Story Wine Prize: judges’ report

This year’s 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 event 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 stories ‘I am Ali’, by Clint Caward, and ‘417-BVB-820’, by Lauren Foley. We loved the humour of Ruth Wyer’s ‘The dinner party’ and Laura Kenny’s ‘The authentic life of Laura Kenny’, and the joyous celebration of Kerry Reed-Gilbert’s ‘The Cultural Prophet’.

Ultimately, what impressed was resonance of story, clarity of intent and command of language. The winner, Melissa Manning’s ‘Woodsmoke’, is a stunning story. Perfectly constructed and executed, its 485 words are ripe with melancholy, intrigue and transgression. Runner-up ‘First Fish’, by Zoë Meager, is a beautiful and subtle study of place and identity, while Melanie Pryor’s ‘Salt Skin’ is seductive and poetic, a story from the sea that is full of fire.

‘Woodsmoke’ has won $4000 and publication on the label of a 2016 Story Wine shiraz. ‘First fish’ and ‘Salt skin’ will each receive $500 and be published on 2015 Story Wine bottles, and at


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Alicia Sometimes

Alicia Sometimes is a writer, poet, broadcaster and musician. She ran Aural Text on RRR for fourteen years, and was editor of Going Down Swinging for seven. Her poems have been in Best Australian Poems, Overland, Southerly, Westerly etc. She has two poetry collections, kissing the curve and Soundtrack.

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Clare Strahan

Clare Strahan is a two-time novelist with Allen & Unwin publishers, long-ago contributing editor to Overland, and teaches in the RMIT Professional Writing & Editing Associate Degree.

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Leah Swann

Leah Swann is the author of the story collection Bearings, and The Ragnor Trilogy, a series of fantasy novels for children. Her work’s published in Best Australian Short Stories, The World to Come, Review of Australian Fiction, Award Winning Australian Writing, and page seventeen.

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