Judge in focus: Ruth Bonetti

Ruth Bonetti is the 2019 Stories of Life judge for the Lutheran Education Young Stories of Life.

Ruth Bonetti at the launch of her book Midnight Sun to Southern Cross

Ruth grew up in the arid Queensland outback, intrigued by the strange-accented relatives she met on holidays near Byron Bay, in areas developed by her power-house grandfather W. A. Back.

Ruth’s career in classical music became a passport to the world.

Destiny led her to live in Sweden, directly across the Gulf of Bothnia from Granddad’s birthplace in Finland. There she researched his story, and that of the black-sheep brother who in 1899 fled with Russians in pursuit to Suez.

Ruth is author/editor of a dozen publications about music, education and performance, five through Words and Music and two with Oxford University Press. Burn My Letters, Book 1 of the Back Brothers’ saga, won the 2017 Omega Writers’ Caleb Award for Nonfiction.

Wanna swap? by Tracey Meg

Tracey’s story Wanna swap? was published in the 2018 Stories of Life anthology, Three Dummies in a Dinghy. She also visited the LifeFM studios in Adelaide and recorded her story for broadcast over the 2018/2019 summer. This is her story.

Tracey Meg recording her story at the LifeFM studios.

If you’ve enjoyed Tracey’s story, head over to archive for more Stories of Life, or grab a copy of Three Dummies in a Dinghy for the full 2018 collection.

‘My friend Peter’ by Jeanette Grant-Thomson

Last year, Jeanette’s story, ‘My friend Peter’ was published in the 2018 Stories of Life anthology, ‘Three Dummies in a Dinghy.’

We sincerely apologise, Jeanette, for formatting mistakes in published version and we have uploaded the clean and correct version here.

‘My friend Peter’ is a very  an important story. It speaks of youthful adventures, friendship and ageing. How marvellous that through this story, Peter gives us all this important message about old age and dementia.

Thanks again, Jeanette, for your story,  My Friend Peter.


‘A realisation’ by Levi Schubert

Young man in radio studio reading from 'Three dummies in a dinghy'
Levi recording his story at the LifeFM studios


Levi’s story, A realisation, was published in the 2018 anthology, Three Dummies in a Dinghy, and also broadcasted on Life FM.


Family photo with background of blue-green waters, sandy beach and lush vegetation on a hill
Levi’s family on Fitzroy Island just off the coast of Cairns. From Left to Right: Mum (Fiona), Greer, Isaac, Dad (Gavin) and Levi.


‘Stories of Life has been a great opportunity and motivation to gain some writing skills and experience. But I think the biggest impact that Stories of Life has had on my life has been reading the stories of other people around my home city who have been impacted and used by God in incredible and inspiring ways.’

Levi Schubert

If you’ve enjoyed this story, head over to our archives for more 2017 Stories of Life, or grab a copy of Three Dummies in a Dinghy for the full 2018 collection.

2019 Stories of Life Judges

     Simon Kennedy for the Tabor Open Stories of Life

     Kit Densley for the Eternity Matters Short Stories of Life

  Ruth Bonetti for the Lutheran Education Young Stories of Life

Thank you Simon, Kit and Ruth for giving of your time. Today we feature Simon Kennedy. We will tell you more about Kit and Ruth in the days to come.

Judge in Focus

Simon Kennedy

Simon Kennedy is co-creator of Safe Harbour, a 4 x 1 hour multi-award winning psychological thriller screening on SBS and internationally on Hulu and BBC. He has researched, developed and written for many production houses, and is working on streaming, television and feature documentary projects.

Simon is a sought-after script consultant and has his own slate of TV, feature film and webseries projects for both children and adult markets. He has won national awards in short story and poetry and was a juror for 2017’s international 168 Film Festival’s screenwriting competition.

In 2013, after seven years as a professional musician, Simon co-founded and continues to perform in Songs with Simon, a YouTube channel of kids’ songs produced in his garage that has over 44 million views and 58,000 subscribers.

Stories of Life on 1079 LifeFM

Happy New Year everyone! Woohoo, what a great way to start 2019 – 1079 LifeFM in Adelaide will be broadcasting selected stories from Three Dummies in a Dinghy throughout the month of January.

Thank you to all the writers who supplied these photos and background information to their stories. If you’d like to read more of their work, some have websites and other books published.

A Realisation by Levi Schubert

Levi (far right) with his family.

An Angel to Watch Over Them by Megan Higginson

Writer Megan Higginson

Megan is an author and speaker and creative adventurer. Read about her creative adventures here.

Birdman by Craig Chapman

The man in the truck, seagull perched on the ute, that inspired Birdman. Craig has published a book about King David’s final days. The book is titled Succession Plan: The Final Battle of a Warrior King. He blogs at craigchapman.org and also contributes regularly to seeds trek.com.

Breakneck Speed by Ethan Joppich

Ethan Joppich at a BMX Race.

Flawed by Patricia Elder

Last year, the Stories for Life competition motivated me to actually stop and reflect on God’s love and nearness during a mentally challenging time. This year, it was a week before entries closed and I had no idea for a story. In desperation, I pulled out last year’s anthology, and re-read the title story, about God speaking through a gecko. It reminded me how often God uses objects or animals to preach sermons more powerful than human words. Then I saw the tallboy in my bedroom, and remembered how God had used the tallboy to finally break through my low self-esteem. Suddenly I had the ending to my story. I found some old reflections and an unpublished article I had written a year ago about going through the SA school system as a student with a disability. The storyline came together quite quickly. 

So, I don’t know what I’ll write about next year, but expect something! Because everybody has more than one story. It’s just a matter of finding it (And knowing what to leave out!). 

That Boy of Mine by Molly Bennet

Soft toys, matchbox race cars, bible.

Precious things belonging to ‘That Boy of Mine’

The Great Physician by Adah Doebele

Adah Doebele is a Christian speaker and writer who has published several books: Adornment One,  Adornment Two and Divine Connection. She also blogs here.

Three Dummies in a Dinghy and Under the Frangipani Tree by Ester de Boer

Three Dummies in a Dinghy

The two stories I entered into Stories of Life this year really are as different as chalk and cheese. You’d think they were penned by two different people, although of course the subject matter of each required a different style and pace of writing.

Without realising it, I had kind of given my testimony- a before and after snapshot of myself. I am vague about dates during that period of my life because, frankly, I lived a bit of a crazy existence! I do know, however, that Three Dummies took place about a year before I came to the Lord. It was one incident in a chain of events that got me exactly where God wanted me- like an unwitting piece in a really cleverly-played chess game.

I have photos from this stay, but none that I really care to show! (me wearing skimpy clothes with a gun on my hip is not a good look for someone who is now a primary school teacher)

On that Rockhampton road trip (that turned into an extended stay due to the flood), I had a few hard reality checks that told me that it was time to get my act together- God was pulling on my heart.

While trapped by the flood, I stumbled upon an article for a fashion design course in Brisbane for $99 over just three weeks, so I planned to get to Brisbane to do it. Through a series of equally crazy experiences involving hitchhiking and even a yacht (!!!) I finally got down to Brisbane only to discover that it was a misprint. The course was actually $990 and went for nine weeks! Plus by then I had only five dollars left. Thankfully, someone handed me the number of a lovely Christian woman who took in street kids and she took me in. I also got my first job in Fortitude Valley, and almost all my work mates decided to start going to church as well (since when does that happen?) So, I was the victim of a setup- God’s a great strategist!

Under the Frangipani Tree

I came to the Lord a very messed up, hurting girl. The moment I was saved, though, I (a little naively) thought “oh great! Everything’s going to be fine now!” I started going to a youth group with a lot of other young people my age but really feeling like I was from another planet- our experiences of life were so different and I felt like I was so much older than them in experience but so much younger in readiness to face life. Two by two they paired up into smug, neat little Christian couples, while I felt like the one every boy’s mother had warned them about! I jumped into the first possibility of a Christian boyfriend I found and predictably found myself in an abusive relationship that confirmed my sense of worthlessness. That was the backdrop for this story. Where I worked, which park it was in, are irrelevant really- It was just a moment that God reached out to me to show me that HE treasured me. It wasn’t a moment of instant change. Healing took years. It’s something I have never shared until now, frankly because it risks sounding pitiful and a little too imaginative. But it’s mine.

Uprooted by May-Kuan Lim

Hedges and new roses six years after the events described in ‘Uprooted’, story by May-Kuan Lim. May-Kuan also helped her dad write and publish his story, Fish in the Well, a memoir of aspiration and faith.

2018 Story of Life Winners and Runners Up

    Tabor Stories of Life


String of beans by Gaynor Faulkner

Runners up

21 days by Liz Donald

An Angel to watch over them by Megan Higginson

My friend Peter by Jeanette Grant-Thomson

That boy of mine by Molly Bennett


    Eternity Matters

Short Stories of Life


Under the Frangipani Tree by Ester de Boer

Runners Up

I was a Church Planter for the New Age movement by Donna Albrecht

Miracle by Juni Desireé Hoel

More Precious than Cups and Saucers by Robynne Milne

Stolen but not Robbed by Beth Robertson



Lutheran Education Young Stories of Life


Breakneck Speed by Ethan Joppich

Runners Up

Finding a Home by Cleo B

Florence Fiasco by Yasmin Esther

One Blessed Cat by Chelsea Rose

When All Hope Is Lost by Madeline Hains



2018 Short List

We are very pleased to announce the 2018 Stories of Life short list.

Tabor Open Stories of Life

21 Days by Liz Donald

A String of Beans by Gaynor Faulkner

An Angel to Watch Over Them by Megan Higginson

My friend Peter by Jeanette Grant-Thomson

That Boy of Mine by Molly Bennett



Eternity Matters Short Stories of Life

I was a Church Planter for the New Age Movement by Donna Albrecht

Miracle by Juni Desireé Hoel

More Precious than Cups and Saucers by Robynne Milne

Stolen but not Robbed by Beth Robertson

Under the Frangipani Tree by Ester de Boer



Lutheran Education Young Stories of Life

Breakneck Speed by Ethan Joppich

Finding a Home by Cleo B

Florence Fiasco by Yasmin Esther

One Blessed Cat by Chelsea Rose

When all Hope is Lost by Madeline Hains

Every story listed above will win either a first prize or a runner up prize. Results will be announced at the 2018 Stories of Life book launch.

Three Dummies in a Dinghy

& other Stories of Life

book launch invitation

Date: Thursday 29 November 2018

Time: 6:30pm for 7 pm start

Venue: Tabor Adelaide

All welcomed to this celebration of good writing and great stories. Click here to download a copy of the book launch invitation. Feel free to invite your family, friends and faith community. Copies of the anthology will be for sale on the night for $20.

Writers with a story published in the anthology will be able to buy up to two copies for the special price of $12 on the night. (All long listed stories will be published in the anthology.)

2018 Stories of Life Long List

All stories on the long list will be published in the 2018 Stories of Life anthology. Long listed stories are also in the running for a prize.
The shortlist will be announced on 31 October. We look forward to announcing this year’s winners at the book launch, which will be towards the end of November.
bright balloons
To those whose stories do not appear in today’s long list, we urge you not to lose heart and to avail yourself to our free writing resources and workshops next year. Continue telling and celebrating your stories of faith. A book has a limited number of pages, but there’s no limit to the number of stories of life we tell one another, stories that speak of hope and shape our world.

Tabor Open Stories of Life Long List

Glenda Austin – Still Giving from Heaven

Molly Bennett – That Boy of Mine

Lisa Birch – Paid in Full

Wendy Boniface – Epiphany in Fiji

Tsung Chung – The Year

Stella Fortunata Collins – Even in the Darkness, the Stars Still Shine

Ester de Boer – Three Dummies in a Dinghy

Juni Desireé Hoel – Genius

Liz Donald – Twenty-one Days

Patricia Elder – Flawed

Gaynor Faulkner – A String of Beans

Liisa Grace-Baun – We Met on Strava

Jeanette Grant-Thomson – My Friend Peter

Megan Higginson – An Angel to Watch Over Them

June Hopkins – Footsteps in the Sea

Levin Lian – A Path in the Stars

Margot Ogilvie – Grab the Popcorn – God Saved Me

Yvonne Smuts – Skipping

Heidi Tai – Closing the Cultural Gap

Vickie Walker – Taking it All For Granted

Eternity Matters Short Stories of Life Long List

Donna Albrecht – I was a Church Planter for the New Age movement

Craig Chapman – Bird Man

Ester de Boer – Under the Frangipani Tree

Juni Desireé Hoel – Miracle

Adah Doebele – The Great Physician

John Alexander Duthie – Struggling with my Faith

Trevor Hampel – A Thin, Delicate Thread

Grant Lock – The Light. The Voice. The Music.

Tracey Meg – Wanna Swap?

Yvette Cusack – Always with Me

Robynne Milne – More Precious Than Cups and Saucers

Beth Robertson – Stolen but not Robbed

RJ Rodda – She Stood Up

Levi Schubert – A Realisation

Lutheran Education Youth Category Long List

Hannah Elliot – Love Doesn’t Age

Yasmin Esther – The Florence Fiasco

Madeline Hains – When All Hope is Lost

Brooke Joppich – Grandpa Really Nailed It

Ethan Joppich – Breakneck Speed

Chelsea Rose – One Blessed Cat

Cleo B – Finding a Home


Submissions for 2019 now closed. Announcements will be made in October.