EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: The 2015 Vogel’s Literary Award winner Murray Middleton in conversation with John Purcell

Melbourne author Murray Middleton was announced the winner of the coveted Vogel’s Literary Award on Monday night for his exquisite short story collection When There’s Nowhere Else To Run.

The award, which offers publication by Allen & Unwin and $20,000 prize money, has been the launching pad for some of Australia’s most successful writers including Tim Winton, Kate Grenville and Gillian Mears.

We were spoiled with a visit from Murray to chat about his win and sign copies of his breathtaking debut. Check out the video below.


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When There’s Nowhere Else to Run – Vogel Winner 2015

by Murray Middleton

For a limited time only, order When There’s Nowhere Else to Run and you will receive a signed copy. *Offer available while stocks last.

The winner of the 2015 Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award.

‘Masterfully controlled … lingers long in the memory.’ Rohan Wilson, author of The Roving Party and To Name Those Lost.

In one way or another, isn’t everyone on the run?

A survivor of Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires takes asylum with old friends in the Dandenong Ranges. An editor-in-chief drives his sister halfway around the country to an east-coast rehabilitation clinic. A single mother flies to Perth with her autistic son for one last holiday. A father at the end of his tether tries to survive the chaos of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. A group of young friends hire a luxury beach house in the final weeks of one of their lives. A postman hits a pedestrian and drives off into the night.

When There’s Nowhere Else to Run is a collection of stories about people who find their lives unravelling. They are teachers, lawyers, nurses, firemen, chefs, gamblers, war veterans, hard drinkers, adulterers, widows and romantics. Seeking more…

Grab a copy of When There’s Nowhere Else to Run here

middleton-200x0Murray Middleton was born with fractured hips in 1983. He spent the first three months of his life in plaster and has broken most bones since. He won The Age Short Story Award in 2010 with ‘The Fields of Early Sorrow’. When There’s Nowhere Else to Run is his first published collection of short stories. He currently lives in Melbourne and won’t publish a second collection of stories until the Saints win a second premiership.

Stephen King Publishes New Short Story For The New Yorker

As further evidence of Stephen King of being not just one of the world’s greatest storytellers but also one of the hardest working, the acclaimed author has just published a new short story for The New Yorker.

Here’s the first part, click the link below to read it in it’s entirety…

150309_r26192-880A Death

by Stephen King

Jim Trusdale had a shack on the west side of his father’s gone-to-seed ranch, and that was where he was when Sheriff Barclay and half a dozen deputized townsmen found him, sitting in the one chair by the cold stove, wearing a dirty barn coat and reading an old issue of the Black Hills Pioneer by lantern light.

Looking at it, anyway.

Sheriff Barclay stood in the doorway, almost filling it up. He was holding his own lantern. “Come out of there, Jim, and do it with your hands up. I ain’t drawn my pistol and don’t want to.”

Trusdale came out. He still had the newspaper in one of his raised hands. He stood there looking at the sheriff with his flat gray eyes. The sheriff looked back. So did the others, four on horseback and two on the seat of an old buckboard with “Hines Mortuary” printed on the side in faded yellow letters.

“I notice you ain’t asked why we’re here,” Sheriff Barclay said.

“Why are you here, Sheriff?”

“Where is your hat, Jim?”

Trusdale put the hand not holding the newspaper to his head as if to feel for his hat, which was a brown plainsman and not there.

“In your place, is it?” the sheriff asked. A cold breeze kicked up, blowing the horses’ manes and flattening the grass in a wave that ran south.

“No,” Trusdale said. “I don’t believe it is.”

“Then where?”

“I might have lost it.”

“You need to get in the back of the wagon,” the sheriff said.

“I don’t want to ride in no funeral hack,” Trusdale said. “That’s bad luck.”

“You got bad luck all over,” one of the men said. “You’re painted in it. Get in.”

Trusdale went to the back of the buckboard and climbed up. The breeze kicked again, harder, and he turned up the collar of his barn coat.

The two men on the seat of the buckboard got down and stood either side of it. One drew his gun; the other did not. Trusdale knew their faces but not their names. They were town men. The sheriff and the other four went into his shack. One of them was Hines, the undertaker. They were in there for some time. They even opened the stove and dug through the ashes. At last they came out…

Read the complete short story, A Death by Stephen King, here

Maxine Beneba Clarke, author of Foreign Soil, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

9780733632426The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Maxine Beneba Clarke

author of Foreign Soil

Ten Terrifying Questions

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in Sydney, schooled in Sydney’s outer West (Kellyville and Baulkham Hills), before going to University on the South Coast (Wollongong). But now my home is in Melbourne’s West. I’m Australian, but of Afro-Caribbean heritage. In many ways, I feel like I’m a global citizen. Africa, England, the Caribbean and South America are all a part of my family’s migration journey.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to be white: because almost everyone around me was, difference was frowned upon and I felt my blackness was the bane of my existence. When I was eighteen, I wanted to be right, because I was young and arrogant and ‘invincible,’ and ‘knew better’ than everyone around me. When I was thirty, I wanted to be wise, because by then I had realised that wisdom was the greatest asset you could carry with you in life.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That the world would eventually sort itself out. That good would eventually triumph – that there was an intrinsic and innate sense of justice inside every one of us that would gradually lead to some kind of universal understanding about humanity, and about what we owe to each other as human beings. I truly believed that my generation was more in tune, would be smarter, would be more compassionate, would act with both head and heart on issues like climate change, world hunger and asylum seekers. That we were destined to clean up the mess our well-meaning parents seemed to be making around us. How tragically wrong I was.

Maxine Beneba Clarke

Author Maxine Beneba Clarke

4.What work of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc –  had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Picasso’s Guernica.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a fiction collection?

Short stories are true soul-food. They allow you to capture a reader in a short time, they allow you to tease with possibility. They entice the reader to engage long after the story has finished. Short stories let you start a dialogue and, I believe, have the potential – much more so than longer fiction – to bleed into the life and consciousness of the reader. How does the story end? What’s going to happen to the angry black kid after he throws that Molotov? Does the young red-haired lawyer turn her car around and drive back to the Detention Centre? Will that scared little boy ever return to Mississippi and if he does, what kind of welcome will he find?

6. Please tell us about your latest novel.

In Melbourne’s western suburbs, in a dilapidated block of flats overhanging the rattling Footscray train lines, a young black woman is working on a collection of stories.

The book is called Foreign Soil. Inside its covers, a desperate asylum seeker is pacing the hallways of Sydney’s notorious Villawood detention centre, a seven-year-old Sudanese boy has found solace in a patchwork bike, an enraged black militant is on the warpath through the rebel squats of 1960’s Brixton, a Mississippi housewife decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small-town ignorance, a young woman leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny and a Sydney schoolgirl loses her way. The young mother keeps writing, the rejection letters keep arriving…

Foreign Soil was the winning manuscript of the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and is written in English, broken English and accented English.

Grab a copy of Foreign Soil here

97807336324267. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope readers come away from Foreign Soil with more compassion, care for, and connectivity to, people pushed to the fringes of society. I hope their hearts are fuller, and more generous. I hope the book shifts something in them, in some way, for the better.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I admire risk-takers and trailer-blazers. I admire writers who don’t shy away from the difficult, or the heartbreaking, or the overtly political. I like writers who tell it like it is, who are curious, daring and generous with their emotions. I like to read writers who leave a little of themselves in each of their works, because I know how difficult and emotionally taxing that is to accomplish. I like to read work from writers who push forms and genres to the limit. I like writers whose characters are so real you could reach out and hug them, (or slap them, as the case may be). I like contemporary fiction and non-fiction, and try to read a lot of Australian writing. Recently, I’ve enjoyed reading work by Jamaica Kincaid, NoViolet Bulawayo, Jeff Sparrow, Chris Abani, Josephine Rowe, Tony Birch, Alice Pung and Jesmyn Ward. But oh, the list could go on.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I want to write. I want to always be articulate enough to start the conversations I’d like to start, and to hopefully have the privilege of always having those conversations find their way to the shelf. I’d like an ongoing dialogue with my readers. Writing is in many ways such a solitary pursuit, and I’d love for it to be a social one too, as it’s very much my way of digesting what’s going on in the world, making sense of things. I hope also though, that readers get pleasure from reading my work, that it’s something they do enjoy reading.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Keep writing. And keep learning. And most of all, keep submitting and editing. If you want to make a career out of it, look at writing as a marathon, rather than a sprint. Passion is key, but restraint and pace are also crucial in the long-term, or you burn out. And read. For Christ’s sake, you have to read. Read as much as you can, and then re-read as much as you can, and then dissect what it is you love about the books you do read and love.

Maxine, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Foreign Soil here

GUEST BLOG: Flash Fictions – Key Words and After-Images by Angela Meyer

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

There’s a very short story by Franz Kafka, called On the Tram, where the narrator, ‘unsure of his footing in this world’, watches a woman move towards the steps, ready to alight. He is taken in completely by this vision:

She is as distinct to me as if I had run my hands over her.

He describes her appearance and dress, ending with this:

Her small ear is close-set, but since I am near her I can see the whole ridge of the whorl of her right ear and the shadow at the root of it.

He wonders, at the close of the story, how she is not amazed at herself.

The narrator never tells you that the woman is attractive, or beautiful, but she comes alive to the reader, due to words that convey intimacy (and we must acknowledge that word choice in this case involves the work of the translators Willa and Edwin Muir).

In a short story, every word must count. What is left out is as important as what is left in. The writer must create and maintain a particular tone, or mood, and create a piece that feels whole (not a fragment) but that may evoke much outside its confines. With my own very short stories (also called flash fictions or microfictions), I want the characters, images, themes to live long in the reader’s mind. I want them to have some impact.

You might compare a very short story to a complex painting – a narrative-based painting – where the symbols nestled in the setting and upon the figures work together to not only suggest a particular story but hopefully move you to feel something, something you may not even fully, consciously comprehend.

Angela Meyer

My own stories are not abstract paintings, they are figures in a landscape, though some are expressively warped: the stories in Captives range from dark Edvard Munchs to (superficially) bright Andy Warhols.

I’ve always been a visual person, and I think that’s one reason short stories appeal. Often they centre around an image, or a series of images. Think of Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, or the new cloak in Gogol’s The Overcoat. In flash fiction, the central image might burn on the reader’s retina, difficult for them to blink away.

One of my favourite very short stories by Janet Frame, The Linesman, is about a woman watching a man repair a telephone line from her window. She cannot seem to move away from this image, despite being hungry and thirsty. The final line is: ‘You see, I was hoping that he might fall.’ The images are sometimes related to epiphanies or indications of character. Often, they are absurd and tell you nothing overt at all (which may really be telling you more).

Mine include a man pointing a gun at his beloved, a woman swallowing objects, an empty cradle, a locked toilet, a newspaper headline, a man on a tightrope, and actor Anthony Perkins’ bum. I hope that the characters will come alive, like the woman on Kafka’s tram did for me, that the stories will produce a range of effects, and that an image or two will remain long in your mind.

Angela Meyer is a Melbourne-based writer and reviewer. Her short stories, articles and reviews have been published widely.

Her new book Captives contains touches of Annie Proulx, the way a lonely death can creep up on you and the way our sexuality will not be denied, though we may try to cover it up. There are many glimpses of ordinary people struggling with everyday madness in extraordinary ways.

Grab a copy of Angela Meyer’s Captives here


by Angela Meyer

Short, intense and mesmerizing. Read these very short stories on a train, a tram, a bus, or waiting in the check out line. Captives by Angela Meyer will fit into your pocket, your handbag or tucked into the cover of your ipad.

Captives opens with a husband pointing his gun at his wife. There’s a woman who hears ‘the hiss of Beelzebub behind people’s voices’, a photographer who captures the desire to suicide, a man locked in a toilet who may never get out, a couple who grow young, and a prisoner who learns to swallow like a python.

Movie stars appear throughout reminding us that people live on through images: Paul Newman, Anthony Perkins, Divine, and a girl who died in a car crash are all caught eternally on film.

Grab a copy of Angela Meyer’s Captives here


A Win For Alice Munro – A Win For Booklovers


The literary world is rejoicing in the news that Alice Munro has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature.

Over the last few years more talk has centred around who was overlooked rather than who has won, but this year the world seems at peace with the decision, a tribute to the legacy of Alice Munro.

More than ever it feels as though booklovers have a Nobel Prize winner we can relate to, one of our own.

At just 11 years old, Munro decided she wanted to be a writer, and never wavered in her career choice.

“I think maybe I was successful in doing this because I didn’t have any other talents,” she has stated in interviews.

“I’m not really an intellectual,” Munro said. “I was an OK housewife but I wasn’t that great. There was never anything else that I was really drawn to doing so nothing interfered in the way life interferes for so many people.

“It always does seem like magic to me.”

Munro has always been an exceptional writer from her earliest days (her first story was published in 1950 to acclaim), but it’s her love of books that make her such a popular winner.

In 1963, she and her husband bought a house in Victoria, Canada and opened a bookstore, Munro’s Books, described by author Allan Fotheringham as “the most magnificent bookstore in Canada, possibly in North America”.

In a 2010 interview, she said she wanted readers “to feel something is astonishing – not the ‘what happens’ but the way everything happens,” she explained, adding that “long short story fictions do that best” for her as opposed to full-length novels.


In 1994 Munro sat down with The Paris Review to talk about her life and career. It’s a beautiful, deeply personal piece that reflects her own work magnificently.

Here’s a taste:


Have you ever had a specific time to write?


When the kids were little, my time was as soon as they left for school. So I worked very hard in those years. My husband and I owned a bookstore, and even when I was working there, I stayed at home until noon. I was supposed to be doing housework, and I would also do my writing then. Later on, when I wasn’t working everyday in the store, I would write until everybody came home for lunch and then after they went back, probably till about two-thirty, and then I would have a quick cup of coffee and start doing the housework, trying to get it all done before late afternoon.


What about before the girls were old enough to go to school?


Their naps.


You wrote when they had naps?


Yes. From one to three in the afternoon. I wrote a lot of stuff that wasn’t any good, but I was fairly productive. The year I wrote my second book, Lives of Girls and Women, I was enormously productive. I had four kids because one of the girls’ friends was living with us, and I worked in the store two days a week. I used to work until maybe one o’clock in the morning and then get up at six. And I remember thinking, You know, maybe I’ll die, this is terrible, I’ll have a heart attack. I was only about thirty-nine or so, but I was thinking this; then I thought, Well even if I do, I’ve got that many pages written now. They can see how it’s going to come out. It was a kind of desperate, desperate race. I don’t have that kind of energy now.

Take a little time to read the full thing, it’s a joy.

So, ladies and gentlemen, a toast…

To Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature.

One for the booklovers.

Click here to go to Alice Munro’s author page at Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


2012 Aurealis Awards Finalists announced

The finalists for the 2012 Aurealis Awards have been announced today, with Margo Lanagan leading the field with 5 nominations  including nods for Best Fantasy Novel and Best Young Adult Novel for her book Sea Hearts,.

Kate Forsyth was rewarded for her stellar year with the nomination of Bitter Greens, just a few days after her highly anticipated novel Wild Girl hit the shelves.

Judging Co-ordinator, Tehani Wessely, said that with almost 750 entries across the thirteen categories, the judges had a difficult job.

Margo Lanagan

Margo Lanagan

“Once again, the judges agreed that entries were of a very high standard and the final decisions were subject to much debate among the panellists. We had record entries in almost all categories.

“The trend towards quality e-published fiction continued in 2012, with a high percentage of entries published this way. The short story categories continue to flourish, and while some entry categories were relatively small, others maintained or surpassed previous figures.”

“I’d like to thank all the judges for their time and effort judging of these awards.”

2012 Aurealis Awards – Finalists


Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier


“Sanaa’s Army” by Joanne Anderton

“The Stone Witch” by Isobelle Carmody

“First They Came” by Deborah Kalin

“Bajazzle” by Margo Lanagan

“The Isles of the Sun” by Margo Lanagan


Suited by Jo Anderton

The Last City by Nina D’Aleo

And All The Stars by Andrea K Host

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley


“Visitors” by James Bradley

“Significant Dust” by Margo Lanagan

“Beyond Winter’s Shadow” by Greg Mellor

“The Trouble with Memes” by Greg Mellor

“The Lighthouse Keepers’ Club” by Kaaron Warren


Bloody Waters by Jason Franks

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott

Blood and Dust by Jason Nahrung

Salvage by Jason Nahrung


“Sanaa’s Army” by Joanne Anderton

“Elyora” by Jodi Cleghorn

“To Wish Upon a Clockwork Heart” by Felicity Dowker

“Escena de un Asesinato” by Robert Hood

“Sky” by Kaaron Warren


Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney

And All The Stars by Andrea K. Host

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra


“Stilled Lifes x 11” by Justin D’Ath

“The Wisdom of the Ants” by Thoraiya Dyer

“Rats” by Jack Heath

“The Statues of Melbourne” by Jack Nicholls

“The Worry Man” by Adrienne Tam

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through words)

Brotherband: The Hunters by John Flanagan

Princess Betony and the Unicorn by Pamela Freeman

The Silver Door by Emily Rodda

Irina the Wolf Queen by Leah Swann

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through pictures)

Little Elephants by Graeme Base (author and illustrator)

The Boy Who Grew Into a Tree by Gary Crew (author) and Ross Watkins (illustrator)

In the Beech Forest by Gary Crew (author) and Den Scheer (illustrator)

Inside the World of Tom Roberts by Mark Wilson (author and illustrator)


Blue by Pat Grant (author and illustrator)

It Shines and Shakes and Laughs by Tim Molloy (author and illustrator)

Changing Ways #2 by Justin Randall (author and illustrator)


Winners of the 2012 Aurealis Awards and the Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence will be announced at the Aurealis Awards ceremony, on the evening of Saturday 18 May at the Independent Theatre, North Sydney.

Claire Vaye Watkins wins U.S. Story Prize for short fiction

Author Claire Vaye Watkins was awarded the Story Prize in New York this morning for her debut collection, Battleborn. As winner she receives $20,000.

She faced some tough competition for the prize, with celebrated writers Dan Chaon and Junot Diaz also on the shortlist. Dan Chaon was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, while Junot Diaz was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for the incredible The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Neither Chaon or Diaz left empty-handed however, collecting a cool $5,000 for their works Stay Awake, and This Is How You Lose Her

The judges wrote in a release about the prize, “In the ten stories in her first collection, Claire Vaye Watkins takes an unflinching look at the apocalyptic dimensions of our culture’s boom-or-bust obsession…. She’s a fierce and original new writer, and Battleborn is an astonishing short story collection.”

This year marks the ninth anniversary of the Story Prize,  the most significant award in the U.S. dedicated to collections of short fiction.

About the Finalists

Claire Vaye Watkins was born and raised in the Mojave Desert. Her collection of short stories, Battleborn, won a Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame and earned Watkins inclusion on the National Book Foundation’s list of “5 Under 35.” A graduate of the University of Nevada Reno, She earned her MFA from the Ohio State University, where she was a Presidential Fellow. Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, One Story, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Best of the West 2011, Best of the Southwest 2013, and elsewhere. An assistant professor at Bucknell University, Watkins is also the co-director, with Derek Palacio, of the Mojave School, a non-profit creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada.

Dan Chaon is the author of Stay Awake, Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaon’s fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and he was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chaon lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College, where he is the Pauline M. Delaney Professor of Creative Writing.

Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and is the author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; as well as This is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist; and the critically acclaimed Drown. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, African Voices, and numerous Best American Short Stories anthologies. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award among other accolades. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Click here to buy the winner of The 2012 The Short Story Prize Battleborn from
Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


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