highly Commended Certificates went to:

  • Kathy Shortland-Jones for The Eggplant Incident.
  • Rebecca Douglas for The Gully.
  • Rebecca Douglas for Chaz.
  • Kit Scriven for How She Keeps the Words In.

Four Commended Certificates went to: 

  • Lottie Berinson for The Stranger that We Know and Fear.
  • Danae Sweetapple for Go On.
  • Nirvana Dawson for Both Anna.
  • Richard Regan for Fire.

2018 Glen Phillips Poetry Prize Competition

The results of the Glen Phillips Poetry Prize Competition are now available. The competition judge, Doctor Nandi Chinna was unable to deliver the judges report herself, so Glen Phillips delivered the report and presented the prizes at her request. Nearly 200 entries were received this year, a record number of entries and we’re already looking forward to next years competition to see what everyone comes up with.

Left to right, Norma Schwind (Commended), Ruby Paterson (Novice Award), Shey Marque (Third Place), Nyah Gray (Commended), Shane McCauley (First Place), Chloe Diggins (Youth Award), Glen Phillips, Sariah Hotai (Highly Commended), Ross Jackson (Highly Commended).

Award day with attending finalists and guests.

Shane McCauley (First Place) and Glen Phillips.

Please click here for the Judges Report

Results:

  • First Places was awarded to Shane McCauley for Endgame.
  • Second Place was awarded to Kevin Gillam for The Vase Room.
  • Third Place was awarded to Shey Marque for Settina for Juliette.
  • The Novice Award was awarded to Ruby Paterson for I feel suddenly very small.
  • The Judges Encouragement Award for Youth was awarded to Chloe Diggins for Beggar’s Belief.

Four Highly Commended Certificates went to:

  • Ross Jackson for Wednesday Scorcher. 
  • Rita Tognini for Landscape with Family.
  • Sariah Hotai for Overlooked.
  • Jas Choo for Yellow Fever.

Four Commended Certificates went to:

  • Mark Pearce for At the end of Hope.
  • Norma Schwind for Yesterday’s Hero.
  • Elanna Herbert for Reading Colonial Art: in Western Australia.
  • Nyah Gray for At a Loss for Words.

2018 Trudy Graham-Julie Lewis Literary Award for Prose Competition

The results for the Trudy Graham-Julie Lewis Literary Award for Prose Competition are now available. Dr Annabel Smith, the competition judge, read her judges report at the award ceremony on Saturday 15th of September and presented the award certificates. Thank you everyone who entered the competition, and keep writing your stories – we love reading them.

Left to right, Keith Melrose (Centre President), Leslie Thiele (First Place), Gita Bolton (Highly Commended and Commended), Dr Annabel Smith (Competition Judge), and Karen Taylor (Novice Award).

Award day with attending finalists and guests.

First Place winner Leslie Thiele and Competition Judge Dr Annabel Smith.

Please click here for the Judges Report

Results:

  • First Place was awarded to Leslie Thiele for 2/4 Time.
  • Second Place was awarded to Christine Johnson for Harmony.
  • Third Place was awarded to Helen Lyne for Conversations, Commotion & Silence.
  • The Novice Award was awarded to Karen Taylor for Dust.
  • The Judge’s Encouragement Award for Youth went to Kodi Sawtell for Time.

Four Highly Commended Certificates went to:

  • Gita Bolton for Cat.
  • Maureene Fries for Gone.
  • Colleen Russel for Little Girl Lost.
  • Beverly Lello for A Small Affair.

Four Commended Certificates went to:

  • Gita Bolton for Hunter & Hunted.
  • Sasha Pcino for The Boy in the Blue Overalls.
  • Sasha Pcino for A Change in Season.
  • Helen Kerr for The Change Quilt.

 

2018 Patron’s Prize for Poets Competition

The results for the 2018 Patron’s Prize for Poets Competition are now available. The competition judge, Dr. Lucy Dougan, gave her judges report on Awards Day on Saturday 21st of June announcing the winners and finalists who then read their work. Thank you everyone who entered the competition, keep writing your poetry.

Left to right, David Luckett (Highly Commended), Ella Girdler (Encouragement for Youth Award), Madeleine Tingey (Commended), Shey Marque (Commended), Dr. Lucy Dougan (Competition Judge), Fran Graham (Second Place), and Ross Jackson (Highly Commended).

Keith Melrose (Centre President) and Dr. Lucy Dougan (Competition Judge).

Awards Day with the attending finalists, Dr. Lucy Dougan (Competition Judge) and Keith Melrose (Centre President).

Please click here for the Judges Report

Results:

  • First Place was awarded to Edward Reilly for In my boyhood city.
  • Second Place was awarded to Fran Graham for Anticipating Mothers’ Day.
  • Third Place was awarded to Maurice Corlett for Baker Street.
  • The Novice Award was awarded to Erica De Jong for Another time, maybe.
  • The Judges Encouragement for Youth Award was awarded to Ella Girdler for The Colonial Almanac.

Four Highly Commended Certificates went to:

  • David Luckett for The Footsteps at Laetoli.
  • Erica De Jong for Siren in Gold Pants.
  • Ross Jackson for Perth Free Transit Zone.
  • Edward Reilly for So it goes.

Four Commended Certificates went to:

  • Maurice Corlett for Overnight in Bright.
  • Tee Linden for Popping the heads off lavender.
  • Madeleine Tingey for Consolations.
  • Shey Marque for Last words.

2018 Peter Cowan 600 Word Short Story Competition

The results for the Peter Cowan 600 Word Short Story Competition are now available. The judge, Dr Josephine Taylor, gave her generous report on the Awards Day, before awarding the writers and hearing the finalists’ work. Thank you to all who entered their stories and, keep writing.

Left to right, Alex Gerbaz (Novice Award), Dr Josephine Taylor (Competition Judge), and Rebecca Handler (Commended).

Alex Gerbaz (Novice Award) reading his short story, The Safety House.

Dr Josephine Taylor (Competition Judge) delivering her Judges Report.

Please click here for the Judges Report

Results:

  • First Place was awarded to Karen Whitelaw for Heat.
  • Second Place was awarded to Kate Rees for How A Man Goes Missing.
  • Third Place was awarded to Mary Pomfret for A Winter Lease.
  • The Novice Award was awarded to Alex Gerbaz for The Safety House.
  • The Judges Encouragement for Youth Award was awarded to William Yap for A Long Night.

Four Highly Commended Certificates went to:

  • Jim Brigginshaw for Hell’s Belles.
  • Lisa Kenway for D-Day.
  • Kerrin O’Sullivan for Closer. Further.
  • Ted Witham for Lies in the Fowl-Yard.

Four Commended Certificates went to:

  • Rebecca Handler for Fatal Bear Attack in Wyoming.
  • Julie U’Ren for Nothing Left.
  • Philip Keenan for When the Railway Came to Clyne.
  • Matthew George for Feel.