WINNERS: Sydney Hammond Short Story Competition 2022

Good writers read copiously. How do you know what’s current and publish-worthy if you’re not reading?

After agonising over submissions, our three super-talented celebrity judges, Lauren Daniels – Director of the Brisbane Writers Workshop, Lawrey Goodrick – author of Cans for Change, and Nat Kile – author of Just Nat: Life in the fast lane with Natalie Lowndes have selected the winners for this year’s competition.

Calibre of writing keeps getting better

‘Each year the competition seems to step up a notch’, said Carolyn Martinez, Hawkeye Director.

‘I sound like a broken record, but honestly, the calibre of the writing just keeps getting better and better. It means the future of writing and publishing quality work is assured.’

So, what can we attribute the continual improvement to?

Feedback from our long and short-listed winners is that many of them are voracious readers, particularly focussing on their genre and category, and it seems that their hard work is paying off.  

‘I’m sure this is why the quality of the writing is improving. Reading the work of good writers will improve your own work. That, coupled with seeking the help of an experienced mentor and/or editor will really take you from average to the winner’s podium,’ said Martinez.

What makes a winning story

Wondering what sets the winning story apart from the field? Here’s what Nat Kile, author of the biography Just Nat had to say.

‘For me, the winning story captured my attention the entire time, invited me to jump into the world of the main character and feel the raw pain, anxiety and fear of the character’s journey. It was this story that made me hungry for more and left me wondering what was going to happen next, long after I had put the story down…’.

Lauren Daniels, co-author of the best selling book, Winning Short Story Competitions, also had advice for short story writers on what makes a winning story; ‘The best stories hold a snapshot of a tiny world, and through that lens, reflect our larger universe and the hearts that inhabit it.’

We are very pleased to announce the winner of the 2022 Sydney Hammond Short Story competition:

Congratulations to the following:

‘The Liberation of Margo’s Hair’ by Caroline Jones, Queensland, Australia

The runners up are:

2nd place: ‘Red Road’ by Bob Topping, Queensland, Australia

3rd place: ‘So Close to Home’ by Timothy L. Jones, Queensland, Australia

Caroline Jones, winner of the Sydney Hammond Memorial Short Story Competition 2022
Caroline Jones, winner of the Sydney Hammond Memorial Short Story Competition 2022
Highly commended stories:

‘Down in the Pawpaw Patch’ by Richard Stimac, United States

‘Serpent River’ by Jo Skinner, Queensland, Australia

The winner of the Junior category will receive a copy of the bestselling writing guide Winning Short Story Competitions: Essential Tools for the Serious Writer.

This year’s junior winner is:

‘Home’ by Pippini Niamh, South Australia, Australia

The runners up are:

2nd place: ‘Sweven’ by Maka Mbakada, New South Wales, Australia

3rd place: ‘The Aftermath of War’ by Mellica Devadas, New South Wales, Australia

Competition Prizes

This year’s first prize winner will receive a $250 gift voucher for Hawkeye Publishing, and the anthology cover based on the winner’s story.

The longlisted entries will be published in an anthology. All longlisted entrants will receive one free copy of the anthology thanks to the kind sponsorship of Hawkeye Publishing.

Information about the anthology:

An anthology of the longlisted entries from this year’s competition will be published once the front cover is finalised. We anticipate that orders will be open soon.

Information about next year’s competitions:

Sydney Hammond Short Story Competition:

Next year’s Sydney Hammond Short Story competition theme is Detour/s. Details here.

Hawkeye Manuscript Development Prize:

If you are interested in entering Hawkeye’s Manuscript Development Prize this year, please click here for more information.

Lawrey Goodrick, author and illustrator of middle-grade fiction book ‘Cans for Change’.

Lauren Daniels, director of the Brisbane Writers Workshop and co-author of the bestselling writing guide ‘Winning Short Story Competitions: Essential tools for the serious writer’.

Nat Kile, author of Natalie Lowndes’ biography ‘Just Nat: Life in the Fast Lane with Natalie Lowndes’.

Meesha Whittam, reviewer and publicity officer for Hawkeye Publishing. 

A huge congratulations to our winners, and runners up, shortlisted and longlisted entrants for this year. A sincere thank you to every entrant for sharing your diverse and entertaining stories with our judges. We wish you all the very best for your future writing.

Tips on What Makes Stories Stand Out in a Field of Good Writing from the Director of Hawkeye, Carolyn Martinez:

After the announcement of the Longlist for the Sydney Hammond Memorial Short Story Competition we were flooded with requests from entrants seeking advice on their individual story and how they could improve their writing. Unfortunately, whilst we’d love to offer this, due to the workload involved and the already stretched nature of our staffing, we’re unable to facilitate this.

However, I’ll outline here what I believe makes winning stories stand out in strong fields. For all those who didn’t make the Longlist, know that you’re in good company. We receive very good submissions into our competition.

Every entrant had a good grasp of writing so I won’t labour the basics. Instead, I’ll talk resonance – which shines with advanced application of show not tell, pacing and rising tension, active and original phrasing, and character development.

Show Not Tell: The more you practise show not tell the deeper you go down the well of learning. Show not tell is what makes the reader feel like the character, and in my opinion, writers never stop improving their show not tell skills.

Consider the difference between these three descriptions:

  • Samuel was beaten as a child, and now, as he looked into the eyes of his aggressor, he didn’t flinch.
  • Samuel looked directly into the eyes of the man who’d once belt him for minor infringements. Father’s feet shuffled awkwardly in response.
  • Whack!… The sound echoed in Samuel’s mind. Whack! The slap of the strap on his naked buttocks raw, as if it were yesterday, the “stolen” biscuit dropped to the floor. Whack! The whack that always drew blood. Today, the boy didn’t cower. Rather, the man flexed his biceps, fists clenched, steel eyes facing Father. The shrivelled man opposite shuffled his feet and looked away.

Show not tell provides space for your reader to engage their brain to discern meaning for themselves. This is the gold you seek. For example, the dropped “stolen” biscuit allowed space for the reader to engage their brain to deduce “minor infringement” without me telling them. The use of “Father” allowed the reader to deduce a fractured, distant relationship. When you’re bored reading a book, it’s because your brain isn’t engaged. The application of this skill is a clear distinction of the best stories we read.

Pace and Rising Tension: This leads into the issue of pacing, because as you see, the best description above is long, and space is tight in short stories. Stories must have rising tension that builds upon and builds upon what came before, and sentence length is an important tool for maximising your delivery. Short sentences for moments of high tension, longer sentences for rests in tension, mid-length sentences to assist in building tension. You control your reader’s heartbeat through your choice of sentence length. A handy trick is to read your story out loud to evaluate its pacing. Play your readers’ heartbeats like a conductor conducts their orchestra. Variances, peaks, troughs and carefully placed crescendoes.

Active and Original Phrasing: Strip out those adverbs and adjectives and replace two words with one strong one. Writers have taken note and we often now see vivid words like “crunched” and “startled”. Remove all the redundant words from your writing. There are some wonderful apps around to practise this skill. This is another skill, like show not tell, where the more you practise, the more redundant words you see in your writing, and the better writer you become.

Characterisation: Your lead character should undergo change as a result of the story. They can change for better, or worse, but they shouldn’t be the same person as introduced at the beginning.

The Importance of Peers: I highly encourage anyone serious about writing to engage, in person if possible, with a writing group of similiar-level peers. You want your work being read by other writers (not family and friends) willing to give you feedback to improve. Enjoy this process. It can be difficult at first to have your writing critiqued, but keep reminding yourself – it takes a team to produce a bestseller. Even the best manuscripts that land publishing contracts go through a team of experts before they’re released out into the wild.

When seeking feedback from peers, a good way to weed out important suggestions is to ask multiple writers for their feedback on the same piece. If one person says something you don’t like, you can shelve it as their opinion. But if four people say the same/similiar thing, it’s time to take a second look.

Feedback is a 2-way street. You’ll often learn just as much about writing by critiquing others’ work, as you will by having your own work critiqued.

I hope these short tips give food for thought on areas you might like to focus further learning on. Libraries and writing centres are tremendous sources for short writing courses, and I’ve found there are always energising courses no matter your level. I try to go to at least one writing festival per year and spend a couple of days listening to guest speakers. I always come away with new knowledge and I’ve been an editor for over 25 years!

4 comments to “WINNERS: Sydney Hammond Short Story Competition 2022”

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  1. Jo Skinner - October 19, 2022 Reply

    Congratulations to Caroline, Bob, Timothy and Richard. I really look forward to reading your winning stories and all the long listed stories in the anthology. It is so great to have opportunities like this to flex our writing muscles and take up the challenge of sending work out to be scrutinised. I was delighted to see my name on the short list this year as I took a plunge and wrote in a genre I have not attempted before. Thanks so much, Carolyn for organising such a great comp and for all the helpful feedback.

    • Carolyn Martinez - October 20, 2022 Reply

      Hi Jo, What a lovely message, thank you. And congratulations on your Shortlist achievement! Cheers, Carolyn

  2. Caroline - October 21, 2022 Reply

    I massive thank you to the whole team! And everyone who entered – you all rock!

    Congratulations to Bob, Timothy, and Richard.

    I’m as pleased as punch, tickled pink, and as happy as a pumpkin when October has passed! 😊

    Looking forward to reading all the stories. And seeing my story in print – now that’s something I never thought I’d see.

    Sincerely, Caroline x

    • Carolyn Martinez - October 24, 2022 Reply

      Congratulations Caroline!

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