Reviews & Judges’ Notes

Polluted Sex makes The Irish Times Best Books by Women of the 21st Century List


“You don’t need me to tell you to read everything pre and post-2000 by the greatest Irish writer, Anne Enright (who just happens to be a woman) – but you really should. Or to read our poets: Eavan Boland, Rita Ann Higgins, Elaine Feeney, Sinéad Morrissey, Leanne O’Sullivan. You already know all about the success of Marian Keyes and Tana French, and you’ll soon hear more about the possibilities of the future with Melatu Uche Okorie, Lauren Foley, Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi and Caragh Maxwell.”

The Irish Times, International Women’s Day

Nina Allan, The Spider’s Web, reviews Molly & Jack at the Seaside

Still Worlds Turning is an anthology of new contemporary short fiction edited by Emma Warnock and published by No Alibis Press, an independent imprint run from a bookshop of the same name in Belfast …

There are stories here that I found challenging, not so much in the way they are written but in the vision they present. Judyth Emanuel’s ‘Tw ink le’, Jan Carson’s ‘The World Ending in Fire’, Dawn Watson’s ‘The Seaview Hundred and Fifty-Two’ and Lauren Foley’s ‘Molly & Jack at the Seaside’ in particular are viscerally raw snapshots of life at the margins but I count this very much as a plus because these are stories that need to be heard. I would point readers towards Lauren Foley’s account of Molly’s journey to publication for a sobering insight into how difficult it can be – still – to find publishers willing to take the risk with uncomfortable material, even when the editors themselves profess admiration for the work. 

No Alibis and Emma Warnock should be commended for taking that risk. Still Worlds Turning deserves notice as a key reference point for what is happening in fiction right now. Here is a generation of writers delving deep into issues of community, poverty, sexuality and trauma whose work does not just feel timely, it feels urgent. Above all, these are stories that demonstrate the power and the beauty of language, in which the gaps in language say almost as much as the words themselves, in which form is as vital as content. Read and learn.

Molly & Jack at the Seaside noteworthy for White Review Short Story Prize 

Thank you for submitting to The White Review Short Story Prize. We’re sorry to say that your story didn’t make the shortlist. However, out of several hundred entries your story was read multiple times and formed part of the editorial team’s discussion in the latter stages of the selection process, so please be encouraged and good luck in your future writing.

The Editors @TheWhiteReview


Announcing the winners of the Overland Neilma Sidney Prize

Overland magazine and the Malcolm Robertson Foundation are very pleased to announce that Lauren Foley’s story ‘K-K-K is the winner of the inaugural Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize.

In reading through the hundreds of entries to the Neilma Sidney Prize, we were not only looking for quality writing but also for originality and an engaging narrative. Those stories that stood out to us often employed description in a way that appeared effortless, yet brought to life both the familiar and the unknown. The stories that lingered with us were those that had a creative take on the notion of ‘travel’, or reoriented our perspectives in an unexpected way. We were particularly cautious of those stories in which the exotic ‘other’ was sought out simply for its otherness, or seemed to exist primarily to provide colour to the traveller’s narrative.

First place

Finally, the winning story, Lauren Foley’s ‘K-K-K’, impressed us not only with its unexpected interpretation of the theme, but also its strong narrative voice and confident, accomplished prose. To effortlessly weave humour into what is essentially a story about displacement and different forms of violence – the lateral and indirect as well as the explicit – is no small feat. Its most powerful attribute is the way it transforms an otherwise familiar suburban context – train stations, footpaths, the mundane public journeys for day-to-day chores – into a source of anxiety and fear. Through the eyes of this young refugee and her family, the reader sees Australia as if for the first time. It is not a sight easily forgotten.


Overland Story Wine Prize Shortlist

This year’s Overland Story Wine Prize submissions yielded a superb collection of hotly contested favourites and we judges were blessed with an exciting long- and shortlist. For us, the best of these stories honed in on a moment, relationship, mood or even with precision and attention to the finest evocative detail, some managing to also traverse deep issues and spans of time – and all in fewer than 800 words.

The broad stroke was particularly strong in the shortlisted story ‘417-BVB-820’ by Lauren Foley.

– Judges Alicia Sometimes, Clare Strahan and Leah Swann

Squiggly Arse Crack

The stories of motherhood are clear-eyed and complex. They tell of struggle and satisfaction, particularly in infancy. Lauren Foley, in the gorgeously titled ‘Squiggly Arse Crack’, has Tara declare that ‘there is nothing she has ever done better than carry and bear Squig’. Fiona McFarlane, author of The Night Guest

This is the third annual anthology of short stories selected from entries to the Margaret River Short Story Competition. Although the competition is open to entries from all over Australia and beyond, it’s good to see strong regional organisations providing infrastructure and publishing opportunities independently of Melbourne and Sydney. The short story lends itself to a focus on private life, to significant moments in the lives of characters or the trajectories of relationships, and this collection is no exception. People in these stories come to new understanding of themselves and each other through illuminating moments on beaches, in restaurants, on aeroplanes and in gardens. Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald

With 24 stories gathered together, the collection is hugely diverse. Maybe the strongest unifying feature is the calibre of the narratives. There didn’t feel to be any that did not deserve their place on the competition shortlist.

There is however a danger in such a large collection of overindulgence – that feeling when you have gobbled too many stories in an anthology in one sitting and failed to fully appreciate each delicious bite. The size of this collection was initially my one, rather paltry and trifling gripe. Sometimes less really is more. However, on reflection I think this potential detractor has been avoided through carefully considered compilation. Editors Richard Rossiter and Susan Midalia have curated the narratives brilliantly. There’s often a change of gears between stories – for example, placing Lauren Foley’s Sqiggly Arse Crack, a humorous exploration of maintaining identity despite encroaching motherhood, next to Bedtime Stories by Linda Brucesmith, a ghostly tale exploring the gulf between the world of children and the grownups. Although both stories tackle a similar theme of the relationship between mothers and children the difference in tone, genre and style ensures the stories showcase, rather than overshadow, one another. There is a wider design arc over the entire collection. As Rossiter outlines in the introduction ‘this selection of stories encompasses a wide range of moods and modes as writers engage with issues to do with childhood, young adulthood, middle age, old age and death.’ Arranged neatly into these stages of life the stories work independently but also on a larger architecture that is satisfying and effective. – Sarah Schofield, The Short Review

Award for the best title in the bunch should have gone to Lauren Foley for her story “Squiggly Arse Crack”, which is a story about the disorienting feeling of being a new mum and having no time for yourself. The character oscillates between concern about the loss of her status as ‘woman’ and her fierce love for her child. The narrative voice in this piece is funny, matter of fact, and beautifully consistent.@BatgirlElimy

A mother of a different kind is Tara in Lauren Foley’s entertainingly titled “Squiggly arse crack”. This is a bright, breezy story about an older single mother enjoying her “staycation”, that is, a brief shopping expedition away from her beloved child, Squig. To ensure she doesn’t change her mind about leaving him with her friend, she “sashays” out the front door without looking back, “pretending her neck is in an Elizabethan collar or pet lampshade”. This is just one of the stories that departs from the resigned or melancholic tone that seems to be more common in short stories. @whisperinggums

The Trouble With Flying is the third anthology published from winning entries to the Margaret River Short Story competition. As such, this handsomely-produced book, is an eclectic mix of stories from WA-based writers, and Australian writers, more broadly. There are many forms of trouble in this collection: the trouble with children, the trouble with parents and the elderly, the trouble with the bush and the city, the trouble with love, sex, sickness and death. Most of the writers here have found fresh angles on their chosen themes, while others take us off on strange and new paths. What they all have in common is accomplished writing that engages and interests. @bookwoods

Lauren Foley in “Squiggly Arse Crack” also deals with the theme of new motherhood, but in a totally different vein. This is a clever story, and a funny, quirky one. The language is especially clever, mimicking that of a baby with its rhythms and its inanities, and yet managing to further the storyline at the same time: “’Ooh Baba! Two Baba! You Baba! Zoo Baba!’ whatever she hollers Squig settles swiftly to her sounds, (Ding dong) Trump, trump, trump—a knocking at the door. ‘Rat-a-tat-tat.’ Poking her face over Squig’s crib. Clump, clump, clump as she stumbles over the labyrinth of baby junk, unpacked possessions, and discarded gift wrap.” (p.75) Infantile regression in motherhood is suggested by the use of baby talk throughout the story. And the highs and lows of new motherhood—its passion and its stressors–are depicted once again in this story, but through the use of humour this time.

The new mother’s obsession with changing nappies and cleaning bottoms is highlighted obliquely with delicious irony, through the theme of the mother’s burgeoning figure—her “arse crack”– introduced in the very first sentence and developed later on in relation to the baby’s nether regions: “Do you think Squig’s bum looks big in this?” (p.76). The hurried pace to this story is suggestive of the mother’s harried day, ever subjugated to the whims of her new master, the baby: “Unlocking her car she’s reminded of a Facebook meme from the other day: ‘You know your life has changed when…going to the shops by yourself is a holiday’—motherhood.” (p.78)@Anneofthesky

Growing Up Baby

There is a strong voice at work in this story and some good ideas. As well as reworking elements of The Little Prince by French writer Antoine de St Exupery, the writer’s love of language is evident in their exploration of both an English and Gaelic Irish vocabulary.
Carol Lefevre, Campbelltown Literary Awards judge and author of Nights in the Asylum

This One Time …

Connor Tomas O’Brien announced the winners of two special South Australian prizes, which were kindly sponsored by the SA Writers’ Centre. Connor is the director of Digital Writers’ Festival and incoming designer of Voiceworks. Before revealing the names of the SA winners, Connor drew attention to the need for a national writing community in Australia, where stories beyond the cities are valued and read by all.

The SA prizes were awarded to Lauren Foley for her piece ‘This One Time…’ and Maria Solecki for her piece ’A Crack in the Cupboard’. These writers were ranked the highest in their state, and have won 1-year memberships to the SA Writers’ Centre.

@mrconnorobrien Digital Content Producer @WheelerCentre