SKELETON ALLSORTS - An Awesome Bunch of Stories for Big Kids and Young Adults

You won’t believe what these kids get up to: camping, exploring, flying (alone or with dragons), creating havoc at home and in the community, telling grisly stories on dark nights, stealing cars, having really bad dreams, embarrassing their parents, teasing or bullying the opposite sex, wreaking sweet revenge … but most importantly being super heroes in their own mind. Oh, and did I mention the trail of bones they leave behind?      

Families take flight, the Grim Reaper’s arthritis gets him down, things bump and scrape (and feed and call out) in the night – sixteen imaginations go to work on a single theme and create a remarkable range of stories to entertain and scare and stimulate.

Nick Earls (48 Shades of Brown, After January)  

More hidden bones than an archæological dig. Ranging from the delightful to the downright frightening … teachers will certainly find these stories useful in a variety of classroom activities.

Mark Svendsen (Snigger James on Grey, Circus Carnivore)

In Store Price: $21.95 
Online Price:   $5.00

ISBN: 978-1-921240-14-0
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 116
Genre: Fiction 

Copyright Ó The copyright to the individual stories remains with the authors 2007

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Click on the link below for the Teacher's Guide in pdf format:

Teacher's Guide Download



Author: Compiled by Jay McKee for the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Queensland
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2007
Language: English


A word to the reader before you begin:  

Like liquorice allsorts (after which this story collection got its name), these stories are different but they all have one thing in common. In each there is a skeleton, or a skeleton gets a mention. Just as you’ll find some pieces in the liquorice allsorts bag that are all liquorice, so you’ll find some stories here that are actually about a skeleton. Part of the challenge for those who read all the stories will be locating the skeleton.  

But mostly these stories are about young people like you—well, perhaps a bit older than you in some cases—doing things that Aussies do or dream about doing: exploring in national parks; participating in big sporting matches; feeling awkward about sharing classes in another school; hanging around a hospital where a relative is a patient; flying; meeting some seriously weird people; being terrified of certain kinds of local wildlife; telling ghost stories; stealing cars ... well maybe not ... but hey! Lots of kids your age do it ... they get into terrible trouble if they get caught, but you must have heard about them ... anyway there’s even one about that in this book.  

Then there are also some ‘issues’ stories but don’t be frightened off by them. None of them will preach at you. You’ll just see how some guys and girls deal with these situations, and often it’s funny if the victim isn’t you. In this collection you’ll find stories where bullying and teasing are involved, likewise eating disorders, racial insensitivity, helping friends or siblings in danger, drug use, impact of war on those involved and those who were left behind, danger of leaving a car (or dwelling) unattended with a key in the lock.  

While the plot of most of these stories could take place anywhere, a few are set in places that are named by the author: Melbourne , Cairns , Sunshine Coast , Africa, England and South America . That should help you understand that everywhere in the world are people who think and feel just like you, even if their lifestyle and culture are different.  

On behalf of the clever writers of this collection, I wish you happy reading. If the stories make you think a bit, feel, dream, imagine, or you simply enjoy reading them, then they have served their purpose well.  

Jay McKee

The Writers


Carol Barney, an award winning Brisbane writer who served two years as fiction editor of Scope, has written for radio, stage and had short stories and poetry published. A recently-completed novel is set during convict times and takes place in Ireland , Sydney and Moreton Bay . A radio play Climbing the Mountains was nominated by ABC Radio for the NSW Premier’s Award for script writing. SKELETON DANCE is surreal fiction and not intended to resemble aboriginal myths or family life.    

When England-born Richard Blackburn migrated to Australia , he worked on a cattle station just north of the Simpson Desert, in Darwin as an auditor, and as a patrol officer in Papua New Guinea . His present quiet job allows him to indulge his first love, writing stories for young people and a monthly travel column for a newspaper. The Gatekeeper, an adventure story set in England in the Middle Ages, was published last year.  

Helen Bowers was only four when she convinced herself she could fly—if only she could run fast enough to launch herself. This dream inspired her story High Flyers in this collection, which she is now expanding into a young adult novel. A professional journalist and editor, Helen loves writing crime stories and is represented in most Crime Writers Queensland collections. She holds the Scope Editor endurance record—11 years. She is also an award-winning poet and short story writer.  

Hazel Forsyth is a Scots-Australian who spent six years as a governess in the central west of Queensland , then settled in Cairns , the location for her story Mr Bones. Her poetry, articles and short stories have appeared in various periodicals, magazines and collections. At present in Edinburgh , she writes and performs her own songs, gives poetry recitals and talks. She is working on her first novel and dreams of her return to the warmth of Far North Queensland.  

English globe trotter James Hamilton has worked in Peru , Australia , Britain and Jersey . Presently living in Brisbane , his hobbies are lawn bowls, performing in amateur theatre productions, bridge, and writing. Several of his short stories and poems have been commended and published. The wicked sense of black humour revealed in his rhyming poetry has been compared with Roald Dahl’s. But for this collection we have chosen one of his rare horror stories.  

Helen Irvine. Graduating with Distinction from a three-year Creative Writing extension course at James Cook University , Atherton Tableland writer Helen has been placed or commended in many short story and non-fiction competitions. Her pieces have been published in anthologies, and her articles, stories and theatre reviews featured in several magazines, newspapers and periodicals. Her ‘big project’ at the moment is Not Any Sheila, a biography of her mother-in-law, which she hopes to complete during her current Varuna (nsw) residency.  

Rose Marwick, another England-born Australian, has two teenagers, a dog, three cats and a passion for writing that goes back as far as she can remember. She loves people, making cakes, reading, going to movies and travelling. For three years her monthly Wordsmith column appeared in Scope magazine, as did several of her stories.. For FAWQ, Rose convenes the annual Lovers of Good Writing competition, and she has served as Vice-President on their committee.  

Miriam McGoldrick’s involvement with FAWQ goes back twenty years, first as a writer and then as a member of the committee (Vice-President twice), and as convenor of several writing competitions. She helped found Sunnybank Writers’ Group (now known as Orange Grove Writers) and Wordfest, and twice took her community writers’ project Chalk It Up to Warana Writers Week. After successes with short stories and poetry, she is determined to finish her first novel this year.  

For over 20 years Duncan Richardson has been publishing poetry and short stories for adults and children. He has two collections of poetry in print, and for Brisbane City Council, a guide for a literary walk of Brisbane . Duncan served two years as President of FAWQ, and stints as poetry and fiction editor at different times for Scope. Two of his children’s adventure stories were released recently, and he is a popular creative writing tutor.  

Joan Rigby always wanted to be a writer. Her school teachers recognised her talent and encouraged her, but she discovered how hard it was to make a living as an author, so she switched to pharmacy as a career, but kept writing as a hobby. A member of FAWQ as well as Kenmore Writing group, she won many awards with her short stories, and it was at Joan’s instigation that the FAWQ writing group The Westerlies was founded.  

The Reluctant Dragon book hooked Jennifer Riggs as a child. School introduced other dragons, all breathing fire, but not all with wings! Jennifer writes stories, verse (especially poems with clever word play), and articles on ‘learning about learning’. A story of hers recently made the short list in a national short story competition, and an adult novel is presently doing the publishers’ round. A member of The Westerlies, she also reviews children’s books for educational magazines.  

Barry Rosenberg began writing academic papers, then turned to poems. Some of these appeared in university student anthologies; one was even selected for a religious school text. He moved on to short stories, achieved competition successes there, and converted a couple to moderately successful plays. As a Canberra Public Servant he turned his hand to writing science fiction. Currently Barry is President of The Poetry and Prose Society on Queensland ’s Sunshine Coast .  

Muriel Sargent went to a Convent School where her love of the English language and writing was born. She specialises in short stories and articles about everyday life and lifestyle changes, with an emphasis on social relationships. A Westerlies writer for many years, she has had several of her short pieces published. Despite the sad snapshot captured in words for this collection, most of Muriel’s writing is characterised by a wicked sense of humour.  

John Strano, Ingham-born Spanish-Italian-Australian, left school at 13 and pursued a variety of jobs. These provided him with fascinating characters and life experiences that give his writings the ring of authenticity. He prefers writing poetry in free verse, which has won him many awards and resulted in a critically acclaimed collection After the Storms. Recently he ventured into short story writing, a new and interesting challenge. John enjoys travel, growing vegetables and trees, and lives in Eumundi SE Queensland.  

Chief Editor/ Compiler

Jay McKee loves overseas travel, people and has worked at many jobs, but principally as a teacher. Jay has written for television and theatre, as well as short stories, poetry and articles. To his two successful biographies, Pawn of War (with Rudi Stiebritz) and Never Upstaged—the Life and Times of Babette Stephens, he hopes to add a humorous collection of travel adventure stories. He is President of The Fellowship of Australian Writers, Queensland and convenor of The Westerlies.

Acknowledgements and Thanks


Thank you to all the members of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Queensland who contributed stories when submissions were called for this collection. That the overall standard was so high challenged the selection team to seek out stories with widest appeal to young readers, a fair representation of both male and female central characters; and finally the best of those.

Of course there was a great deal of overlap in the stories—in any one story we considered perceived age of the principal character(s), topics dealt with, and relevance of the plot and setting, as well as criteria already mentioned. In the end I believe the selection team have come up with a splendid compilation, providing both ‘reading for pleasure’ and ‘food for thought’.


The other manuscript selectors were Adele Moy, Helen Bowers and Miriam McGoldrick. (Selectors who entered stories were barred from adjudicating the suitability of their own entries.) I am seriously indebted to my colleagues for the time they spent agonising over the relative merits of stories.

At the subsequent editing and suitability-assessment stage, I was assisted by teachers in the field who read the stories and added their comments and suggestions about appropriateness for the target market. To Pat Ryan, Elli Housden and Barbara Baker a heartfelt thankyou also for your professional advice and support.

Finally, I thank Bill Henderson for casting a ‘fresh editorial eye’ over the stories; Adele Moy for proofreading the final manuscript versions of both the book and the Teachers’ Handbook copy; and Ian Wynne for his assistance with layout and preparation of the Teachers’ Handbook pamphlet.

To all the team at Zeus Publications who quality-checked the stories, designed the cover and layout, and produced the book, go sincere thanks on behalf of the authors and from the FAWQ team.

Jay McKee (June 2006)

(Skeletons Allsorts compiler)

Read a sample of one of the stories:  


by Helen Bowers


Flying runs in our family. It’s in the genes. Like fair hair and brown eyes.

We’re all long and skinny, with big feet, which are good things to have when you want to get somewhere in a hurry. If you don’t believe that, ask Ian Thorpe. Aerodynamically designed, Dad says, and I reckon he’s right, not that it does me much good.

Poppa’s hair’s grey and he isn’t as switched on as he used to be but he says he’d just as soon be sold for scrap once he can no longer buzz into town on a Saturday arvo. Just as likely to go belly-up on the gravel these days instead of easing down near the clubhouse. A bit of gravel rash, maybe a few cuts and bruises. Nothing major and the next Saturday he’s all done up in his whites, bowls bag strapped to his back, raring to go. He gives us a wave, then recycles the family joke no one but me seems to get tired of: ‘Gotta fly,’ he says.

No knowing what colour Gran’s hair will be from one month to another. It’s been red for a while. She says redheads have more fun than blondes but I reckon she’s putting the best spin she can on the job-lot of henna she bought on special at Woolies. She’s a bit stiff in the joists these days, not much altitude either but enough revs left to get her to the Seniors’ Club on Tuesdays for a couple of cut-throat games of mah-jong and to drop in on her old mates for a zillion cups of tea and what Mum calls “recreational character assassination”.

My big brother Scott is a regular revhead. When he comes home from Uni the place is swarming with girls who should know better, fawning on him and screeching, ‘Beam me up, Scotty!’ Loves every minute of it, the big poser.

Mum and Dad are real jetsetters. They go full throttle day in, day out, here, there and everywhere, never missing a beat.

Which brings me to my baby sister, Amy. She’s not even one yet and has just started walking so no way she’ll be taking off. Not for a long time I reckon. Maybe never.

Just now Mum comes in, Amy in her arms, and says, ‘Keep an eye on her, Ashley. I’m going shopping and your Dad’s busy mowing the lawn.’

‘Cool,’ I say. And I mean it. Amy’s no sweat. Prettier than most pictures and cuter than any button I’ve ever seen.

‘Won’t be long,’ Mum says as she puts on her goggles. She waves goodbye and says, wouldn’t you know it, ‘Gotta fly.’

I’m supposed to be doing my homework but I award myself a break and turn on the TV. Which means I only have half an eye on Amy. If that.

She’s happy enough sitting on the floor, playing with those plastic shapes you have to fit into the right slots. After a while I hear her grumbling. The grumbling keeps getting louder till it sounds like the baby talk version of four-letter words. I glance over and see that she’s straining on tiptoe, holding on to a chair, trying to reach the schoolbooks I left on the table. No worries. She’ll never make it. Next commercial I’ll get her a different toy and maybe a drink. That should calm her down.

Then I hear her give a sort of strangled gasp. She’s not the only one surprised. She’s let go of the chair and is rising up towards the tabletop, head high, little arms flapping up and down until she makes it to the top. Not a three-point landing by any means but pretty good for a first attempt. I just sit there, mouth open, unable to move. I watch her tiny starfish hands grab a page of the book review I’d meant to put in a plastic envelope but hadn’t. She screws it up and holds it out to me with a gap-toothed smile.

I glare at her, hating her, longing to screw her little neck. At that moment, murdering my baby sister seems like a good career move. Not that I care about the review. Printing out that page again will be dead easy. What’s bugging me is that now I’m the only one in my entire family who can’t fly. The misfit.

Before I can squeeze the life out of Amy, Mum yells out from the back door: ‘Yoohoo! I’m home. Give us a hand with these bags, Ash.’

I grab the little wretch, go through to the kitchen, plonk her on the floor and take two of the carry bags.

‘Took longer than I expected,’ Mum puffs. ‘A headwind on the way home, not to mention a bit of turbulence, and, as usual, I bought more than I meant to. Still it’s good to get some really fresh air in the lungs. Amy been okay?’

I tell her what happened. She lights up as if she’s just had a call saying she’s won Gold Lotto, picks Amy up, whirls her around and hugs her. ‘Clever girl! Can’t keep a good girl down!’

Amy gurgles and looks smug. Little does she know how close she came to extinction.

‘It’ll be gross, really awful,’ I say, determined to cast a pall of gloom on all this rejoicing. ‘She’ll be into everything. What if she goes up somewhere really high and falls? What if she gets into the knife rack? Or the medicine cabinet? And what if she flies outside? While the magpies are nesting?’

‘Not a problem,’ Mum said. ‘I’ve been through it all with you two…’ Her voice trails off and she gives me that apologetic look, the one that says she loves me every bit as much even though I’m different. Differently abled. That’s what they say these days when they really mean disabled. Unable to do things others can. ‘With Scott, I mean,’ she corrects herself. ‘I’ve practised on him. Don’t worry, darling, I know how to handle it.’

I decide to make a dignified retreat. ‘I’ll take my books up to my room. I really must finish my homework and it’ll be quieter there.’

My voice sounds a bit wobbly but I don’t cry. Not until I close the bedroom door behind me. It should have a lock. A fourteen-year-old girl needs some privacy. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I fly? I throw myself down on the bed, push my face into the pillow and howl like a baby.


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