Young Writers Award

And the winner is ...  

Ellen Vickerman for her brilliant short story, 'Unit K13', which the judges called "a standout winner". Congratulations, Ellen!

Ellen wins $2,000 and her story will soon be published by Griffith Review

Congratulations to the three runners-up who each receive $500 and Queensland Writers Centre membership: 

  • Thomas Alan for 'Dogs'
  • Callum Brockett for 'Bunya Pine' 
  • Emily Humphreys for 'This is not a happy story'. 

Thanks to all the young Queensland writers who sent us their stories. We look forward to reading your stories again in 2021!

WINNER: Ellen Vickerman, 'Unit K13'

Judges' comments

Unit K13 is an utterly original, clever and thought-provoking read. The story takes narrative risks, and the daring, experimental structure is perfectly executed, skilfully mirroring the story’s nuanced questioning of fate and choice. A standout winner. 

About the author

Ellen Vickerman is a Brisbane-based emerging writer. She studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing at QUT, and in 2020, began a Master of Philosophy, where she is researching narrative structure through experiments in her fiction. She is currently interested in telling stories of climate change, family, and the uncanny. She aspires to one day write something funny. Ellen has previously won the Newcastle Short Story Award, Sydney Writers’ Room Prize, and Allen & Unwin’s QUT Undergraduate Writing Prize, and categories in the Scarlet Stiletto Awards, among others.

Excerpt from ‘Unit K13’ by Ellen Vickerman

The dirt from the garden gets between the inside of your shoe and the outside of your sock, and it rubs there, but you can’t tell which of them it’s wearing away at. The moon sits fat like some great rotten fruit in the sky, leaking pale everywhere, and you hold the air in your throat until it goes from something cold to something you can’t feel anymore.

Cassie’s standing astride the Darwin, waiting under the streetlamp that only works sometimes. It’s working right now. He takes off his helmet, kisses you once, then pushes the helmet down onto your head.

Get on, he says.

What? you ask. I can’t hear you.

He laughs. Come on. I’m taking you away.

You slide on behind him, wrapping your arms around his waist, and he gives you a second before chucking the throttle. You peel off down the road, and the night seems like such a shaking, skinny thing with him breaking it before it hits you.  

RUNNER-UP: Thomas Alan, 'Dogs' 

Judges' comments

There is a propulsive, lively energy to this story, and a confident, gripping narrative voice. It has real narrative tension and a well-developed sense of place throughout. 

About the author

Thomas Alan graduated from the University of Queensland with a major in creative writing. His recent works focus on his own formative years and magnifies the condition of an Australian society that never truly comes of age. For the last five years he has worked as a carpenter, banging nails into things and swearing at pieces of timber.

RUNNER-UP: Callum Brockett, 'Bunya Pine'

Judges' comments

In this story, the writer conveys their character’s emotions—or repression of emotions— in a way that feels subtle and genuine. The prose is beautiful and tender, and the writer has a deft handle on their subject.

About the author

Callum Brockett is a writer in his final year of a Law/Fine Arts dual Bachelor degree. Callum typically writes literary fiction and semi-autobiographical tales about his travels in North Africa, Europe and Asia. While he prefers the escapism of creative writing, Callum also researches and writes about Environment and Human Rights Law. Otherwise, Callum spends his spare time scuba-diving shipwrecks, underwater caves, and reefs, filming the diverse sea life he encounters along the way. 

RUNNER-UP: Emily Humphreys, 'This is not a happy story' 

Judges' comments

A powerful subject matter carried by evocative imagery and language. The descriptions of the ocean are captivating and the story itself is devastatingly beautiful. The voice is commanding, and the powerful sense of narrative urgency makes for memorable storytelling.

About the author

Emily Humphreys is currently a student at Griffith University, where she studies a double degree of law and arts; with majors in security studies and international politics. When she isn’t studying, Emily can be found reading, volunteering with local not-for-profits or dreaming of her next big trip around the world. She has been writing since she was 12 and loves to incorporate themes and ideas from her travels and the people that she has met into her stories. She aspires to pursue a career in human rights law and one day publish a novel, but until then will continue writing whenever she can find time.

Khalid Warsame YWA judge

Meet this year's judges.

State Librarian with winners holding their certificates

Read stories by past winners from 1998 to now.

Close up of a Young Writers Award certificate

Congratulations to the 2019 winners, runners-up and highly commended writers.