Looking around for some reading for this very wet and cool day in old Melbourne town, we found just the thing: a brand new short story from Barry, available on Island Online. We’re going to make a nice hot cup of coffee, grab a few Bourbon biscuits, settle down into our favourite armchair, and get stuck in. Wherever you are in the world, and whatever your favourite cookie, you can read ‘Fisher Girls’ in full by clicking here. Enjoy.
In 2021, we take a bold new step: complementing our signature print magazine, our new website now regularly publishes new online content, and also buried treasures from our rich 40+ year archive.
The woman brought him a bar of chocolate. He didn’t usually eat chocolate, but she’d loosened the wrapper for him and he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. He placed an oblong in his mouth and allowed it to melt into claggy sweetness upon his tongue. He ate the entire bar, piece by piece, and when he’d finished he folded the wrapper carefully and put it in his anorak pocket and fastened the flap.
From ‘Just Martin’
I wrote the short story ‘Just Martin’ some years ago, and have tried to place it in a variety of journals and competitions. I’m thrilled that it has found a home in the pages of Every Second Tuesday. I was discussing the story’s journey with another member of Elwood Writers recently. They suggested, and I’m paraphrasing, that perhaps for some readers a difficult aspect might be that they are not sure by the end if Martin is or will be okay. The story represents only a couple of hours at most in the young boy’s life; even if he is okay for now, there might be many such episodes ahead. Perhaps to some extent we are left troubled, wondering whether he has the resources to survive well in a difficult world. I feel that the moment where he places the folded chocolate-bar wrapper into his anorak pocket is important; that it tells us something significant about him and about the way he is in the world. I’d like to think he’s going to be just fine.
My short story ‘Duets’ features in Every Second Tuesday, the new anthology of work by Elwood Writers.
What inspires one to write a short story? My motivation to write ‘Duets’ was different from usual, when I’ve recalled an episode from my childhood, or been moved by a particular experience, or tried to put myself in the place of someone else. In the case of ‘Duets’, I saw that the Henry Handel Richardson competition was to be judged by my writing hero, Helen Garner, and I wanted her to read my work.
The competition required that the short story have ‘some link to Henry Handel Richardson and/or her work’. I had recently read her first novel, Maurice Guest, much of which is set in the Leipzig Conservatorium – a world that interested me because I was writing a novel set in a musical environment. The story that emerged was: ‘a glimpse into the life of Madeleine from Henry Handel Richardson’s novel Maurice Guest ‘. Madeleine is a sensible and well-organised student, never frivolous, never passionately in love and I imagined how that young woman might have become a school principal’s wife, where she would have an intellectual more than a passionate compatibility with her husband. My own maternal grandmother (only about ten years younger than Henry Handel Richardson) had made a career out of being a school principal’s wife and I drew on my childhood memories as I developed my own older Madeleine.
My grandparents lived in a flat in the grounds of the school where Grandad was principal and I used my memories of this as a setting for ‘Duets’: ‘the scuffling of feet as the boys were summoned to bed’ [page 122], the dingy sitting room in the flat, ‘furnished in deep-red brocade and dark wood, the darkness broken only by cream lace antimacassars on the back of the upholstered chairs’ [page 115].
Helen Garner did get to read my story and I was awarded an honourable mention. The judge’s comment was: ‘A shocking and very touching and strong story about a child’s suffering and despair, and the breath-taking dishonesty of adults.’
Elwood Writers was in the studios of Vision Australia Radio in Kooyong on Thursday morning to record their pieces for a special upcoming winter-themed edition of the weekly literary program Cover To Cover.
The program features poetry, including haiku, by Helen, and stories by Jennifer, Margaret, and Barry, and goes to air on Friday 12 July at 8.00pm, repeated Sunday 14 July at 1.30pm.
Cover To Cover can be heard on the radio in Australia or online from anywhere in the world. For frequency and other information and to access online listening visit the station’s website below:
A podcast will be available shortly after the broadcast, and we’ll add it to our podcast page here on the Elwood Writers website, so if you don’t get a chance to tune in on the day you can listen anytime at your leisure.
Cover To Cover is produced by Tim McQueen and recorded in the studios of Vision Australia Radio in Melbourne.
This post originally showed the dates of the program as Friday 5 July and Sunday 7 July 2019. This was incorrect, and the information has been amended.
It’s a squarish room, plain by day, and nothing to speak of. But after dark, when the lamps are lit and the candles positioned, the room takes on an inviting glow, and were you to walk inside from the chill of a wintry evening, throwing off your coat and rubbing your hands together, you’d think […]
“Don’t put any lights on. It’s better this way. We don’t need lights. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Barry’s short story Interrupter, published in pocketbook format by In Short Publishing Co. (2015), was recently dramatised for broadcast on Vision Australia Radio’s weekly Cover To Cover literary program. The podcast of the program is available here.
1978, a birthday party. One of those once in a blue moon family dos where a local hall gets hired, there’s catering, a DJ. The adults end up drunk and misty. Someone overdoes it, creates a spectacle. There’s a fight. No blood’s spilled, but there’s harsh words, someone gets upset, there’s tears and the gin gets blamed. And so on. That kind of a night.
I spent most of it watching Tommy and trying to pretend otherwise. I’d always thought of me and him as the same age, nearly, but since the last time he’d become old enough to drink and smoke and that was ages away for me. He danced a lot towards the end. Swaying, tie loose, long legs. The combination was unbearable.
Then the goodbyes. My eyes stinging from the late hour and the cigarette smoke. Nancy came over for a hug. Dad’s sister, so Aunty I…