Undercurrents is the third annual anthology of Coolum Wave Writers, a writer’s group on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It features 24 short stories and poems from 1-10 pages each (148 pages of stories and poems) by Ian Laver, Eve Field, Morgana MacLeod, Margaret Lane-Bell, Coral Sturgess, Sophia Mathas, Naomi Scott, Nigel Prior and Steve Reilly.
Coolum Wave Writers was set up by Pam Hardgrave, who became an author after studying creative writing in her 70s as University of the Sunshine Coast’s most mature age student. Pam Hardgrave’s short story To Hell ’n Back was shortlisted in September’s ‘Rural and Small Town’ short story comp, and is involved with the Sunshine Coast Literay Association. This year, Bronwyn Cozens took over Pam’s role editing the annual anthology.
Congratulations to Pam for starting the group and to those involved with writing and editing the work which has come out of it. It is great to see writers taking the initiative to bring people together to develop their writing skills, as well as have an enjoyable time and make some friends along the way.
Writer’s group anthologies like Undercurrents can make for interesting reading as they tend to contain the work of a range of writers on various topics, using different writing styles. Undercurrents contains an average of three short pieces of writing from each author.
A mixed bag of topics are covered, such as murder in the bush, loss of virginity, enduring a rainstorm and flood, a child witnessing the slaughter of a pig, and enjoying a bite to eat in a local cafe with history. The stories and poems are competently presented and portray a diverse range of human thoughts, feelings and behaviour with originality. At times there are more ‘Australianisms’ (especially in the dialogue) and casual swearing than I personally prefer. Most of the stories have an element of nastiness, dishonesty or ‘people at the fringe of society’. Some are firmly set in a detailed Sunshine Coast setting. There is enough variety among the stories and poems for readers to find a range of things to interest them in the collection; whether a confrontation between characters in Ian Laver’s Rough Justice:
Charlie made a decision. Surefooted, quick and silent from hunting days, he padded to the bedroom closet, and then the filing cabinet to get the bullets. He was used to working in the dark.The magazine clicked in and he sleeked to the edge of the veranda.
‘Hey, you,’ he said, voice full of menace. ‘Are you the boss around here?’
They couldn’t see him, but he could see them. There was only the moon; he knew how to use it to advantage.
‘You, I’m talking to you. You smashed my letterbox, mate.’
…or the mystery-posing opening of Naomi Scott’s Money, Sass and No Regrets:
‘So, I guess you could say I have abandonment issues,’ Ruby said.
‘Interesting. Do you often wake up naked in dirty alley ways? Is that something all the cool kids are doing these days?’ the psyschiatrist asked. His dinghy office was located above one of the most famous cafes in Coolum, Madam Chloe’s.
Ruby had stopped by his office out of morbid curiosity and a little something else.
Undercurrents, and other writer’s group anthologies, can be a useful brainstorming tool for fiction writers. You can read each story or poem quickly and it provides many aspects which you can think about. Once you single out a particular aspect of a story, you can decide if you like or dislike how that aspect was done. If you like it, you can figure out how to work a similar aspect into your own fiction. If you dislike it, you can figure out how to avoid something similar in your own fiction. Having a specific goal or two to achieve, and maybe a few specific things to avoid, with a piece of fiction can help you to write with focus and confidence.
Info on how you can get a copy of Undercurrents and other Coolum Wave Writers anthologies is available here.
The Australian Literature Review