An interview about my winning story in the Alan Marshall Award

Inside Out Julie Twohig, winner of the Alan Marshall Short Story Award, open prize 2018
An award-winning writer, Julie’s short stories and creative non-fiction have been published in Award Winning Australian Stories, the SALA Short Story Collection, Stringybark Anthology, Page Seventeen, The Victorian Writer and Leader Newspapers .
Julie has won or been shortlisted in many competitions, and in 2016 was awarded a Fellowship at Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre to advance her commercial fiction manuscript. Julie won the open prize in the 2018 Alan Marshall Short Story Award.

1.What other writers have been inspirational to you in your work? How?
“Firstly, I’d like to credit inspiration to my writing teachers along the way. During the Professional Writing and Editing Program (CAE and RMIT) I was blessed by the calibre of teachers such as Paddy O’Reilly, Mary Manning, Janey Runci, Olga Lorenzo & Toni Jordan. I am also indebted to others: Lee Kofman, Laurie Steed, and of course Cate Kennedy who in my mind still reigns Australia’s queen of short story writers. And where would a writer be without her writing groups and buddies? It’s always such a thrill to watch writerly friends reach that illusive finish line, and at their book launches, hold and sign their books with enormous pride – before committing to more madness with the seeds of an idea for their next project. Writing is solitary. Even when you’re convinced everyone else is out there having fun and leading ‘normal lives,’ writing requires enormous tenacity to glue one’s bum to the seat. To believe in one’s work. To heed the compulsion to write. Every successful writer has this in common. A form of insanity that’s deliciously infectious.”

2.What three fictional characters would you like to invite to a dinner party? Why?
“For starters I’d invite the nine-year old narrator Oskar Schell from Johnathon Safran Foer’s character in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Perhaps it’s my childhood experience of personal trauma involving the loss of my own father that gives me a soft spot for a vulnerable child narrator. Should Oskar agree to sit at my table, my hope would be that his boots feel less heavy, even if for a short while. Accompanying Oskar would be Tom Hope, the gorgeous character in Robert Hillman’s new release The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted. True to his surname, Tom Hope maintains optimism despite the many adversities and twists and turns. A salt-of-the-earth big hearted fellow, he might not be the life of a party, but he’d be welcome at my table. To jazz things up a bit, I’d also invite Faith Singer (Faith Singer by Rosie Scott), and give her pride of place at the head of the table. I love this outsider, her wild past and enormous heart. As Georgia Blaine writes: “(Faith Singer) situates its politics in the life experience of a female character, a woman who navigates the world on her own terms, and who shows us that it is how we live on a daily basis and our interactions with those around us that matter” ( For me, this little cluster would constitute a stellar line-up.”

3.Your most inspirational place in Nillumbik? Why?
“The artist colony Montsalvat holds a special place for me. During my twenties and while living in Eltham I spent a memorable year under the guidance of Matcham Skipper who taught me the lost wax casting method of making jewellery. Each day after dropping off my daughter at Eltham kinder I’d front up at Matcham and Mira’s stone house, have a cuppa with them then shoot off to a tiny outbuilding to do my work, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons booming from their house and into the valley. Lunch would often involve an assortment of up to ten people assembled around the rough-hewn dining table. It was a joyful time, launching a ten-year career making jewellery, in particular, headpieces and matching neck wear for brides.”

4.Why did you enter the Alan Marshall Short Story Award?
“I confess to a particular fondness for the AMSSA. Winning the local (2013) and open sections (2018), is perhaps in part because my characters and settings have a distinctly Australian voice. Although my writing style doesn’t stretch to the current zeitgeist of experimental and diverse writing, I believe I however capture the edgier side of the human condition. On a more personal note, Alan Marshall and I both had to deal with the effects of poliomyelitis, and although I haven’t suffered to the degree he did, in some way I feel we are kindred spirits. Two writers, both afflicted with an almost now defunct disease, who both share a love of the natural world.”

5.Finish this sentence: Art matters because….
“Regardless of the form or medium, art can soften the prosaic business of the everyday, offering for a moment in time a reflective and sometimes transformative space wherein magical moments can shift perspectives. Even the tiniest shift might reshape us, and that makes art extremely powerful.”

The above interview is from Nillumbik Shire’s Arts & Cultural Development enews

You can also read the winning stories and the judge Maxine Beneba Clarke’s report


Add yours →

  1. Elizabeth Telford October 27, 2018 — 3:33 pm

    How interesting! Great interview! And what a story- powerfully evoking a child’s vulnerability and hopefulness in a seedy dangerous environment. Thanks for emailing. I wonder why I didn’t get a fb notification…? L xx


    • Thanks so much, Liz. It’s a hard story to ‘like’ but I’m glad you found in powerful. Re Facebook: WordPress no longer flick posts automatically to FB, but still shoots off new posts to subscribers’ emails. It’s all quite complicated!

  2. Absorbing read Julie, although disturbing subject. I especially like the paragraph that starts ‘A friend of mine, Jack is popping over later.’ The way that woman speaks, whew! Congratulations again.

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