This review comes from Alicia Thompson at the NSW Writers' Centre. You might recognise a name...
The Common Thread is actually a writing group (looking for new members)
that has published an annual anthology of their work since 2004. In 2010 they
held their first competition. This Anthology is a 'bumper edition' covering
both 2012 and 2011. The bonus for readers is that this book therefore contains
four prize-winning stories.
Apart from the pure enjoyment of reading short stories, this book makes an interesting
study for any aspiring writer developing their short story skills and thinking
of entering their work in competitions. If you've ever wondered what
distinguishes a winning entry from other entrants, reading this collection may
give you some helpful clues.
Apart from the four winners, the collection contains a further twenty-four
pieces, seven of them poems. The stories cover a wide range of creative ideas
and display a good deal of inventiveness; what makes the four winning entries
stand out though, is the execution of the idea.
Both Stephen Reilly and David Blissett (1st and 2nd prize winners 2012,
respectively) have chosen relatively dark material. Their stories have a
sharp-edged realism to them. The previous year's winners, Theresa Layton 1st
prize and Erica Woolgar 2nd, both displayed strong psychological understanding
and emotional intelligence. The voices in all four stories are unsentimental
While the winning entries are of a high standard, the other published stories can
be a bit uneven in quality. The writing itself is technically of a high
standard and shows great care has been taken over editing, but there are
several stories that could have benefited from further workshopping. A few of
the pieces descend into triteness or self-indulgence and one or two don't take
enough care with credibility. Non-winning entries that show a defter handling
of their material include the prose of Liz Newton and Rosemary Hansell.
Altogether, this collection is a wonderful example of a group of writers who
clearly have fun exercising their craft, exploring new possibilities and
pushing themselves with different techniques. Read with care, this book is
effectively a mini-workshop containing many lessons and ideas to take back to
our own writing.
is a Sydney writer and teacher currently studying for her Masters in Creative
Writing at UTS.