FORMING CIRCLES P/L Written Portraits 2013: Portraits at Home: An Anthology of Short Stories by Australian Teenagers Green Olive Press, 2013 181pp $24.95 pbk ISBN 9780087599810
This is the second Written Portraits anthology, following upon the second writing competition auspiced and organized by Forming Circles. The organisation is only three years old and is incorporated as a social and ethical investment company. One of its aims is to inspire change in the way we do business in the twenty-first century. The publishing press is a ‘collaborative partner’ with Forming Circles. I am not sure how this information helps to make sense of the anthology of fiction by Australian teenagers, but the book itself is chock full of brief fictional exercises (two to three pages) by 13 to 19 year olds on the theme of ‘home’. If you are looking for an outlet for a child’s creativity, or for a creative class project, then perhaps this annual competition with its fine product, a hefty anthology, would be worth investigating. The stories and portraits in this anthology are varied, they are from young writers across Australia, and they vary widely in quality. There are examples of precocious vocabulary from the very young writers, plenty of clichés, and occasionally the outstandingly effective piece. Looking for Luka by Dai-An-Le (Nossal High School) is a powerful story about a little girl the narrator might or might not be hallucinating, or projected from her own psyche, beautifully and simply told, with strong believable emotions. Charlotte Brady (Vincentia High School) has a terrific piece, written in short paragraphs interleaving two modes of reporting on a drowning incident. She has a superb ear for the way a voice can be injected into prose. Alia Huberman (Emanuel School) manages to suggest a possible novel, even two novels in his vivid narrative of leaving home and coming back to one’s first and best love. If Alia Huberman, Charlotte Brady and a handful of others keep writing, then I hope to come across their books in the future. This anthology is worth checking out, and the competition might just be what a new writer is looking for.
reviewed by Kevin Brophy