Congratulations to the 2015 Winners
The English Speaking Union QLD is pleased to announce the Winning Entries
The ESU Roly Sussex Short Story Award
On behalf of the Board of Directors of ESU QLD I extend our sincere appreciation to the Chair of the Judging Panel Professor Peter Little AM Deputy Vice Chancellor Corporate Programs & Partnerships Qld University of Technology. Judges: Emeritus Professor Roland Sussex OAM – University of Queensland e-researcher and ABC Radio Presenter, Ann Garms OAM President English Speaking Union Queensland. David Fagan Director, Corporate Transition, Qld University of Technology for their outstanding dedication and commitment in ensuring a thorough, professional transparent process of review.
It has been a distinct pleasure to work collaboratively with Professor Roly Sussex in developing the Inaugural ESU Roly Sussex Short Story Award. Story telling is the inspiration we need most in our lives, it enhances, develops and nourishes our love and appreciation of the English Language.
Ann Garms OAM
President ESU QLD.
Emeritus Professor Roland Sussex OAM
The competition attracted nearly 200 entries, a very substantial result for its first year. The standard was very high in both Senior and Junior categories. But in the end the judges were unanimous in their decision for both winners, the two runners-up, and the Judges’ Commendation award.
The genre of the short story, with a limit of 3,000 words, focuses the creative mind strongly, sometimes brutally. The short story is at the other end of the massive expanses of books like Tolstoy’s War and peace. The shorter the short story, the more every word and phrase has to be exactly well judged and in exactly the right place. The shorter the story, the greater the risk; but also the greater the success if it all works. The winning stories in this competition show a beautiful sense of balance and the economical use of words for deep effect. I am proud to have my name associated with writing of such excellence.
Winner: The most curious memoirs of a smoking gun
Can a gun have a memory? The most curious memoirs of a smoking gun starts from this clever and provocative idea, combining a sordid, violent domestic scene leading to a murder with the gun’s self-revelations of its own diary. The gun, in three short pages, is subtly revealed to have not only memory but also a conscience, and sensations which can be compared to those of humans, remembering their hatred which “rubs off on me like old paint”. It feels remorse. And it is finally relieved of the burden of killing by ending up as a metaphor in a display case in a museum.
The gun’s diary style is dispassionate but curiously intimate, and contrasts with the bitter emotions of the humans, and the impersonal accident which kills the innocent paper boy. These different and distinct strands are controlled and developed with unusual skill and deftness.
Runner up: Grape seeds
This story is a reflection on the migrant experience, the remembered homeland and the emigre world, and the feeling of estrangement in a new country. It is full of rich visual and sensory details and sharp contrasts – colour versus black and white, movement versus stasis, people versus insects and cats. The physical person and character of Nonna are seen through the eyes of Maria the grand-daughter, sharply observed and evocatively picked out. Nonna does not belong in the Australian environment until she connects with the greengrocer, also Italian, with grapes and grape seeds as a catalyst which links the homeland memories to the emigre world: an everyday, concrete experience at once unexceptional but also capable of linking people, histories and communication. This is a brilliant snapshot of experience, richly and memorably evoked.
First prize: Home in time for tea
2015 may be the Gallipoli commemoration year, but Home in time for tea would have been competitive in any year. It has been carefully researched for detail and idiom, and rings authentically. The story genre can be tricky, with the need to capture character and events and context in a particular type of language used by a particular type of writer. Home in time for tea does all this effortlessly (the title is ironic, since as the writer says at the end, he won’t be; and in fact may never be home alive again). The author gives us a rich perspective of the sights and smells of the Middle East as seen by a country Australian lad out of his context and about to go into battle. There are moments of whimsy, self reflection, confidential talk to the writer’s mother, and behind that a beguiling naivety and directness, carried through with skill and consistency. The lad’s personal experiences contrast strongly with the different talk of the chaplain and the major, and the home-grown (and sometimes Biblically incorrect) wisdom of his father. Weaving all that together took real skill and a fine touch.
Second prize: Wərdz
A story in words about a daughter’s love for her father grounded in a passion for words and their sounds: an unusual topic, but this story is full of observation and shared experience of the richness of the sounds of language, which shape the ways the characters interact. It’s a kind of poetics and aesthetics of phonetics in the context of a loving relationship which is broken by a stroke and death. When the father dies, and the language bond with the daughter is broken, she takes her grief to her mother, but the sounds have lost their meaning. Phonetics has become a metaphor. The prose is full of wit and quirky observations, as well as some memorable phrases like “tarry residue of grief”. This is excellently crafted prose, using a potentially difficult medium of phonetics. Imagination wins through.
Judges commendation: The Gallery
The opening of an art exhibition is a great opportunity for observation and story telling, but The gallery is much more than that. The venal gallery owner Catherine manipulates her artist with selfish focus; and Craig the artist is a mixture of talent and honesty combined with the need to paint to pay the bills. There is a fine interplay between the pretentious guests, Catherine’s arty pitch, and Craig’s insistence on what makes his work authentic. And behind the bling and glitz is the spectre of the suicide of Craig’s parents, which gives the story a bitterly ironic final line. Art and artists are merely commercial factors to be manipulated for profit; authenticity and true art are secondary.
Short stories need a strong finish: this one really works.
ESU QLD Mission Statement
ESU QLD is committed to creating international understanding through English at a time when English has become the working language of the global village. This unprecedented expansion in the use of English has happened for many reasons including the political changes in Central and Eastern Europe, the arrival of a global economy and the spread of the internet. English has become indispensable for the world. At the heart of the ESU’s response is the role of English in literature, in the arts and music which transcend all traditional barriers, as well as in public speaking, discussion and debate. International understanding is created by the exchange of ideas and experience through the medium of a common spoken language.