A newborn’s heart is the size of a strawberry. It’s written on a poster I pass, clicking in my heels down the linoleum-covered corridor.
The family’s been moved from maternity into a private room. I hear a nurse talking so I sit outside the room on a plastic chair and wait. Her voice is the one we all use around a bereaved family: soothing to them but unsettling to ourselves. My nylon skirt crackles when I smooth it. 
Then it’s just me and the parents and my job. The father signs automatically and hands the forms back. He turns to his wife who is staring at the bassinet. I don't look inside; I know what is there. By now the baby’s skin would be waxen and bluish like a doll. I look at the name on the front of my folio. It was a boy. I need to get back to my office, so I nod my thanks and turn to go.

A Living Nightmare

Often a dream turns into a nightmare in a split second. Fear grabs at your throat like an iron fist.
It was midnight. I was sleeping soundly when there was a rumble, a roar, a noise that we had heard far too often lately. Was this another earthquake dream? No, it was real and I was out of bed like lightning. Please not again.
When I looked out of the window I could not believe what I was seeing. The house next door was gone! Just gone. Collapsed. The house over the road was moving; back and forth like a swing. Tilly looked up helplessly. What, if anything, could I do? I threw on some clothes, grabbed my bag and hurried downstairs.

Facing Off

His face was grotesque, a squirming mass of muscle and skin. She watched him from across the table. She didn’t stare–she was trying to avoid eye contact, because that’s what one does in these situations. But she kept a wary eyeball on him as she ate.
His mouth was snarled, missing a tooth. She could see half-chewed bread through the gap. One eye was closed, the lines radiating from its side crooked and deep. His hair was unkempt, spiking up at the top, lurching forward at the side. A streak of milk had dried hard and dark like rebellious hair gel.

Krzysztof (Excerpt from The Vodka Cure)

Everything in the small white bathroom worked well. The Poles post communism still might have little money to build anything, but they were no slouches about plumbing, no slouches about anything technical. She dragged the blue T-shirt over her head and turned on the shower. Today they, the tourists, were off to Yasna Gora.
The ache for Yurek’s grandfather Krzysztof was beginning again. She welcomed it. Sighed deeply with the relief of experiencing such feeling. It was as if she’d found a planet with oxygen on it, a place she could really live in, after the emptiness of lying on her bed, trying not to wonder what Yurek was doing, where he’d gone, even, after what he’d told her, if he was still alive.

Life is Too Short

I have always been nervous, a bit of a scaredy cat and a worrier, but NOT today. It’s my birthday. The hairdresser is giving me the full treatment. I want to look beautiful for my celebrations and have taken extra care with my make-up, now pleased with what I see.
One of my birthday presents is a jump out of a plane. Can you imagine it? Me doing a skydive?
A man I met recently convinced me it would be fun. ‘Have a go,’ he said.
‘What about all the horror stories you hear of bad landings with broken bones?’ I asked.
‘The jumps will be filmed,’ he replied.
‘What a relief,’ I said, laughing. ‘At least if it all goes belly up my family will have a record of it!’


‘Three bottles of the shiraz,’ Anne said to the waiter as she handed back the wine menu. She turned to Edward Adelman, the Stanford professor whose lengthy and surprisingly incoherent research paper they had just heard. ‘Have you had a chance to visit any of the local vineyar…’
‘Oh…no…wait,’ Edward bellowed after the waiter. ‘Start the orders up…ah…that end of the table.’ Ignoring Anne’s question, Edward leant towards Rafe, the young American academic seated opposite. ‘What do you think of Barker’s latest book on the post-revolutionary nation?’

The Cartography of Lost Things

Let me be clear; I have never believed in psychic abilities. I do not believe anyone can speak to the dead. I am certain I do not have a spirit guide, or an aura that can be photographed, and I am sure nobody can close their eyes and make odd sounds while tuning into a nameless force which tells them where Granny’s missing fortune is buried. I went with Emma that day because I had nothing better to do.

The Narrative of Omission

Let me tell you a story.
Our eight-year-old son Jeffrey* was making his breakfast. We asked him an innocuous question–what he wanted on his toast, perhaps. He fell to the floor screaming. My husband and I watched him kick and slam his fists into the floor, tears splattering against the tiles. Each time we spoke to him he’d howl, flail his limbs, then curl up with his head under his elbows. After half an hour he’d calmed down, but wouldn’t tell us what triggered the outburst.
Then I found a note deep in Jeffrey’s schoolbag asking him to write down three significant events for each year he’d been alive. You won’t be able to remember events like your birth or first steps or words, but your parents can help you with this, the note said.

Alex Fairhill

Alex Fairhill wrote her first book in primary school, and after a twenty-year detour through journalism returned to writing fiction, mainly for young adults and children. She has a strong interest in stories representing marginalised groups, holds a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature and Professional Writing, and lives in regional Victoria.

Alex was awarded a 2016 Maurice Saxby Mentorship and a place in the ACT Writers Centre’s 2016 HARDCOPY development program for two separate YA manuscripts. Alex works for Writers Victoria and her work has been published in magazines and online.

Amanda McLeod

Amanda McLeod is a newly minted Canberran and creator of artistic things. Her fiction has appeared in The Scarlet Leaf Review, OJAL: Open Journal Of Arts And Letters, and other places. An old school stationery lover, she is a notorious late adopter and is still getting the hang of the digital age. When she’s not writing or painting, Amanda is trying to find the perfect cup of coffee or going on adventures.

Cassandra Frances

Cassandra Frances is a YA fiction writer based in Victoria. She has a Master of Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing from the University of Melbourne. She was a 2016 Glenfern Fellow for Emerging Writers and is an alumnus of the 2017 Djerassi YA writing workshop with Nova Ren Suma. Her publications include The Victorian Writer and BookWars.

Gwendolyn Doumit

Gwendolyn Doumit is a writer and academic from regional Australia who has lived and worked around the world. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies published by the Australian Catholic University and the Poetica Christi Press. Her interests include reading, cinema, and baking. She is currently working on a collection of short stories about life in academia. Her favourite novel is Jane Eyre.

Lynne DePeras

Author photo Lynn DePerasWhen Lynne, as a 14 year old, met a Polish refugee on a Perth train, she began to champion Poland. But it wasn’t till she obtained a BA in Literature and History, a Polish fiancĂ© and later, a Polish husband, that she finally visited their country. There, in 2008, during the breakup of her marriage and in a shocked, vodka haze, she learned the reality of Polish loss and annihilation. Afterwards, she re-created her Polish myth in The Vodka Cure, her first novel. Apart from that she has been short-listed in four short story competitions. Her favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, Dostoyevsky and Patrick White.

Raye Chapelle-McSweeney

Raye Chapelle-McSweeney has always enjoyed writing, both in her employment and for pleasure. For many years it was in administration, communication, project management, personnel management: writing and developing legislation, press releases, grant applications, personnel training, quality control, funds management, public and industry liaison and language training.

Her works were published in local newspapers and many decades ago her short story was published in a women’s magazine.

Attendance for two years at a writing course, where each week a completed short story was a requirement, reinvigorated Raye’s interest in writing for pleasure.