When I started this little sub-series, I wondered how to describe it – genres or forms or genres and forms? In the end, I chose “genres” on the assumption that we could define it very loosely to include forms. I hope this works. After all, the content is more important than the name!
I decided to make my second topic Short Stories because it’s around now that the relatively new Australian Short Story Festival has been held. You will see from this post, that the way the forms/genres I discuss in this sub-series are supported vary greatly. Short stories, for example, don’t seem to have a focused organisation supporting them the way genres like historical fiction and crime do. However, they are supported in their own ways.
Short story publishers
Although the scuttlebutt is that publishers do not like short stories, there are some who commit to them in an ongoing way, and these are the ones I’m going to share here. Many publishers, though, do, in fact, publish collections, such as, recently, Laura Elvery’s Ordinary matters (by University of Queensland Press) or Carol Lefevre’s Murmurations (by Spinifex Press, my review).
Black Inc’s Best Australian stories series has been published annually for at least two decades, with each edition edited by significant Australian short story writers like Charlotte Wood (2016) and Maxine Beneba Clarke (2017).
Margaret River Press published their short story prize anthologies, annually, from 2012 to 2017. I have reviewed a couple of these anthologies, which included competition winners and commended stories. They announced in 2019 that they were “taking a break”. They may be taking a break from this competition, but they are continuing to publish short story collections. I reviewed one only recently, Emily Paull’s Well-behaved women.
The wonderfully named Spineless Wonders describe themselves as “a multi-platform publishing company devoted to short, quality fiction produced by Australian writers”. They support “brief fiction in all its forms – from short short stories to novella” including ‘microlit’ which combines microfiction and prose poetry. Most of their publishing is digital, I believe, and I have reviewed Carmel Bird’s foray into digital publishing, The dead aviatrix: Eight short stories.
Other publishers which support short stories in a significant way include MidnightSun Publishing and Kill Your Darlings, which has now published two annual editions (2019 and 2020) of New Australian fiction.
Short story prizes
Back in 2015, I wrote a Monday Musings on short story awards, so I won’t repeat that here. Please check it out for awards like the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and the Margaret River Short Story Competition. But, there are some new ones established since then, and genre ones I didn’t mention, that I’d like to share here.
- Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award: Established in 2018 – named for Carmel Bird (who has appeared on my blog several times), hosted by Spineless Wonders and supported by the Copyright Agency – this award is for short story collections up to 30,000 words in length. The stories can be in any fiction genre, with all prose forms being acceptable, including non-fiction prose. The award includes cash prizes and world-wide digital publication of the three winning entries. Lisa (ANZLitLovers) has posted on this award.
- Scarlet Stiletto Awards: Established in 1994 by Sisters in Crime (who will appear again when I focus on crime), this national award is for “short stories, written by Australian women and featuring a strong female protagonist”. Its purpose was “to support and unearth new talent”. Past winners have included writers who have appeared here – Cate Kennedy, Angela Savage – and a young woman who went to school with Daughter Gums, Anna Snoekstra. This award is actually a suite of awards comprising several awards – such as “Best New Writer”, “Best ‘Body in the Library'”, “Best Foreign Linguistics Story”, “Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist”, to name a few.
There is a comprehensive list of short story competitions available in 2020 on the Australian Writers Centre site, which underscores how much support there really is for this oft-maligned form!
Australian Short Story Festival
As I said at the beginning, the reason I chose Short Stories as my second topic for this sub-series is this festival. Founded by Anna Solding (MidnightSun Publishing) and Caroline Wood (Margaret River Press) in 2016, it’s an annual festival celebrating short stories in written and spoken forms. It aims to connect Australian and international short story writers, storytellers, publishers, literary magazine editors, and readers. It’s apparently the first national event to focus exclusively on the short story.
The first festivals were held in Perth – I watched the social media campaigns with great envy! In 2019 it was held in Melbourne. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the 2020 festival, scheduled for Adelaide, was cancelled because they felt that “online festival experiences can never quite replicate the immediacy of the face-to-face festival”. This is a festival I plan to attend one day.
For those of you interested in short story recommendations, check out my reviews of short stories or look at Readings blog post on Short Stories (written to align with the 2019 Australian Short Story Festival). One of the books recommended is Chris Womersley’s A lovely and terrible thing, which I’ve reviewed here, so I’ll conclude this little post with it!
Do you like short stories? Why or why not?