Spotlight on the ARA HNSA 2019 Short Story Prize

Ernest Hemingway. Virigina Woolf. Herman Melville. Jean Rhys. Thomas Hardy. DH Lawrence. Olga Masters, Gabriel Garcia Marquez…

What do these literary luminaries have in common? At one time or another, each mastered the highly precise art form of the short story.

Earnest Hemingway, Olga Masters, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Virginia Woolf

In an age when readers (and writers) have never been so ‘time poor’, the short story offers a striking opportunity for creative, cutting edge historical fiction. Given the highly competitive nature of the publishing industry, writing short stories is also an excellent way for writers to get some ‘runs on the board’ and showcase their skills, by creating a literary gem set in the historical past.

And so, today we are spotlighting the 2019 ARA HNSA Short Story Contest

Run as part of the forthcoming Historical Novel Society Australasia 2019 (HNSA 2019) Conference and sponsored by our friends at the ARA Group, the Short Story Contest is open to all delegates (excluding the competition judge and readers, sponsors and principal conference organizers).

The winner will be awarded a prize of $500, a free membership of the international Historical Novel Society and a certificate. Second and third placed entrants will each receive certificates, and with the author’s consent, the winning, second and third place short stories will be published in a special issue of Swinburne University of Technology’s Backstory Journal, and on the HNSA website after the conference.

Entries must comprise a complete, unpublished historical short story of between 1,500 to 3,000 words (maximum) on any theme, in which the substantive action takes place no later than 1965. Time-slip, historical thrillers/detective, historical romance, fantasy, alternate and steam-punk historical fiction are admissible. Each entrant may submit only one story.

The contest is now open, and closing date for receipt of entries is midnight, 31 August 2019 AEST. A reminder: only entrants who have purchased a weekend conference or day ticket are eligible to enter the competition. To encourage the widest possible submissions, the contest entry fee has been set at a low $10.

Please read all terms and conditions thoroughly before submitting your entry.

The HNSA 2017 Short Story Contest winner was Eleanor Limprecht. ‘The Call of Our Stars’, was originally written as a chapter in her novel Long Bay, but following its exclusion, Eleanor reworked the episode into a short story. This  poignant story highlights the tension between poverty and unwanted pregnancy at a time when women lacked the protection of reliable contraception. ‘The Call of Our Stars’ was published in the Swinburne University journal, Backstory, and can be read here.

Sophie Masson

To get you started on your own historical short story, Contest judge, Sophie Masson, has provided the following advice:

Intriguing glimpses, quick character sketches, chips off a bigger novelistic block–short stories can contain all these things, and more. Most of all, though, they should be concise yet well-developed narratives complete in themselves, which in a few pages allow us as readers to enter into the world of their characters. 

As judge, I’ll be looking for stories that no matter what the historical setting or sub-genre (such as crime, fantasy, drama, romance, comedy etc) have vivid characters, interesting narrative and immersive atmosphere–and satisfying endings! (A must in good, memorable short stories). 

Here are a few tips for entrants:

  • Keep your cast of characters small
  • Keep to one plotline 
  • Suggest backstory, don’t go too much into it
  • Choose details that bring the historical period to life without too much description
  • Edit and tighten–make every sentence count. 

Good luck!

The Short Story Contest is sponsored by ARA – one of our long-term partners whose generosity has also enabled us to set up the First Nations Participation fund.

HNSA is also grateful for the support of the Writing & Society Research Centre of Western Sydney University in administering the contest.

Once you have registered for the HNSA 2019 Conference, you can enter the 2019 ARA HNSA Short Story Contest here.


This panel spotlight was written by Sharon Barba who majored in ancient history at the University of Western Australia and combines her love of history with travelling to exotic destinations featuring fabulous food, wine, shopping… and the occasional donkey. Her current WIP is a historical series about the Gracchi, the Kennedy brothers of Republican Rome.

Once again, historical fiction writers and readers can gather for a three stream program on the weekend of 26-27 October including our extended Academic stream on Sunday 27 October. This time there’s also a Craft & Publishing program on Friday 25 October with craft workshops, masterclasses and manuscript assessments with top class tutors. Our Guest of Honour is Jackie French. Keynote speaker Paula Morris will address our theme: History Repeats.

Among the 60 acclaimed speakers are patrons Kate Forsyth and Sophie Masson, Catherine Jinks, Ali Alizadeh, Marie Munkara, Lucy Treloar, Robert Gott, Pamela Hart, Nicole Alexander, Jane Caro, Alison Goodman, Kelly Gardiner, Michelle Aung Thin, Meg Keneally, Majella Cullinane and so many more.

Enjoy a delicious meal at our conference dinner on Saturday 26 October where Anna Campbell will entertain us. You’ll also hear who’s won this year’s ARA HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize.

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