Monday musings on Australian literature: Literary Awards for Short Stories

Since we’ve been currently talking about short stories – or, at least, I have been doing so here in my little corner of the litblog world – I though it might be a good time to list some of the literary awards dedicated to short stories in Australia. It’s a bit of a lazy post I know, but we are getting to that time of the year and life is getting busy.

There are, in fact, a goodly number of opportunities in Australia for short story writers to win awards, so in this post I am just going to list the ones that seem best known or that have a reasonably broad coverage. Most of the competitions define short stories as those 3,000 words or less. Here goes:

  • The Age Short Story Award has been awarded since 1979. I believe it was the award that kick-started Elliot Perlman’s writing career when he won in 1994. It has also been won by some of Australia’s currently best regarded short story writers like Cate Kennedy and Paddy O’Reilly.
  • Steele Rudd Award for Australian Short Story Collection was part of the recently cancelled Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and was continued this year in the Queensland Literary Awards when it was won by a favourite writer of mine, Janette Turner Hospital, for her collection Forecast: Turbulence.
  • Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, which started life as the Australian Book Review award, has been offered under its new name since 2010. It honours the late Australian author, Elizabeth Jolley, who is one of my favourite writers and to whom I was introduced back in 1988 via her short story “Five acre virgin”.
  • Hal Porter Short Story Competition which in 2012 is in its 19th year, and which commemorates the Australian novelist, poet, short story writer and playwright.
  • Awards for short stories offered by state chapters of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, including the Marjorie Barnard Award from NSW (commemorating Barnard whose collection The persimmon tree and other stories* is one of my favourites) and the Henry Savery National Short Story Award from Tasmania (commemorating Savery who wrote the first “Australian-made” novel)
  • Locally offered awards such as the Alan Marshall Short Story Award, the Margaret River Short Story Competition, and the Stringybark suite of short story awards.
  • Genre-based awards for short stories, such as the Aurealis Awards for speculative fiction which include awards for short stories in fantasy, horror, science fiction and young adult; and the Scarlett Stiletto awards for crime and mystery short stories written by women. Cate Kennedy won the first Scarlett Stiletto in 1994.
  • And, of course, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, which is part of the Commonwealth group of literary prizes and is open to all members of the (British) Commonwealth.

There are many more awards, but this list indicates that the short story is pretty well supported down under. However, short stories can always do with more recognition because, despite all the awards, they are still under-recognised and, I think, under-appreciated. I have heard chat around various traps that electronic publishing may be raising the profile of short stories with new audiences … I’ll be watching with interest.

Meanwhile, I’ll close with Australian novelist and short story writer Jennifer Mills who was a regional winner in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2008. In an interview on the Spineless Wonders website, she explained why she likes the short story form:

It’s very flexible. I love its capture of pivot points, its nearly mathematical tidiness, and its risk. I can pull off imaginative feats in short stories which I would struggle to hold together in a novel. I like the adaptability of short fiction to different delivery modes, like podcasting. As a novelist, I like the gratification: the end of the job is in sight.

Are you aware of short story competitions in your neck of the world?

* I was thrilled when Tony of Tony’s Book World reviewed this collection a few years ago.

6 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Literary Awards for Short Stories

  1. Great to see some attention given to the short story here. In Ireland we have the Hennessy New Irish writer awards and the Sean O Faolain award (for individual stories) and the Frank O’Connor award (for collections) among others.

    • Oh welcome Valerie, and thanks … I’ll check those out. I’ve always had a soft spot for Ireland and Irish writing even though my forbears are English and Welsh, not to mention some Danish thrown in.

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