Let’s suppose you live in Australia and want to study short stories for the purposes of entering them into competitions (a noble-ish ambition). You head down to your local library, but on reaching the hallowed shelves, you realise you’ve left the stove on and need to race back home … or you find that there’s only five minutes left before closing time because you’ve slept until 3:30pm; whatever the reason, you only have time to find one book. What do you pick? What do you pick?
Myself, I would go with the Cate Kennedy collection Dark Roots. It’s a slender volume, so you’re not going to struggle under the weight, you can put it in your pocket even (that is, if you have big pockets and don’t mind slightly creasing the corners.) All the stories have won competitions and have been set in Australia. There is a great range of craft on display. First person, second person, third person perspective. But the stories are all around the 3000 word mark, which is the word limit set by many local competitions.
Now, people might argue there are better stories out there, and possibly that’s true (though I enjoy the stories in the collection and find them well written and polished). However, it’s a horses for courses thing, sure Tolstoy might have written War and Peace, but he couldn’t go entering it into the Banjo Patterson Short Story Competition, because a) it’s over 3000 words and b) it’s not set in Australia.
This is the book I recommend reading if you’re only going to read one collection before sending something off within Australia. You can find it in any library (I don’t know this for a fact, but I think you would be pretty hard pressed to find a library in Australia that didn’t have a copy) so you can borrow it, read it and return it. It’s not long, you’ll be able to get through the 17 stories with possibly renewing it once.