“The short story format is the underdog in the literary community,” says Anna Solding, Adelaide author, publisher, and director of the Australian Short Story Festival.

Unlike the more popular form of the novel, the short story struggles to capture spotlight in the literary and publishing scene.

“Often there would only be one session dedicated to the short story form at a traditional writers’ festival, [and] the budget to promote short story collections is usually lower than for novels,” explains Solding.

However, she believes the shorter form is a compelling choice for writers and readers alike.

“In very few words a whole life can come into focus. A short story is obviously shorter than a novel or a novella and quicker to read, but another advantage is that it can play more with the formal structures of writing.”

Local author Hannah Kent will take part in the Short Story Festival’s Queerstories panel discussion. Photo: Lauren Bamford

The Australian Short Story Festival is one of the world’s few literary festivals to focus on this specific form. The program, which runs from November 9 to 12 in Adelaide, features a series of workshops, panels, book launches, and debates with local and international authors. 

Returning to the festival in 2023 is one of Australia’s best-loved short story authors, Cate Kennedy (Like a House of Fire and Dark Roots).

Laura Jean McKay is also taking part in this year’s festival, with her newly released short story collection, Gunflower. She will be joined by South Australia’s Sean Williams to explore what it is to write about the “weird and the wonderful”.

Mirandi Riwoe, who last year published Burnished Sun, joins Winnie Dunn, editor of Sweatshop’s anthology Another Australia, to talk about historically neglected points of view. Paul Dalla Rosa, author of acclaimed An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life, alongside Katerina Gibson, award-winning author of Women I Know, will discuss what the short form can offer queer writing.

International guests include American fiction writer Robin McLean (Get ‘Em Young, Treat ‘Em Tough, Tell ‘Em Nothing), as well as Norwegian-based Allen C Jones, who will celebrate the November release of his collection Big, Weird, Lonely Hearts, published by MidnightSun. 

Solding says while it is impossible to pick a highlight, she is looking forward to attending Queerstories on Thursday, November 9. On this panel, Hannah Kent, the Adelaide Hills author of Burial Rites and The Good People, will be joined by other queer writers to “tell stories about things that no one ever asks them”.

The festival’s gala opening night on November 10 is another key event, with musical entertainment by Jane and the Rain and local talent Allayne L Webster.

Reflecting on the success of the festival’s previous iterations, Solding notes that “since we started the festival in 2016, we have actually noticed an influx of short story collections being published by mainstream publishers, which is terrific”.

“The festival is so much more than what happens for four days in Adelaide, and it’s thrilling to see the ripples of it years later in the connections made and publications enabled.”

She adds that a sizeable government grant from the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund, established as part of the COVID-19 Creative Economy Support Package, has helped the festival grow and reach a wider audience.

The festival has also received support from the City of Unley and the Fullarton Park Community Centre, which is where this year’s program will take place.

The full program for the 2023 Short Story Festival is available here.

Editor’s note: This story has been amended since it was originally published.

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