Category Archives: Short Stories

Things To Do When Sitting With Doubt

Things To Do While Sitting With Doubt

when you read the instructions, “Open Other End,” on the box of Pizza Shapes, you know for certain you will flip the box over but won’t trust yourself to follow your heart. create a playlist for your wake and make mixtapes to give to people now. teach yourself macrame and after you’re done tying yourself in knots realise you made something beautiful. water the plants when you are thirsty. write the grocery list and make it a hymn to the mundane. eat your meal with a candle (the good ones, the smelly ones you saved for special occasions) for no other reason than to see how far light travels in the dark. read Macbeth then Hamlet and be certain you don’t know the way forward. read The Tempest and The Road as the antidote. sort through the sock drawer and throw out the old pairs and the holey ones. make pairs of mismatched socks. go skinny dipping and experience baptism in the ordinary act of bathing. read the doctor’s letter and pretend it is a breakup letter to the illness ravaging your body and not a statement of irrefutable facts. go to Macca’s and order the burger you have never tried (the Filet-o-Fish) and know that this is what disappoint will taste like in the drive-thru. know that breadcrumbs are for cooking, not leaving a trail. learn why the rod and staff were the shepherd’s tools. wield them and master them for, and over, yourself. sit in the valley and sit on the mountain top and know both are places of vision. one is a mirror and the other is a lens. perspective will tell you which one to choose and let you change the way you see yourself.

The Little Wins Are Important

Last year I had a successful run of submissions resulting in two prizes and a paid publication: We Three Kings (WestWords Living Stories Competition), Cutting Through (Blacktown Mayoral Creative Writing Prize) and The Diving Tower (The School Magazine)

This year has had similar success: an acceptance for a multidisciplnary exhibition (unpaid), The Flight of the Jellyfish (Mounted ARI Luft Exhibition – October 2023) and a Highly Commended for a children’s short story competition, A Shoebox of Silkworms (About Kids Books Short Story Prize).

There was some lovely feedback from the judges: This is a gentle story that is well written. It cleverly parallels the changing stages of a silkworm, to the changes about to be experienced by young girls as they move from primary to high school. The technical aspects of the story are handled well and made easy to understand, except in one case, where the word ‘mandibles’ was used without explanation.

Which also goes to show I have a lot to learn about writing for children.

I was also asked to present a series of creative writing workshops for WestWords as part of their Living Stories Competition, The Other City.

About Kids Books Short Story Prize – you can read the winning entries HERE

What does all this mean?

It may not be the accolades or monetary success of last year but it is proof of creative life, having written stories, polished them and submitted them (I have two stories out in the world at the moment). These are the little wins.

The latter half of this year will be devoted to the completion of The JAR Story with Rus and Jodi. This will be a big win when it is released. I need to get writing.

A Late-Night Internet Search. And Some Answers.

How many Post It Notes will it take to cover a square kilometre?
– 13,157,894 (or 31,328 packets of 6×70 pieces of the 76x76mm)
How much will it cost to do it?
– A packet of 6×70 is $16.98 from Officeworks.
– Total is $531,949.44
How many memories can I fit on a Post It Note if I write really small?
– As many angels as fit on the head of a pin.
If I write one memory a day on a Post It Note, how long would it take to cover a square kilometre?
– 36,049 years.
Does the act of writing the memory allow you to forget or remember more clearly?
Does the act of writing the memory mean alternate narratives are anathema?
How many embarrassing memories does it take to form your character?
Can you die from too many embarrassing memories?
How many papercuts will make you bleed to death and can I use Post It Notes?
– One. If you cut in the right place.
I think I have enough Post It Notes.

Short Story Publication: The Diving Tower – The School Magazine

Earlier this year I sold a story to The School Magazine. The New South Wales Department of Education releases 10 issues a year to public school students, catering for all reading levels through different titles aimed at stages.

My story, The Diving Tower, was released in Touchdown. It is appropriate story as we come into the summer season in Australia as it is about a young boy, Zeke, who wants to conquer his fear of the diving tower at his local pool. I will say Zeke is a braver boy than I ever was.

It is beautifully illustrated by Australian artist, David Legge.

You can read a digital copy of the story HERE.

If you are a primary school teacher, there are a range of resources you can access to accompany the story created by The School Magazine. For specific activities to accompany The Diving Tower, click HERE.

A teacher friend of mine sent me a picture of the magazine at his school, and I was very chuffed to see kids still draw all over the cover of magazines.

Flash Fiction – The Tennis Court

There’s always a tennis court around the corner, the white lines faded and cracked. The net hangs in a lopsided grin as you walk past. The dog at your heels moves to your other side, putting you between it and the tennis court. You’ve never seen anyone play on it.

As you walk beyond the base line you think you hear the sound of a ball struck. You turn and there’s no one there on court. A tennis ball rolls out of the shadows and into the back corner of the court, resting against the cyclone fencing wire.

To Make Contact With Mystery

An article I was reading (A Very Particular Risk: Aimee Bender on Jane Campion and Kazuo Ishiguro) helped me to reflect on how I create and construct my characters, and to think about what how these individuals are represented to my readers. It was a specific phrase in the article, “to make contact with mystery,” that prompted this reflection.

The world space I inhabit in my writing is the suburban, the contemporary, the plebian and mundane, and in that world space, I look for the mystery of the life of the person I am writing about.

When I am writing I want to know who they are and what formed them. I then ask how this knowledge informs the moment I am exploring in a current work in progress. It allows me to consider who they are, the language they choose to connect with other characters, what they hide or reveal. I question how the rest of their life may play out based on this knowledge, to consider for the work in progress what will change, if anything. Can they change themselves or are they destined to become part of a repeating pattern where the returns do not diminish but exponentially affect the future generations?

This is the mystery I come into contact with, and it is my hope that the reader will also come into contact with the same mystery. The unnamed characters in “Mount Pleasant” were created from that sense of mystery, to find a point of contact for the reader to identify with the character whether it was in the sense of identity found in a school uniform, or making sense of who you are as the main financial source for the family, or the ripple of domestic abuse.

A reader sent me a message to tell me of their favourite story, “Time Away,” and how it resonated with him. It was the relatability of the moment for him, seeing perhaps himself in the story. He made contact with the mystery.

Characters in stories are representations of real life. Dramatic constructions used as a puppet to examine the mysteries of life, to somehow make sense of ourselves and the world around us.

And in all of this, what dignity do I give my characters? I believe there is a dignity in their humanity, regardless of what they have done, or who they have become. We all have our pasts. As do my characters. What they were, who they were, becomes for me a question of who are they now, and what do they become?

It has given me pause to think over the current short story I am working on, and what I want my reader to take away from the story.

We read to make contact with the mystery of the lives of imaginary characters but in whom we see parts of ourselves and it helps us unlock a little more of the mystery of who we are.

Mount Pleasant – The JAR Writers Collective

Other titles from The JAR Writers Collective

Shades of Paradox

Her First Reality, Darkness

Fossil Five

Bridging the Gap

Ira Glass discusses the gap between where we are with our creativity, and where we’d like to be.

And this is where I am at.

I have a vision of the type of writer I want to be and I am trying to make it a reality.

Above my desk are a series of Post It notes, categorised under different headings. There are Post It notes for published pieces, Works in Progress, Ideas and Rough Concepts, Writing Competitions and Opportunities, and then a random miscellany of captured moments.

I am trying to bridge the gap. I am taking off Post It notes when I have abandoned a Work in Progress, trimming the hedge, so to speak, because I want to focus on the work I have at hand. I do not want to be distracted by too many ideas, or to spend time pursuing an opportunity that will not benefit me. I am being deliberately picky. I want to focus on writing well in order to bridge that gap.

It feels presumptuous, and arrogant, to say that I have a goal as a writer: I want to be on the Miles Franklin short list. The Miles Franklin award is prestigious writing award in Australia, and it is one I aspire to. Even to be on the long list would be an achievement. To win it would be the culmination of years of hard work.

I’ve set myself a bar on the other side of the creative gap. Time to get to work; to write the words that will build the bridge across that gap so I can leap over that bar.

Good News Klaxon – Westwords Writing Competition


I wrote a thing and won a thing.

Today my phone rang during one of my free periods and because the number was unknown I ignored it, assuming it to be telemarketing. A message pops up saying I have a missed call (duh) and there’s a message.

The voice message is a lovely gentleman from Westwords telling me I had won the Blacktown Local Government Area for 18+

I played the message again to make sure I had heard correctly. Then I returned the call because this couldn’t be right. Turns out it is. I am chuffed, stoked, amazed, bewildered and aghast.

Now it’s a literary fight to the death in June for the Main Round against the other winners.

It really is a weird feeling because I wrote this piece in response to the given theme/prompt, Are We Here Yet?

I wrote what I thought was a good piece that met the brief as I saw fit. I polished it to the best I could (and thanks to Jodi Cleghorn and Rus VanWestervelt for their insights and edits) and even had a colleague at work do a proofread (because she’s trained and she liked the work).

But I genuinely had no hope, and all hope, for this piece. You have no idea what others will write, or what the judges are looking for but you’re putting your trust in what you have written.

The next step is the 13 Local Government Area winners compete for the top prize. Again I have no hope and all hope. Whatever the outcome of that, I am still chuffed, not because of my success but because I wrote and submitted.

The link is here for the announcement and the list of winners:

I will let you know when it is available to read.

Did Your Existential Crisis Come With…?

In a lunch break between marking assessment tasks, I posted a photo I had taken in the morning (and doctored) and started with this question, “Did your existential crisis come with…?” and I intended to write a few witticisms.

It took on a life of its own.

This is how it ended up.

Did your existential crisis come with
A) free steak knives
B) a side order of chips
C) shoes that don’t give you blisters
D) extra marking of assessments
E) ill-fitting underpants
F) the playful observation of Berocca fizzing in a glass of water
G) guessing how many jellybeans are in the jar
H) exceptional Excel spreadsheet capabilities
I) looking good in glasses
J) obscure hobbies and interests
K) the satisfaction of picking your nose
L) drinking a hot beverage without it going cold
M) making the perfect fart noise with your mouth
N) not throwing up. Ever.
O) understanding the clinical benefits of ice baths but choosing not to have one
P) acne in middle age
Q) predicting the guilty person in a crime show
R) alphabetising stupid lists
S) using humour to disguise an overwhelming sense of individual doubt and fear
T) picking ripe fruit at the grocery store
U) being able to recite your favourite musical verbatim
V) never being able to find a convenient parking spot
W) reliving personal embarrassing moments in your head and providing scathing personal commentary
X) knowing faith and doubt make wonderful conversationalists
Y) wondering if you started something earlier how different might things be now
Z) being able to let it go

Mount Pleasant – A Track By Track Breakdown

Here is a track-by-track breakdown of the songs on the record, what inspired the band and how I used those ideas to create the narrative of each song for the book.

Listen to the album here: MOUNT PLEASANT


I wrote the Prologue as a way of establishing the setting and motifs of the collection, that of deceit, deception and false facades. The setting of Western Sydney was inspired by the origins of the band, and it is the city I live in.

The Prologue is a fictional retelling of the changing of the name of the suburb where three of the band members grew up. There is no music for this piece of flash fiction but it explains the origins of the album’s title and frames the inspiration of each track, and allowed me to explore a set of stories based in Western Sydney in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The title of the album comes from the name of the suburb where three of the band members grew up. As a name it no longer exists. The local council wiped its name to clear itself of the violence and dangerous youths inhabiting the space. Nothing changed except the name.

Track 1 Holding Pattern

This was the first song released off the album and the first story I wrote. The title of the song is an in-joke as a close friend of the band claimed they were being kept in a ‘holding pattern’ due to the band’s lack of decision making. The band describe the song as being a bit all over the place but feeling right.

It was released with the cover art of the album which gave me the idea of a young girl living in an apartment complex, running up and down the stairs as a means of having some form of control in her life. She meets a recently arrived young boy and the story explores the holding pattern each of them lived in based on their suburb and how it affects their lives.

The song is angular and emphatic in the opening before a pause, a held breath leading to a crushing crescendo, and I wanted the narrative to have that same sense of movement. To have the reader imagine what it means to run, to be held within social strictures, and to be left behind.

Track 2 – Potemkin

The song title refers to the Potemkin village. The myth of the term comes from stories of a fake portable village built solely to impress Empress Catherine II by her former lover Grigory Potemkin, during her journey to Crimea in 1787.

I translated the original setting of Crimean Russia to that of a high school student, the pauper queen as she is named in the story, attending a performance of King Lear and explores the artifice of theatre as a metaphor of the schoolgirl’s existence. This existence extends to where she lives and how it defines her life and the life of her younger brother.

For the ending of this story I channelled John Hughes and The Breakfast Club for a monologue that would look great as a short film or a slam poem.

Track 3 – Pendock and Progress

This is my favourite song on the album. It is fast, frenetic, chaotic and triumphant, yet has pauses for breath. And I love the sound of the snare drum; it’s a perfect sonic fit in the track. It is the names of the streets where the band grew up.

It was the second song released and the second story I wrote. Pendock Close became a cul-de-sac, a dead-end street the protagonist rides his second-hand bike around. The cul-de-sac stands as a metaphor for the facades of society we inhabit, those we are forced to live and yet have no understanding there is something other what you consider normal.

Track 4 – Meet Me In The Meadow

This is a softer sounding song, and the narrative follows the burgeoning relationship a girl has with her crush, and the metamorphosis of adolescent sexuality. It is almost romantic in its feel, and the band used a quote from the Wes Anderson film, “Moonlight Sunrise” as the title.

In reading a synopsis of the film, the romantic element stood out. Not wanting to frame a narrative with a Wes Anderson style I diverted it to examine how boys and girls engage with the facades of masculinity and femininity; how they are both forced into frameworks that are detrimental to their developing sense of emotional, sexual and mental identity.

There are echoes and facets of these facades found in other stories in this collection, notably “Potemkin,” “Time Away” and “Gueules Cassees.” We need to interrogate who we are and understand how we have been deceived into accepting less than what we are worth.

Track 5 – Shambles

This story has a lightness in the music and in the content in comparison to the other stories. It is more comic in its approach than the other stories but still reflects the divide we encounter between what we think we are and what we really are. It is tongue in cheek in places, and it was definitely fun to write, and is reflected in the bouncy joyfulness of the music.

The protagonist is in his last year of high school and his academic life is a bit of a shambles. He’s a Western suburbs philosopher who likes grunge, works in a fish’n’chip shop and says there are two types of people in every situation. It even had my editor, Jodi, using “There are two types of people…” in her vernacular after editing this story.

I don’t think we use the word “shambles” enough. Time to bring it back.

Track 6 – Time Away

The band describe the song as an attempt of taking “time away” from all of the pitfalls of life but the escape is never found. Therefore my vision for this story was the father of a family who get to go on a holiday to the Gold Coast only to come home and find out he has been retrenched.

When Jodi sent back her initial edits, the email began with an expletive enhanced exclamation. I know if I get that then the story is working. Ben Hobson, who provided the quote on the cover, also connected with this story. I believe it is the heart of the collection.

The opening of this song has two parts. The first sounds like a demo track, setting up the motif of the track. The second part of the opening is a favourite section of mine as it has the drum track muted, all the top end rolled off so there is no sibilance in the hi hats, and it feels like a heartbeat, which was channelled into the father in the story. When the track kicks in proper, the bass drum is a thumping vibrancy underpinning the remainder of the track. There are so many layers to this track in its construction as it builds and builds in the midsection of the track before pulling back, and it is in this section, the return to the muted drums, that the father in the story wrestles with himeself.

It is perhaps one of the “softest” stories to read but the resonance is unsettling. Stories of masculinity and what that means, are in the forefront of our minds, and how that affects us, our children and families, and the wider community. From that central story, which as Track 6 is like the halfway point, every other story resonates from that point and reflects the broader perspectives and perceptions. One action can have far-reaching consequences.

Track 7 – Summer Sun

This story references the horrendous summer bushfires of 2001/2002 in Sydney where the paradoxical beauty of the world is slowly being destroyed. Our understanding of the macro comes into focus when we see the lives of individuals in the micro.

Bushfires are a constant threat in Australia and in 2019-2020, from September to almost March, significant parts of the country were on fire. This year we have had significant rainfall and lower temperatures.

We will within this dichotomy, between risk and reward, and the story focuses on a young man who observes the destruction of the bushfire even as his own body undergoes chemotherapy treatment.

Track 8 – Well, Go Well

This song serves as an interlude before “Gueules Cassees” and the band was influenced by Boards of Canada in the composition of this track.

I used it as a platform to lead in the final track, and once I knew what the focus was for “Gueules Cassees” I focused on developing a masculine voice for this interlude. A Twitter thread gave this piece its impetus where the user asked people to respond with apologies used by men in situations of domestic violence, sexual assault or manipulative behaviour in relationships. This narrative is a compilation of various apologies which frames the final track on the album.

The opening of the narrative begins, “APOLOGISE LIKE A MAN.” and uses various iterations of this sentence with different punctuation and capitalisation. It is also the final line. I was interested in how punctuation and capitalisation affected the reading experience and the intended meaning.

Track 9 – Gueules Cassees

The band describes this as the most brutal track to close on. “Gueules Cassees” is a French term meaning ‘broken faces’ and refers to ex-servicemen of World War 1 who returned home with disfigured faces due to the war. A Google search will provide you with some horrifying images of the reality of war, and the people who tried to assist them in their return to society where physical disfigurement lead to social ostracism, loss of status, breakdown of relationships or being turned away from jobs.

I needed to find a parallel of broken faces and in choosing the issue of domestic violence, I wanted to engage with the issue and the hiddenness of its impact on women. I was hesitant to write this, wanting to be authentic and truthful without getting it wrong, so I sought the opinion of other readers. Three women volunteered to read for me, to ensure I had the veracity of the story correct. Unfortunately, it rang true for those early readers, and they also offered new insights to develop the narrative further. I hope I have done this narrative justice.

It is a brutal concept, reflected in the music and the language. Seeing this song played live at the end of 2020 was remarkable as I had had the story drafted, and the intensity of the track was palapble to me.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for listening.