Winners of the Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize for 2013

Overland is very pleased to announce the results of the 2013 Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize for New and Emerging Writers. Out of the 830 entries received – and then a shortlist of twelve exceptional stories – the following stories have been awarded prizes. All three stories will feature in Overland 213, which will be published shortly, along with Jennifer Mills’ judges’ report. Take out a subscription to receive the edition mailed directly to you.


Winner: ‘Turncoat’ by Jennifer Down ($6000)

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Murray’s used to looking for signals – from his beloved Lou, from their dog, from the forests he works in – but he can’t decode his own panic.

Jennifer Mills writes: ‘In a strong shortlist, Jennifer Down’s “Turncoat” was a clear winner. This story, following a few days in the relationship of Murray and Louise, is beautifully worked and carries ten times its body weight in emotion. Very little happens: a man walks a dog, has a bath, changes a light bulb. But the whole emotional world of these characters pivots around these seemingly banal events. It’s a work that reminds us of the subtle permutations of the domestic and the possibilities within it. The context of fear and anxiety about climate change burrows its way into this story, a sinister parallel to domestic anxieties, subtly crafted.’

Jennifer Down is a writer and editor at work on her first fiction manuscript. Previously her writing has appeared in the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and ABC’s Drum. She likes rock and roll, Denis Johnston and looking at art.

Joint runner-up:  ‘The Job’ by Robyn Dennison ($1000)

Over summer, best friends Justin and Lila navigate the trials of cordial, cigarettes and blow jobs.

Mills writes: ‘“The Job” by Robyn Dennison is a heartfelt depiction of two young teens. It begins with a seemingly innocent, almost young-adult fiction premise, as Justin faces the prospect of a blow job. But it works its way into the inner life of its characters in a sophisticated way. Dennison has a strong grasp of a carefully wielded image or line of dialogue, and nothing here is overdone.’

Robyn Dennison is a writer based in Melbourne. Her fiction has been published in Voiceworks and she co-edits Mary journal. She studies at Melbourne University.

Joint runner-up:  ‘Rush’ by Nic Low ($1000)

Nic Low
Two Aboriginal land rights activists decide that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Mills writes: ‘“Rush” by Nic Low is a clever satire of the effect of the resources boom on Indigenous communities. It’s hard to write comedy well, and this story does more than play for laughs. It very cleverly moves through the role-reversal premise into hilarious satire and then beyond it, looking at last into the dark places at the heart of greed and careless acquisition.’

Nic Low is a writer and artist of Ngai Tahu Maori and European descent. He writes fiction, essays and criticism, and runs Asialink’s international writing program. His first book, a collection of stories, comes out with Text Publishing in 2014.

Congratulations to the winners and to the shortlisted authors, and our thanks to all the writers who entered the competition. The Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize will open again next year.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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