Short Stories

As a kid, apart from school work, the only writing I remember doing was a few letters, a scribble now and then as part of a game with my sister, and the odd shopping list (normally aspirational) or greeting card. The only creative writing I remember doing was a comic book which I illustrated with a HB pencil. It was a cowboy thing, a bit of a ‘Lucky Luke’ rip-off. Mum didn’t get it. It was rubbish to her. One of those things about her weird kid. She wasn’t equipped for the creative spelling I used to produce a ‘Texas drawl’. Dad thought it was good. I think he appreciated that a kid putting their energy into a creative endeavour, on their own initiative and for the sheer joy of doing it, was a wonderful thing.

Outside of school work, the next piece of creative writing I remember doing was a short story I wrote in 1990 as an entry requirement for a university course. I don’t have a copy of that story now, something about a man in love with a green-eyed ghost, inspired by a Nick Barker and the Reptiles song. Few will remember that band, and I’m guessing the story was pretty forgettable too. I don’t even know if I wrote it for the communication course I eventually enrolled in at the University of Canberra in 1991, or for some other. One at Swinburne comes to mind. Either way, that lost story sort of got me rolling on creative writing as a passtime, and more stories followed.

I look back at some of the stuff I wrote back then and cringe, though at the time I thought I was pretty clever. Perhaps in the future I’ll look back at things I write now with similar dismay. I hope not. I think a creative outlet makes a person whole. I’d hope if I had been a knitter all these years I’d be getting pretty good at it by now. Writing, on the other hand, I sometimes wonder how much talent can be gotten from hard work, practice, and expensive creative writing courses. Is it one of those things that come more from the intangible – a gift, some sort of innate talent that passed me by, a dormant gene that skipped this particular descendent? I dunno.

Over Easter 2018, I went on a camping and surfing trip to Port Macquarie, my home town during my teenage years. I conceived Port in a storm as a horror story for entry in a competition in the US, the name of which escapes me now. However, as the story unfolded it went in a different direction. I entered it instead in the Victoria University short story prize and the Commonwealth Writers short story competition that year, and it wasn’t shortlisted in either.

Oh well, I reckon you’ll like it anyway… click here for Port in a storm v.4.1

In 2010 Eighty Seven was shortlisted in the Hawkesbury River Writers Prose Fiction competition. Click here for Eighty Seven

Common and Minor was Highly Commended in the Stringybark flash Fiction Award 2012 and appeared in the anthology Behind the Wattles. Click here for Common and Minor

How to Make a Star explores the fine line between self-delusion and following your dream. In 2012 it earned Highly Commended in the Brainart Awards, Written Word category. Please enjoy How to Make a Star

Nobody’s Girl has been entered in competition twice, getting a substantial rewrite in between. I think it has potential and I could go on developing it. However you can get bored working on the same thing too much. I think it’s an okay read, but not one of my best. The first version dated 2011, this version is a 2018 rewrite. Click here for Nobody’s Girl

The Real Australians was written for a competition that encouraged writers to contribute to national security policy formulation by imagining Australian security nightmares. My story didn’t rate a mention in the competition. I realised there was content that might be deemed ‘offensive’, which was forbidden in the competition conditions. I don’t known if that excluded it or if it simply wasn’t up to standard. Either way here it is for you. Click here for The Real Australians

In 2011 I wrote North shore Ladies’s Book Club for the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. The first draft was far too long. I tried to trim it down for the competition and simply ran out of time. Though the deadline had passed I stuck with the task of getting the story down to 5,000 words. The result was so stale it may as well have been written in dot points. I decided to go back to my original draft and give it a once-over. It’s not a story worth entering in competition at any rate, but I hope you find some fun in… North Shore Ladies’ book club

In the second half of 2010 I rediscovered some long lost motivation which opened a productive period of short story writing. After writing nothing new in almost a decade, in a matter of months I’d written half a dozen new stories. A Frightful Dream is a personal story and another which is not right for competition. It is, as the title implies, simply the recollection of a bad dream. Cllick here for A Frightful Dream

My First Valiant is a memoir published in Pentashield in 2003 or 2004. It’s written for car enthusiasts but if you can get past the various references to cars you might find some humour. Click here for My First Valiant

Around 1999 my sister Lesa made a short film about the shooting of Roni Levi on Bondi Beach. She asked me to write an introductory monologue. What I gave her was Scene of a Crime. I wrote it with rhythm in mind and it’s been presented alternatively in prose and verse. It’s a description of Bondi Beach as I saw it, living on the periphery in the late ’90s. Click here for Scene of a Crime

Soft eyed Sita was written in about 1996 for the Denis Butler Memorial competition which I think was run by HQ magazine. It’s been tweaked over the years and entered in competition a few times, but never did any good. They’re mad. All of them. Anyway, the version I’m putting up here isn’t the latest redraft, which I did in 2018, but a 2011 version. In the 2018 version I tried to make it more contemporary. It’s hard to believe how different things were in 1996. Just about no-one had a mobile phone, and even less had the internet. Oblique observations about the unhealthy influence of TV are dated now. MP3 players hadn’t been invented in ’96, and my cassette tape references don’t make sense in a story that otherwise reads as though it’s unfolding today. Be that as it may, some of this story is the best stuff I’ve ever written. Click here for Soft eyed Sita

I wrote Chelsea’s Man in 1996 for a short story competition at GQ magazine. I have this feeling I never submitted it, and in fact I’d forgotten I ever wrote it. Looking back at it now I think technically it’s not too bad. There are some bright moments, but what pleases me most is the theme. I think I had my finger on something very special. I was underdeveloped as a writer but I hope it’s an okay read. Click here for Chelsea’s Man

I wrote Girl on Platform 3 many years ago and it is filled with the preoccupations of a much younger man. It is a small and uncomfortable episode in the lives of two shy and possibly traumatised people. I do cringe at it nowadays, but here it is, warts and all. It’s not so sophisticated. I like to think I’ve developed as a writer since then. Click for Girl on Platform 3

Another Moron’s View of How Things are Going was a workshop exercise in my undergraduate course in 1991 or 1992. It’s a short character piece. Another okay read I hope. Click for Another Moron’s View of How Things are Going

Though I appear to have written The Adventures of Mario as an undergraduate it is much longer than I remember any of our work back then. I recall the kernel of the story going back at least that far, but I also remember working on it in the mid ’90s. There was a publisher in South Africa interested at the time. He wanted to serialise it but he was pushy and that made me uneasy, and I’d just got a steady job after years of uncertainty, so I didn’t follow through. In hindsight I should have put my trust in him. I’ve never had a publisher as interested in my work since. It is a little bit of fun with, I hope, a few little gems amid the mediocrity. I hope it will entertain. Click for The Adventures of Mario

Travelling Henry is another undergraduate exercise and again filled with the preoccupations of the 21 or 22 year-old I was when I wrote it. Click for Travelling Henry

Mark J MacNamara

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