Australian Book Review is delighted to announce that Tracy Ellis is the winner of this year’s ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize for her story ‘Natural Wonder’. She receives $6,000. This year’s prize – worth a total of $12,500 – received 1,338 entries from thirty-six different countries. Nina Cullen placed second and receives $4,000 for her story ‘Dog Park’, and C.J. Garrow placed third and receives $2,500 for his story ‘Whale Fall’.
The 2022 Jolley Prize was judged by Amy Baillieu, Melinda Harvey, and John Kinsella. The judges’ report, as well as the full longlist, can be found below.
Each of the shortlisted stories are published in the 2022 August issue (purchase single issues here). ABR extends a warm congratulations to Tracy Ellis, Nina Cullen, and C.J. Garrow, as well as to the longlisted entrants. Thank you to all who entered this year’s prize. We look forward to receiving your entries next year.
for ‘Natural Wonder’
for ‘Dog Park’
Nina Cullen is a Newcastle-based writer whose work has appeared in various Australian and international publications. She has just finished a collection of linked short stories and is working on a novel.
for ‘Whale Fall’
‘by the hour’ by Diana Clarke (New Zealand)
‘Dog Park’ by Nina Cullen (NSW) - shortlisted
‘Case Notes’ by Sonja Dechian (Vic.)
‘Natural Wonder’ by Tracy Ellis (NSW) - shortlisted
‘Whale Fall’ by C.J. Garrow (Vic.) - shortlisted
‘And Then There Is Pink’ by Madison Griffiths (Vic.)
‘Glads’ by Susan Hettinger (United States)
‘half-moons filled with jam’ by Andy Kovacic (NSW)
‘Born for You’ by Magdalena McGuire (Vic.)
‘The Mend’ by Bruce Meyer (Canada)
‘Blowing Up’ by Alec Patrić (Vic.)
‘Not-John’ by Jonathan Ricketson (Vic.)
‘Zamek’ by Alex Skovron (Vic.)
‘human material’ by Tracey Slaughter (New Zealand)
In ‘Natural Wonder’, the narrator watches over three boys – her son and his two cousins – as they spend the first days of a new year playing at a beach on Sydney harbour. This story of children swimming and fencing with toy lightsabers on the sand has a gently melancholic undertow: it emerges that the cousins have experienced the recent trauma of losing their mother. The narrator feels a strong urge to protect and comfort her nephews but she is also drawn to ideas of escape and freedom. The story is remarkable for its quietness, acknowledgement of knotty feelings, and the room it makes for small miracles.
In the tense and atmospheric story ‘Dog Park’, Georgie takes her young son Max on a midday visit to the park where she watches from a shaded bench while he plays. Georgie’s protective love for her son infuses the story even as her desperate longing to shield him from potential pain or humiliation leads to growing tensions and an unsettling confrontation. ‘Dog Park’ is a tender examination of the evolving relationship between an anxious mother and her growing child that is filled with nuanced observations and telling details. The complex interactions between the characters in this story are particularly convincing.
The bullying of Bernard Tusk at a school for boys ‘of shallow prospects’ is conveyed in a wry, uncanny, and almost defamiliarising way in ‘Whale Fall’, which uses the beaching of a whale carcass as a metaphor for pointless death. As an implicated but also threatened observer, the narrator takes us through the destruction of Tusk who, like all the younger boys, vaguely seeks ‘cool’, but can’t attain it. The triggering complicity of the narrator is both strangely self-exonerating and self-accusatory as he tries to figure out his role between collusion and empathy. The story skilfully examines a fraught complicity and guilt.
ABR warmly acknowledges the generous support of ABR Patron Ian Dickson, who makes the Jolley Prize possible in this lucrative form. We congratulate all the longlisted and shortlisted authors.
Subscribers to ABR can read previous prize-winning stories to the Jolley Prize. To read these stories, click here.
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