Seniors Card Stories 2023

Every year for the past eight years, the NSW Government have sponsored the Seniors Stories publication by partnering with the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW). It’s on again for 2023.

This year the theme to write to is ‘Ageing and Life Lessons‘.

Conditions and Terms are at

Copies of previous publications and stories can be found at the local library, free from FAW or digitally from here –

To be able to enter a story in Volume 9, you’ll need to hold an NSW Seniors Card, that’s all. There is no entry fee. You can enter as many stories as you like but only one will be published, if selected.

Here are some pointers for anyone looking to enter, based on a recent workshop.

  • you will be culled if you go over the word count, fail to submit in a Word doc with 12pt font, or have a very poor story. It’s competitive – only 100 stories are selected for publication.
  • make sure your story has a beginning, a middle and an end rather than being an excerpt from a longer story or a vignette. Make it a complete, albeit short, story in its entirety.
    • your beginning should introduce us to the characters, setting and situation – create the problem
    • your middle needs to develop the story, create conflict, challenge the main character and put obstacles in his/her path to getting what they want – agitate the problem
    • your end is the climax, the culmination of the story where things are resolved in some way – solve the problem

What to write about?

Anything to do with ageing and life lessons as a senior. The trick may be to not focus on the overarching theme (which is full of enormous possibilities) but to come up with simple stories that highlight the theme. The topic is wide open so it helps to narrow that down to give you something specific to write about.

Consider the span of your life and the lessons learned. Maybe you can find a story about dealing with adversity through courage, or perhaps you had an unusual upbringing and came out trumps, possibly you found that laughter overcame many situations, or even whether you would have used time differently. Avoid covering all the lessons you’ve learnt in life and focus on one that brings emotion or a resolved conflict or message for others.

Still stuck for ideas? Mind mapping or clustering is a good technique to use to generate ideas on what to write about. You can also brainstorm or do a linear list, but mind maps work along with your brain and open up options. Start with a blank piece of paper and pop a circle in the middle of the page. Write the theme in the middle circle. As ideas pop into your head, jot down the thought in a new circle. You can add circles onto circles. Example, maybe for family, you add another circle titled family of origin and another titled family lost, and another titled my close family. Even jotting these down may prompt other thoughts or memories – put them in their own connected circle.

What you’ll end up with after 10-20 minutes is a collection of circles all leading in different directions but within those circles are ideas for a story (or more) to write about in this competition.

For example, when I think of the family circle, I’m reminded of my mother and how she passed away prematurely at the age I am currently. Now, there’s a story there. What did she die from prematurely? How does it make me feel to outlive her age? When did it happen and would things be different if it occurred now (eg medical advances)? Who was my mother if I had to describe her? Why did it happen or why has it played on my mind? I could definitely make a story from that.

Use that 6 W’s and an H model to draw out the story idea. Who, what, which, when, where, why, how.

Build the story

After you have developed an idea for the story, you can start to flesh it out. Make use of some of the five senses – touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell – to bring the reader to your situation. Even bring in the sixth sense if you need to create a little mystery, eg gut feel.

Consider whether your characters have any special features that would round out our understanding eg an accent or an oft-used expression, or a noticeable physical characteristic like a limp, or a certain way they’d always dress or a colour they’d always use.

Finally, a good writer knows to show and not tell. Now, what does that mean exactly? It’s about letting the reader use their own imagination. For example, don’t tell me Sadie was angry. Show me by her actions eg raising her voice, or slamming a door. This is a subtle but important difference in how you relate a story.

Other standard points in writing a short story of any kind include having minimal characters – 1 to 3 is ideal. Keep the story simple. Have only one setting. You’ve only got 1,000 words to build a relatable, believable, engaging story so make every word count.

One thing I did pick up from the talk on this competition is to not take the theme literally. Don’t try to cover it from a large-scale, broad perspective. Instead, think about a few angles or perspectives. Then ignore the obvious one – everyone else may think of that too. Go for something a little different. I was reminded that one year for this competition there were significant numbers of stories on bushfires and many very similar: the ones that made it through the cull focused on a unique aspect of the bushfire.

So, if you are still stuck for ideas, just get some memories down on paper. Search online for memoir prompts and make some notes on what you remember. In fact, an exercise we did at the talk was to write a short letter to our 16-year-old self. That can easily segue into a lesson learned or a story about ageing.

Workshops are still being run until the end of March – find one near you here – but if you missed out, much of the workshop info is in this post. Take the tips and make sure you meet the requirements then submit as many entries as you choose.

Give it a go. Come up with an idea that is clearly based on the theme, develop the story, bring in some emotion or conflict, and let the reader sink into your tale. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be in the next edition as one of the select 100 stories.

With thanks to Colleen Parker from Port Macquarie FAW who conducted the workshop.


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