Short story competition winners announced

The winners of the inaugural Mansfield Readers and Writers short story competition were announced on 4 March 2023 at an event at the stunning Delatite Winery.

Deborah May has taken out 1st prize with her story ‘Starry, Starry Cow’. Deborah grew up in regional Victoria and now lives in a bayside suburb of Melbourne with her family. Deborah has had short stories published in The Furphy Anthology 2021 and The Furphy Anthology 2022.

In selecting Deborah’s story as the winning entry, the competition judge Laurie Steed said, ‘The tale of a wife and mother making necessary life-changing decisions, it’s also a fantastic meditation on fear and existential anxiety, and much more besides. Indeed, to literally describe this story is a bit like telling somebody that Anthony Doerr and Alice Munro write great stories, when really, the greater context of what’s achieved, and how, is much more spectacular. While comparisons to Doerr or Munro are high-praise, it would be tough to argue that the scope of the narrative is not in line with the former writer’s work, or that the emotional depth of this story does not mirror the latter. 

This story is written with supreme faith in both the strength of its unfolding narrative, and also in the reader. Indeed, stories like this remind me why I love to judge competitions in the first place. If you are looking to work out why a certain story wins a competition, then this is a great place to start. One enters its fictional world innocuously, dipping one’s toes into the story before realising soon enough it’s not a pool, it’s an ocean. Character-based storytelling does not get any better than this.’

The local writer’s prize of $500 was awarded to Mansfield writer Sinead Reilly for her story ‘Love thy Neighbour’. Sinead grew up  Competition judge Laurie Steed said ‘‘Love Thy Neighbour’ is a story that knows the power of proximity. When that proximity is next-door, then the stakes are immediately high. This story does not once shy away from its central conflict, and therein lies its real strength.‘ The prize was made possible with the generous support of festival sponsors, boutique accommodation 187 Merrijig.

The night also saw the introduction of an encouragement award, for young local writer Molly Dunn, for her story ‘Held by the Sea’. Molly’s story was longlisted and 

Congratulations to the winners. Their stories are published in the anthology Heart.

Thank you to festival sponsors Friends of Mansfield Library for their generous support of the anthology, with a significant contribution to assist production of the final book. 

Heart is available at the Mansfield Readers and Writers Festival from festival bookseller Ink Bookshop or online at