A Short List of Short Stories

Entries for the 2020 Young Writers Award are now open! If you’re a Queenslander aged 18 to 25, send in your story—up to 2,500 words—for a chance to win $2000.

Need some inspiration? We’ve got you covered: four State Library readers and writers share their favourite short fiction.

Laura Elvery

I’ve read “The Bog Girl” by Karen Russell over and over. It has so many things great short stories have: humour, tenderness, quiet spectacle, strangeness, specificity of time and place, vibrant characters, and a boy in love with a 2000-year-old redhead. It’s a truly fabulous read, entertaining and moving in equal parts, and it absolutely has something to say about love. "The Bog Girl" was first published first in The New Yorker in 2016, then in Russell's collection Orange World (2019). Better yet: listen to Karen Russell herself read it to you.

Laura Elvery, Project Officer, Reading and Writing

Megan McGrath

“Going Ashore” from Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection Unaccustomed Earth exhibits all the elements of an exquisite short story, but also knows how to break the rules. With an exceptional first line “Again she’d lied about what had brought her to Rome”, this story draws the reader into a tale of love, distance, tragedy and longing. “Going Ashore” has one of the greatest closing paragraphs I have ever read and expertly shows how easily a complex story, in this case one that includes many continents and a tsunami, can be tied up with just a few lines. Some people think short stories need to end with a twist or some cliff-hanging moment. Here, Lahiri demonstrates how you can tie up loose ends, but still deliver the reader a final shot of longing, or hope… “we had been careful, and you had left nothing behind”.

Megan McGrath, Lead, First 5 Forever: Queensland Stories, Songs and Rhymes

Allanah Hunt

Susan Glaspell’s “Jury of Her Peers” is one of my favourite stories because its subtext is amazing. It isn’t what the characters say, it’s what they don’t say. It changed my writing by making me trust my readers to be able to infer what is going on, letting the scenes and characters do the talking for themselves. I also think it is a poignant story on what is left unsaid about violence against women, showing that silence can be the most terrifying. The last line is chilling and stays in your mind long after you have finished reading it.

Allanah Hunt, Junior Editor, black&write!

Shastra Deo

“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” is the first short story Amy Hempel ever wrote (!), and one I always come back to when I'm feeling stuck with my writing. I love how she plays with triviality and detail, distance and intimacy, humour and grief. Every time I read it, I'm reminded of just how much you can achieve with a limited word count—this story is under 3000 words! Read it here.

Shastra Deo, Reader in Residence, State Library of Queensland

Got a favourite short story of your own? Let us know in the comments! Maybe you'll find yours among the Young Writers Award past winners.

Entries to the 2020 Young Writers Award close on Friday 15 May. Get reading, get writing, and share your stories with us.

About the authors

  • Laura Elvery is a Project Officer in the Reading and Writing team at State Library of Queensland. She is the author of two short story collections: Trick of the Light (UQP, 2018) and Ordinary Matter (UQP, forthcoming August 2020). Her work has won the Josephine Ulrick Prize for Literature, the Margaret River Short Story Competition, the Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize, and the Fair Australia Prize for Fiction. Learn more about Laura here.

  • Megan McGrath is Lead of the First 5 Forever: Queensland Stories, Songs and Rhymes project at State Library of Queensland. Her short story collection, All Hands (Spineless Wonders, 2019), was a finalist for The Carmel Bird Award. In 2009, she won the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award for her short story The Lunar Coast. Learn more about Megan here.

  • Allanah Hunt is a Junior Editor with black&write! She is currently undertaking her PhD in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK. She has published several short stories, and two of her manuscripts were highly commended in the black&write! inaugural writing fellowship. Read Allanah’s Nakata Brophy Prize-winning short story here.

  • Shastra Deo is State Library of Queensland’s first Reader in Residence. Her poetry collection, The Agonist (UQP, 2017), won the 2016 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and the 2018 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal. Shastra’s short story, The Minutes Turn to Ours, was runner up in the 2012 State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award. Learn more about Shastra here.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.

Be the first to write a comment