And then there were four . . .

Absolutely thrilled to have made the final four in the Hal Porter Short Story Competition. And I’m in extremely good company, having just read R.J. Tennyson’s winning entry. Congratulations R.J. and congrats also to fellow finalists Roger Vickery (NSW) and Melisabeth Cooper Fell (VIC). And thanks University of Queensland Press for the lovely books.

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It’s Official

My forthcoming short story collection Flame Tip is on the publisher’s website. I adore the cover.

flame-tip-front-325x475-front

You can read a little sample on Hybrid Publisher’s website (where – cough, cough – I think you can even pre-order).

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Ideas and the Internet

Here’s a random fact: Pigeons have learned to discriminate between the paintings of Monet and Picasso. It’s just one of many interesting snippets that my late night or early morning web-weaving forays throw out.

When I’m involved in a project, I have difficulty thinking of anything outside of my bubble so, when I woke from a dream with the sensation of flying and the words ‘Medusa One Snake’ in my head, I headed straight for the computer.

My project was a collection of short stories commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Tasmanian Black Tuesday bushfires so I Googled fire+snake+bird. After some toing and froing and weaving about in the ever-widening web, I was startled by an article that brought my three search words together and got my writerly synapses writhing.

Matthew Crawford reporting for ABC’s Radio National in June 2016 poses a question: “Could flocks of birds be picking up burning sticks and dropping them on unburned ground in order to spread fire?”. Crawford’s question resulted from his interview with Bob Gosford, a columnist and bird researcher endeavouring to prove the theory that birds of prey follow fire fronts to feast on fleeing reptiles and insects.

The article sent me on further web trips, researching birds of prey, their habits and habitats and a hell of a lot of other stuff and then I left it alone and let my imagination take over. What emerged was a humorous tale with a fiery twist, included in my forthcoming anthology Flame Tip. Medusa One Snake is a proud, intelligent bird with a son – Scout Junior – who is elegantly analytical and mathematically inclined. Medusa’s partner – slow in thought and deed – has the contradictory moniker ‘Swifty’. The birds analyse and harness the fire, flying into the future as winners.

The early morning random web-surfing that sent me Bob Gosford’s research also left me with a heap of [possibly useless] information about bees (they have been trained to recognize explosives), ostriches (the males can roar like lions), Alaskan law (in Alaska it is illegal to whisper in someone’s ear while they are moose hunting) and cats (cats have 32 muscles per ear and a house cat can outrun Usain Bolt). I use the word ‘possibly’ in relation to the uselessness of this information because one or all of these snippets may eventually prove to be useful if the facts check out (or even if they don’t). Keep an eye out for my ‘Usain and the Egyptian Mau take Manhattan’ story.

 

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Six Degrees in Shorts

Six Degrees of Separation – #6degrees

6degrees-rules

I remember having a go at this some time ago and I enjoyed the randomness of it all, so here I go again. Currently hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest, this month’s featured book is Stieg Larsson’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ which I read and loved.

the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo

As my chief reading pleasure comes from short stories, I’ll go slightly outside the lane and look at shorts. Let’s see where six steps take me . . .

When I think of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I think of a strong, fearless woman. Immediately, I thought of a passage from a short story written by Jennifer Mills. I had to search and search to find it “We think we are strong in my family. We think we are stoic.  . . . We are only loyal to our own endurance.” The lines come from ‘The Capital of Missing Persons’ in Mills’ collection The Rest is Weight. The story is a beautifully crafted, poignant story about family.

rest-is-weight

Ah, families. Or “transistorised circuits” as the narrator Martha in ‘Blood Relations’ refers to them. Marion Halligan’s short story in The Hanged Man in the Garden is a piercing character study, memorable on a number of fronts but I have always remembered the families as transistorised circuits.

hanged

Martha. The name rings a bell and I rush off in search of something about spiders. What is that story? Oh, I’ve found it. ‘Martha and the Lesters’ is a short by Glen Hunting which made the cut in the 2014 Margaret River short story competition and was included in the anthology The Trouble with Flying. Hunting is a master of the short story and his writing can make me laugh out loud.

flying

In a bizarre twist, ‘Martha and the Lesters’ leads me back to an author via moniker. Natasha Lester wrote ‘Wonder Tale’ which I read in the Sunscreen and Lipstick anthology. [actually, ‘Wonder Tale’ is taken from Lester’s novel What is Left Over but, as I read it as a short story, my theme still has legs]. It is memorable to me for the phrase ‘scratchy voice carving the words into my dreams’. ‘Wonder Tale’ is, as I read it, a story about telling a story and it is – perhaps – about truth and motherhood.

sunscreen

No-one writes motherhood quite like Susan Midalia (one of my all-time favourite shorts is Midalia’s ‘A Blast of a Poem’). ‘An Unknown Sky’, the title story of her 2012 Anthology, has a mother adjusting to her son’s leaving, her “beautiful, ironic, unknowable son”. As the mother of just one child – a son – I related deeply to Midalia’s story.

unknown-sky

Mothers. I think of ‘Perhaps the Bird was Wise’, Carmel Bird’s story of a girl sitting at her mother’s deathbed as time ticks quickly. I read it in her collection My Hearts are Your Hearts. The book was borrowed from the library and I can’t check it now but I am pretty sure I am recalling the right one. It is fitting to finish this Six Degrees jaunt with Bird, a strong fearless woman (if her writing is any indication) who (like me) grew up in Tasmania.

my-heartsSo there, I managed to twist my love of short stories into this fun meme.

 

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Anthology Launch

It was my pleasure to attend this year’s launch of the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize anthology for 2016. The first half of the event was a panel discussion on writing for Tasmania 400 South, with regular magazine contributors joining editor Chris Champion for a vibrant chat. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of diving into this pictorially exquisite publication, I encourage you to check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

After nibbles and drinks, Chris Gallagher (Director of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre and one of the competition judges) gave a wonderful speech and facilitated a Q&A session with the finalists. Having sipped (quaffed? guzzled?) a couple of glasses of fine Shiraz, I think I coped okay with responding to a question here and there. I certainly had a great time, chatting to fellow finalists and listening to some readings from winning entries.

On the subject of winners, I would like to mention last year’s Young Tasmanian Writers’ Prize winner, Ben Smith Noble who read beautifully from his story. I went to the same school as Ben – Taroona High. I am sure his is a name we will hear more of in the future.

The evening was seamlessly coordinated and overseen by the vivacious Lucinda Sharp. Thanks Lucinda for a memorable night!

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Another Ship finds a Port

I’m thrilled to report that my story ‘Baked Beans and Wisteria’ has won a place in this year’s Big Issue Fiction Edition to be launched on 26th August at the State Library of Victoria. We writers send out our ships, all polished and splashed with champagne, and try not to worry about them as they navigate the deep blue. It is always a joy when they find their home port. 

Meanwhile, I’m heading down to Hobart tomorrow to attend the launch of the Forty South anthology of the best of this year’s Tasmanian Writers’ Prize stories. It will be fun to meet some of the other finalists. I’m really looking forward to reading their stories and seeing my own ‘Jack Frost’ in the mix.

 Ah, this writing life!

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Vale Gillian Mears

I have no words.

Vale Gillian Mears

 

 

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