Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize: the 2017 shortlist

Named after the late Neilma Gantner, the Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize seeks original short fiction of up to 3000 words themed around the notion of ‘travel’. With support from the Malcolm Robertson Foundation, the competition awards a first place of $4000 and two runner-up prizes of $500. The winning story will be published in Overland’s first edition of the year (available late March), with the two runners-up published as part of the edition online.

The three judges for this year’s competition – Nic LowRyan O’Neill and Jennifer Mills – have finished their blind judging and deliberation, and decided on a shortlist of thirteen brilliant stories that approach the theme in original ways.

Congratulations to the shortlisted writers:

‘If there are zebra finches’

Claire Aman


A young ornithologist and geologist persuade motorcycle tour guides Dolores and Allessandro to take them as pillion passengers on an expedition across the desert, laden with books and specimen cases.

Claire Aman grew up in Melbourne and settled in Grafton, NSW. Her short story collection Bird Country was published in 2017 by Text. Her stories have won the EJ Brady, Cal/Wet Ink and Hal Porter prizes and appeared in literary journals and anthologies. Birds are a lingering theme.

‘Hot days’

Joey Bui

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In the middle of an overbearing Vietnamese summer, a poor, simple waitress in the country attracts the attention of a gentleman who brings her to the city for guitar lessons.

Joey Bui is a Vietnamese Australian author. She graduated from NYU Abu Dhabi in 2016, where she completed her first collection of short stories. Joey has been published in literary magazines in the US and Australia, and competes in poetry slams in New York.


Bill Collopy

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Journeying from Bangladesh has not liberated Asif, but trapped him in a marriage; he can’t leave and can’t retreat, trapped in his daily taxicab loop, driving a hungry shift.

Bill Collopy is the author of one novel, one nonfiction book, and various essays and works of short fiction. For many years he has managed welfare programs in Melbourne. He has disappearing hair and keeps running out of bookshelves.


Brooke Dunnell

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On holiday in LA, a single mother and her kids struggle to reconnect.

Brooke Dunnell is a Perth writer and Overland fiction reader whose stories have been published in Best Australian Stories, New Australian Stories 2, Meanjin, Westerly and other collections. This story was first written as 2016 Writer-in-Residence at the Peter Cowan Writers Centre.


Laura Elvery


Overwhelmed by a pair of tragedies, a woman contemplates a new destination.

Laura Elvery is a writer from Brisbane. Her debut short story collection, Trick of the Light, will be published by UQP in March.

‘Kiss Lovie, smile for Lovie’

Judyth Emanuel


Two tentative explorers, a terror of flying, chatting with China, growing wings, Lovie trips, oops, sings, kiss me and smile for me.

Judyth Emanuel is one of three winners of the 2017 Overland VU Short Story Prize for New and Emerging Writers. Her short stories are published in Overland, Electric Literature, Literary Orphans, Verity Lane, Intrinsick, Fanzine, STORGY and Jellyfish Review, among others.


Kathryn Hummel


A story of journey fatigue and authenticity, ‘Alappuzha’ follows the aimless journey of Lindsay Gluck to Kerala, where she falls into the dubiously attractive company of Gabriel, the owner of the Ambrosia Inn.

Kathryn Hummel is a writer, researcher and poet, and the author of Poems from Here, The Bangalore Set and The Body That Holds. Her new media/poetry, nonfiction, fiction, photography and scholarly research has been published and presented worldwide. She currently edits ‘Travel. Write. Translation’ for Verity La. Further activities can be tracked at

‘Year of sleep’

Emily O’Grady


En route to a wedding, a woman is stranded for the evening in a stranger’s home.

Emily O’Grady is a writer from Brisbane and PhD candidate at QUT. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Kill Your Darlings The Big Issue Fiction Edition, The Lifted Brow, Australian Poetry Journal, Westerly, and Award Winning Australian Writing.

‘Salt of the earth’

Sonali Patel

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A difficult journey to his homeland becomes a transformative experience for an Adelaide immigrant forced to face some of the darker truths in the land of Gandhi.

Sonali Patel is an Adelaide-based writer and visual artist. She is completing her advanced diploma in professional writing at the Adelaide College of Arts. Her short stories have appeared in Crush – Stories of Love by MidnightSun Publishing, Stringybark Twisted Anthology and the Food, Wine & Fleurieu Anthology.

‘I am human and I need to be loved’

Allee Richards


A woman realises the solution to all her problems is to transform into Shannen Doherty.

Allee Richards is a playwright and short fiction writer from Melbourne. Her stories have been published in Best Australian Stories, Kill Your Darlings and The Lifted Brow. Her next play, Survival, will be performed at La Mama Theatre in July 2018.

‘Psychosexual thriller’

Ursula Robinson-Shaw


A series of episodes about an ill-conceived trip to Mexico, which examine the sexual politics of looking and being looked at.

Ursula Robinson-Shaw is a writer from Wellington, New Zealand, currently living in Melbourne. Her work has appeared in Cordite and Minarets Journal, and she was shortlisted for the 2017 Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Awards.


Jenny Sinclair


An earthquake happens on the other side of the world, and Paul doesn’t quite know how to deal with the aftershocks.

Jenny Sinclair is a Melbourne writer of nonfiction and short fiction. Her books are Much Ado About Melbourne (2015) and A Walking Shadow (2013). She is a PhD candidate in creative writing at the University of Melbourne.


Tanya Vavilova


Follows two lovers on a road trip through central Australia interrupted by the discovery of a large, mysterious hole in the earth.

Tanya Vavilova is an emerging writer preoccupied with liminal spaces and outsider perspectives – by life on the margins. Her essays and short fiction have been published or are forthcoming in Seizure, Archer, The Lifted Brow, Visible Ink and The UTS Anthology. She was recently highly commended for the Lane Cove Literary Prize.


The final results of the competition will be announced here, at, late next week.

new-MRF-logo-2015-300x221The Neilma Sidney Prize is supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation


Editorial team

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