Archive for the stories Category

In readiness for Flashing the Square 2014

Posted in FLASHING THE SQUARE, stories on June 28, 2014 by Richard Holt

Production for the videos for this year’s Flashing the Square, to be screened at the Melbourne Writers Festival in late August, is now in full swing. This year’s stories have been selected from the 2014 joanne burns Award run by Spineless Wonders along with works from invited authors. Following, as a taste of what to expect are a few more examples screened at Federation Square during last year’s Writers Festival:-

This year’s project will feature 14 stories produced as video along with a new collaborative text project I’ve produced with authors from Roomers magazine.

The Wordsmith’s Local

Posted in stories on July 29, 2013 by Richard Holt

The following story was written in response to a call for bloggers for this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival. I didn’t get the gig but I still reckon the story I submitted is worth an airing on these pages. It responds to the Festival’s by-line; Enquire Within.

On the Worderfront

Lars considered the invitation scrawled in texta on a sheet of cardboard. Seeking writers. Experience a must. No enthusiasm necessary.

The queue, in response, stretched to the next corner. The hack journalists were easiest to pick, hunched in their gabardine grey, paper-bagged bottles slipping guiltily in and out of deep pockets.  Plot-bound novelists, mired in stories that refused to resolve, gritted their teeth against the city wind. Poets smiled and snarled, smiled and snarled. Blogged-out bloggers checked themselves on Twitter.

The ancient door to which the note had been Blu-tacked remained obstinately shut. Someone should have told them at the end of the line. Someone should have maybe taken control.

A flat-bed truck took the corner fast and the back of the queue peeled around after it like a whipping tail. Within moments the street was chaos. The hard-nuts and thugs of Wordsmiths Local #7 looked passionlessly down on the milling crowd. They picked out a few familiar faces; writers who’d done them a favour long ago, spun a story for them, a word in the right ear. They dragged the chosen aboard the truck and handed each a ticket. A day’s work.

Joey Carter was known as Booker to everyone in the writing projects and the length of Ellipsis Street, where lives passed looking out on the worderfront, watching texts from abroad being unloaded and new words from the city taken on board in their place and sent out to the hungry world. Booker held the last of the jobs above his head—maybe twenty if the crowd was lucky. The mob surged. The big man tossed the precious tickets high, where a gust sent them flitting and dancing along Ellipsis. The crowd gathered itself and charged as one in pursuit. The weakest fell beneath stampeding feet.

Lars watched and waited. One ticket rose in an updraft. The crowd shot beneath it. He tracked the small square of paper as it spiralled across the cobbles before settling on top of a police call box. Lars strolled across. Picked it up. Turned it over a few times. The only distinguishable mark on it was the quill and scroll emblem of the all powerful Local.

Chloe Eddington had once been a gun editor herself but she was out of favour now. She’d given Lars his first break. As he turned back he saw her staring up at him from the street where the pack had trampled her. She raised a desperate arm his way. He felt the ticket, barely thicker than air but real enough. There was a story in it if he wanted.

New story posted

Posted in NEWS & INFORMATION, stories on May 9, 2013 by Richard Holt

I’ve just posted a new story, Helpin, on I hope you enjoy it.

A new story and a format somewhere between microfiction and verse

Posted in NEWS & INFORMATION, stories, WRITING TOOLS AND TIPS with tags , , , on April 19, 2013 by Richard Holt

I’ve just published a new story, Seven, on It’s an example of a format I’ve played with a lot in recent months. If I had to call these stories something I guess it might be 36ers, because each story is composed of six six-word lines. I developed the format after considering the classic six word microfiction example attributed to Ernest Hemingway. I’ve never found the six word format very satisfying but wanted to explode it just enough that it would work for me. Six by six is what I finished up with. What I like most about this format is that, regardless of the number of syllables or where the emphases fall, line by line, they tend to resolve a pleasing meter of their own and read very much as poetry.

The exquisite leaf

Posted in stories with tags , on March 18, 2013 by Richard Holt

Walter Chang knew, as soon as he opened the door, that they’d been again and they’d keep returning until they had what they were seeking. Not much was disturbed except the smell of the room. The teak shelves and cabinets that hid every inch of wall stood just as always and the tins and jars of tea of every exotic kind. There was a particular smell that came from the room being undisturbed at night and the first breath of it each morning was all he needed to get his aging bones through another day of measuring and tasting and selling.

He came as usual from the temple on the hill. As soon as he opened the shop door he knew the portents had been right. They’d been back.

Chang’s had survived through three generations, through revolutions, wars, extortion rackets, economic highs and lows and times when it seemed no one valued the teas upon his shelves and the business would die with its aging cutomers. But new generations discovered the subtle beauty and when they did Chang’s had always been there for those seeking the finest and the strangest.

Most of his teas were sold fresh or aged briefly. But there were a few that were kept like fine red wines. Some were pre-revolutionary, picked in the days of the Europeans, compressed into tight inky dark wheels like hashish and wrapped in leaves and string, they were the teas of connossiers, rare in every sense and extremely valuable.

Chang went to the safe. This time it had been opened. They’d taken some of his best. But they hadn’t found what they’d been after. The safe was his last line of protection. They would not be so discrete next time. Walter Chang felt beneath the countertop of a cabinet his great grandfather had made. He found the wooden latch that released the secret panel and the drawer within it. Inside was a centruy-old 24-inch wheel of the finest aged tea ever picked and pressed. It was the only one in existence, rumoured more than known. He knew exactly what he would do. He had been imagining this day. With the tea in a simple calico bag he headed for the train station. By afternoon he would be at the house of his most valued customer, Zhou Lu.

Zhou was a collector as well as an afficianado. He would pay any amount for the tea. But he would pay Walter only a cup made from a few of the leaves scraped from the edge of the wheel. They would drink together, for that was what tea was for. Then they’d re-wrap the wheel. Their single taste would suffice for the rest of their lives. For Walter that would not be so long, for that tea, his grandfather had told him, would be his family’s curse and their salvation. Zhou would see that Walter’s grand children, who drank only coffee and soft drinks and knew nothing of the exquisite leaf, would be well looked after. Walter would taste what had been forbidden so long and then he would be prepared for another life. This was how he had always known it would be.

The Crimson Damselfly

Posted in stories with tags , on March 1, 2013 by Richard Holt

Maybe I’ll wait forever. Men come to me offering the world for my love. But I cannot truly love them. None of them has yet known the answer.

How do you make a Crimson Damselfly? I ask. The best say simply, give it wings, which is a good answer in the face of ignorance. Others check Google, but they won’t find out there. And there are those who say, hmmm, lets see. I know. Get a damselfly and then… and they perform the last bit. Whack. They have no idea.

Tony, at least, asked for time to find out so I spent a year with him until he gave up. I stayed with Serge too, travelling, always laughing. He promised he’d give me an answer by the end of the year. But the year came and went.


When I was a girl I’d creep to the den if Dad was down there. Even though I’d be as quiet as a mouse, and even though he never looked up or saw me, Dad would say, Nina, is that you?

I’d pull up the spare chair and watch as he worked away. Each fly would take him hours, binding, twisting, shaping, colouring. After all that work he might snag it first cast and lose it or fish all day with it and never catch a thing until he changed to a cheap one from the tackle shop. It didn’t matter to him. What mattered as he worked away, was that every river he’d ever fished came back to him and I’d sit in the shadow off to the side of his workbench while he painted pictures of beautiful wild places so vivid they invited me in. He’d time his stories to finish just as he was putting on the finishing touches. Then he’d hold his delicate lure against the light and say, see, Nina, the secret is to think like a fish. That’s how you make a Crimson Damselfly.

I know I’ll always be a trout fisher’s daughter, happy alone in the flow of a stream. And the best times I’ll ever have are past me already, in the clutter of our suburban basement with my quiet, methodical father and the stories of the rivers of his mind.

The turtle and the crow

Posted in stories with tags , on March 1, 2013 by Richard Holt

‘Two brothers were returning to their people’s land and they stopped at a beach to catch turtles rather than arrive without gifts. One of the boys was hard-working and patient. He built a clever trap and waited all night. Just before dawn a good-sized turtle fell into his trap. He tied the turtle up so he could carry it back to his people.

The other boy was lazy. His trap was made badly. As soon as he’d finished it he fell asleep. At daybreak he woke to find his trap washed away by the tide. So he waited until his brother was away collecting fresh water. Then he stole the boy’s turtle and walked off with it. A crow had been watching from a gum tree above. It flew down and took the form of an old woman who appeared on the track in front of the lazy boy.

‘That’s a good turtle,” she said. “Did you catch it yourself?’

‘Yes,’ said the boy.

‘That’s good,’ said the old woman. Because in this valley a person who takes something that is not theirs will be banished forever.’

The boy wasn’t scared of the woman’s threats. Yes, he had stolen the turtle, but he was just passing through and he didn’t mind being banished because he never wished to return anyway. So he laughed and turned away, ready to leave.

‘And if they are so arrogant as to steal something else and take it from here the penalty is worse. They’ll be forced to scavenge forever for their living, taking only the scraps that have been left behind by others.’

‘The boy laughed again at the old woman, hoisted the turtle on his back, and began striding away. ‘

‘How did you catch it?’ the old woman called after him.

The lazy, stupid boy stopped and, putting the turtle down again, he turned back to her. He told her proudly how he’d dug a deep trap which he’d watched all night until just before dawn when the big turtle had headed up the beach and as soon as it fell into his trap he raced out and quickly tied it up.

He was just finishing his story when he was surprised to see the old lady’s back bend and her curly black hair flatten. She was changing back into a crow. ‘So that’s your story?’ she said, before her mouth became pointed and too hard to make words.

He realised too late that it wasn’t his story at all; he’d taken that just like he’d taken the turtle. He went to pick up the turtle and run but when he reached down his hands were covered in feathers. A moment later the good brother came around the corner of the track. All he saw was his turtle on the ground and a pair of crows dancing either side.

Six by six: the architect’s wife

Posted in stories with tags , on February 26, 2013 by Richard Holt

‘Everything ordered and tidy,’ he’d said.

She kept his word. Orderly rows.

Book boxes, clothes boxes, junk boxes.

She placed them side by side

on the pavement with a note.

Neat enough for you, Harry? – Jan

How they love her

Posted in stories with tags , on February 24, 2013 by Richard Holt

It’s that time when students finishing years of school, moving towards an unknown adulthood, write messages of devotion in texta on each other’s uniforms. There’s a girl at my bus stop covered like that as if all the good will in the world is there for her. Her name is Chrissy. How do I know? I read the back of her school shirt. ‘Best wishes, Chrissy. Always friends’; ‘Chrissy is Ace’ (beside an Ace of Spades). And a poem of sorts that makes me smile and remember, because at my age sometimes you start forgetting no matter how hard you try not to. ‘Missy Chrissie, Makes me Dizzy, Because she is so, good to Kissy.’

The afternoon is warm. People going about their normal, unchanging days circle around her. Once they were her, with the world before them. Once the messages of love and devotion were for them. Now they come and go, come and go, like I do and I hope for Chrissy something more than that.

As if she knows my thoughts she turns. Her eyes are not bright but bloodshot, her pretty face blotchy from the invisible anguish of having somehow fallen so quickly from such love. And the people like me, coming and going, circling around her, care nothing, and in this peak-hour crowd the messages mean little, for she is completely alone.


Posted in stories with tags , on February 20, 2013 by Richard Holt

Vin Donatello died the way he would have expected, a car chase, a hail of bullets. The only kink in the script was his kid brother. Robbie was the good one – a real family disappointment. He wasn’t supposed to be there.

Vin blinked in the blinding white of the first moment of his afterlife. An amazed, ‘Jesus Christ!,’ escaped before he could check himself. He waited for the consequences. There was no lightning. No sudden fall. His eyes adjusted to the scene. It was all there. The clouds. The filmy white gowns of the figures circling serenely around him. The little fairy wings. ‘Where am I?’ He said it almost to himself. Then a thought occurred to him. ‘No, no. There’s been a mistake. This is Robbie’s spot. I need to talk to someone.’

‘That’s how it starts,’ said a voice nearby.

‘I’m not supposed to be here.’

‘Where do you reckon you are mate?’

‘I’m…I…Heaven I guess. But I…’

‘Men’s Cloud Number 9, Mate. Ethereal as all hell. That’s the point. Always with a twist. You’ve copped a ripper. Doubt. I don’t envy you. Well strictly speaking I do. You see that’s me right there. Envy. But doubt; that’s not bad.’ The speaker, a swarthily angelic man with a long facial scar, whistled like a cartoon bomb.

‘I don’t believe you!’

‘See. Doubt. Like I said. Live with it mate. Eternity.’

‘No. It’s Robbie’s. He never did anything wrong. He deserves this.’

‘Does he? Reggie Castle’s the name. Envy’s the game. Jealous of everyone and everything. How’d you get such a nice gown, anyway? Look at the cut of this one.’


‘See. Even here. Can you believe it? Oh no, sorry. Doubt. Still I’d swap places if I could.’ His handshake had a fraternal familiarity. ‘Over there is Carson, merchant bank CEO…you know…before.’ He gestures towards a man who continuously alternates between being seated on his fluffy cloud seat and standing up from it. ‘Can’t make a decision to save his life. Well you know what I mean.’

‘What do you all do here?’ Vin could feel a curtain of melancholy descending over him.

‘Do? What do we do? There is nothing to do, mate. It’s a bloody cloud. We suffer. That’s what we do. We beat ourselves up. Doubt, envy, guilt, uncertainty, unattainable desire, regret. Doc Roberts over there relives his whole life the way other people saw it. Niggles, mate. His bloody water torture.’


‘Him. The big G. Geeze, he sure got this bit right.’


Robbie Donatello blinked in the hot red light. Psychedelic flames flicked around him. Music pumped loud. Beneath his rocky vantage point bodies writhed in unison to the beat. Beyond them a feast of food and excess sprawled into every corner of the cavernous space. A young woman, a wicked flick to her pretty smile, knelt beside him. ‘Persephone,’ she whispered, helping him to his feet. ‘Glad you could join us. I’ll show you around.’