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Ian St James Awards 1990

In their heyday, the Ian St James Awards offered the biggest fiction prize in the UK and Ireland for unpublished writers. I submitted several short stories to the awards from 1992 to 1995. None were finalists, let alone winners, but the critiques provided by the judges inspired me to keep writing!

My son was born at 5:36 am on the 2 June 2002. It had been a long night, and it was a long day (admittedly, more so for my wife!), and when I went home from the hospital that evening, it was with the surreal realisation I was a dad. I decided my first duty would be to buy a book of bedtime stories.

Jennifer Mills sets Dyschronia in the run-down coastal town of Clapstone. Sam is twenty-five years old. The town views Sam as an oracle and depends upon her visions for their survival. And yet a great catastrophe has occurred: the sea has disappeared, seemingly taking with it Clapstone’s last hope.

Penguin Books asked a good question on Facebook last year: Do you reread books? I've kept all my favourite books with the thought of one day rereading them. And then I start a new book, it becomes a favourite and is added to my bookcase to read again ... one day!

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Fiction

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A faded photo of my dad from the 1970s inspired this microfiction. He had a faraway look in his eyes and a Mona Lisa smile on his much younger face. As art lovers have done for centuries with Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, I wondered what was on my dad's mind when the photo was taken?

To celebrate the introduction of 280-character Tweets by Twitter, Meanjin Quarterly ran a microfiction competition. The rules were simple: tweet a 280-character story and include the hashtag #meanjin280! The top ten stories to be published on the Meanjin Blog and the authors paid $1 a word.

"Fiction writers, magicians, politicians and priests are the only people rewarded for entertaining us with their lies." ~ Bangambiki Habyarimana

It's a warm, sunny day and I'm strolling along Brighton Promenade during my lunch break. The seagulls are circling and squawking and the sun's shimmering on the flat blue-green English Channel.

My class had a lesson on "conservation" at school the other day. Miss said that this was where people reused old things or used new things more carefully. She said conservation was important to stop the world from getting more dirty and to help make it healthy again.

"And now the piece de resistance," the old Colonel announced, leading his guest into a sunlit garden. "What do you think?" he enquired, waving his walking stick at the garden's centrepiece. Two life-size marble figures stood face to face, their hands caressing each other, their lips fused in a kiss.

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Nonfiction

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It's little wonder many writers thank their editors in forewords, dedications and acknowledgements. As I've found writing book reviews for Writing NSW, editors have a magic touch when it comes to reviewing a writer's work and suggestings edits.

There were many grammatical errors, typos and howlers over the ten years I published my dog club newsletter. In my defence, I caught most of them during the final read … after I’d photocopied it! Oh, how I wish I’d had my editor and proofreader friend, Grammarly, back then.

"When you deal with nonfiction you deal with human characters." ~ Marya Hornbacher

To help overcome writer's block and start writing the first sentences of A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway is said to have reminded himself: “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

One day in 2001, I saw Amy the yellow lab in Queens Park with her owner, “The bloke with a beard”. He told me that ‘John had died’ and ‘Amy was missing him’. It took a few moments before I realised he was talking about a fellow dog walker, “The old bloke who walked Amy the lab for his neighbour”.

My travel journals are typically student exercise books, with each day's sights and highlights recorded over two or more pages. Daily diaries of work and everyday life are less exciting and it took me many years to settle on a format to jot down the day's events without feeling like it was a chore.

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Reviews

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Jennifer Mills sets Dyschronia in the run-down coastal town of Clapstone. Sam is twenty-five years old. The town views Sam as an oracle and depends upon her visions for their survival. And yet a great catastrophe has occurred: the sea has disappeared, seemingly taking with it Clapstone’s last hope.

This ancient-world whodunnit, A Roman Death, is set in 45 BC. Julius Caesar is at the height of his power, yet disquiet grows under his dictatorship. The Ides of March looms and Rome will soon descend into turmoil. And yet Caesar's is not the only Roman death!

"When you're tired of book reviews, you're tired of life." ~ Lev Grossman

Dog On It is the first book in Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie mystery series. It’s a detective novel, featuring Bernie Little, “a slightly down-at-heel private investigator” and Chet, his “partially K-9 trained” dog. Chet is also the narrator of the story.

Loopholes by Thirroul based author, Susan McCreery, is a collection of microfiction, or very short stories. Wiktionary.org defines the genre as, “Fiction that has a significantly shorter than average length.” Synonyms include drabble, flash fiction, flashfic, short-short story, sudden fiction and even twitterature.

Ben Elton set Three Summers in the southwest of W.A., at a fictional folk festival, Westifal. Over three consecutive summers, we meet an ensemble cast of characters, who bring to the festival campgrounds their individual stories and issues. Elton has described the film as "Australia in a tent".

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