Two leaderboard champs made their way through the ranks this week, with former NiTH Homecoming Queen Amber Fernie strutting her stuff with Goodbye Forever, a short story that touches on themes of family turmoil and reconciliation, themes Amber has made her own over the years.
And then her mother’s eyes opened. They were the same blue-green as always, and it was enough to sweep away the haze of disorientation.
“May? You’re here?” she said.
“I’m here, mama.”
“I was hoping to see you.”
“Are you going to stay?”
And there it was.
Not to be outdone, Lydia delivers the brutal portrayal of a prodigal son who seems to have learnt all the wrong lessons in life in Thicker Than Water.
The kerosene whine of the engines dims into the bleary-eyed morning. A soft-spoken recording welcomes us to Perth, and in the terminal everyone yawns and rubs their eyes. The flight from Bolivia was long, but trying to get my South American tea through quarantine proves longer. Nobody greets me at arrivals; they don’t yet know about my visit.
Joining them is NiTH mainstay and soon to be feature author Ash Warren with his haunting tale, The West Wind.
I know now it’s natural to want to come home, just as when you’re home it’s natural to want to leave. We come home to remind ourselves of what we no longer are, to search for strangers and to look at ourselves in familiar mirrors and wonder maybe, if we are that person, the one who watched this TV, the one who always sat on this chair for dinner every night, the one who did her homework at this old desk and who listened to these forgotten CD’s.
Not to be forgotten. Ian Harrison delivers a powerful vignette about the ravages of war, and it’s effects on the home front in Kia.
Despite herself, Alice could not resist a smile.
Lieutenant Jonathan Coogan had lost track of time and missed the previous train, it seemed. So she explained to the other lady she made small-talk with. Such behaviour was pure Jonathan. He was probably caught up, talking to comrades-in-arms – or had gallantly foregone his own seat for someone with greater needs.
That must be it.
While Nick Lachmund follows up his recent debut with a tragic tale of nostalgia and loss in The Old Hometown
It’s like my parents have kept a shrine of me since I went away. I move into every room in the house, taking it all in. I feel overwhelmed with nostalgia. It’s a feeling I seldom get, on account of me trying not to reflect on my past often. I wish Lucy was here with me. For the last two years that we’ve been dating she has asked about seeing my hometown but I have always ignored her. I feel regret now that she will never get to see where I grew up.
The New Kids In Town
As well as enjoying a breadth of returning authors this week, we’ve also been lucky enough to publish three authors for the first time on NiTH.
Cam Dang’s New Life was a crowd favourite, not just among readers but fellow shortlisters as well.
The neighbours came to gawk at us. Look how white she is now, if only her parents were still alive, look at him, he’s even whiter, and his hair is yellow. Pushing each other at the gate, they talked loudly among themselves as if we weren’t there, the loudest being Ms Tam, an eighty year-old widow. Uncle made us iced coffee. He lived alone – he had never fallen in love. My first love was ten years my senior, and wasn’t mine to keep.
While Alicia Bruzzone made us all sit up and take notice with Identifying Ogres, which has one of the greatest opening lines I’ve personally ever read, in and outside of NiTH
There’s an ogre on my front porch.
Alicia’s fine first outing has us hoping for a Triumphant Return the short list on the next award… But I guess you’ll just have to wait and see on that one.
Finally, the beautiful cover art of Joanna Li’s Rest Now leads us into a story that is both aching and achingly beautiful.
The cherry blossoms in the front yard are littering the ground now, and I kick the fallen ones with my boots a little. It creates a little storm, my own little storm. If anything, I had missed the cherry blossoms the most. I missed the smell, the feel, the way the branches twisted up and I could hide among the foliage. I missed being able to see just over the hill if I sat at the very top branch. I missed their colour, light pink, delicate, gentle.
It was forgiving.
With such a broad range of stories, our judges this week were burning the candle at both ends to get us through their scores. We can’t say anything more but thank you once again for all your tireless efforts.
Our winner this week edged out the competition on debut, a fine feat considering some of the authors that ran in this week’s pack. Though the shortlist was full of stories of poignancy, tragedy and forgiveness, Alicia Bruzzone managed to add a bit of humour to her story, giving us all a good chuckle and taking Identifying Ogres to first place this week!
Congratulations to Alicia and all the authors who joined in on the fun.
Coming up later today, our shortlist for the Hope Springs Maternal Award, as well as a few new awards early tomorrow.
Thanks again everyone, and if you haven’t had a chance to check out all the stories for the Triumphant Return, why not give them a read now!