A STORMY sky, a sunset, a line of pelicans and a melting ice cream are among the images to inspire this year's Newcastle Herald short story competition entrants. The tale behind each picture is entirely up to you as we open entries in the 2024 edition of the annual competition. The creativity and variety of the region's writers was on show last year, when Wallsend writer and University of Newcastle PhD candidate Shea Evans won the top prize, with the story of Pigboy the Cowboy. This year, the winner could be you! Open for entries for the coming weeks, the competition is all about urging Hunter writers to take one of the pictrues selected by Newcastle Herald photographers and turn it into 1000 words. This is your chance to let your inner author off the leash and allow your imagination to run wild into fiction. Stories can be of any genre but must be your own work. The plot must draw inspiration in some way from one of these five images by Herald photographers Simone De Peak, Marina Neil, Jonathan Carroll and Peter Lorimer. Entries should specify which image inspired their tale. Stories submitted for the competition must be between 900 and 1000 words to be considered. Judges for this year's competition include Miles Franklin short-listed author and Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction winner Dr Ryan O'Neill, Kathy Sloss from Maclean's Booksellers, Hunter Writers Centre director Katherine McLean, ACM head of publishing Chad Watson and Herald editor Lisa Allan. Short-listed stories will run in the print edition of the Herald between December 26 and January 26. The stories will also be published and collated at newcastleherald.com.au. An overall winner, a highly commended entrant and the people's choice winner will be announced on Saturday, January 27, 2024. The winner will receive a $200 voucher at Hamilton's MacLean's Booksellers and a pass to the 2024 Newcastle Writers Festival. The highly commended entrant will receive a $100 MacLean's voucher and a ticket to the 2024 Newcastle Writers Festival opening night. The people's choice winner will receive $50 to spend at the Beaumont Street book shop and a ticket to the 2024 writers festival opening night. All three will also receive $100 vouchers for Domayne @ Harvey Norman Kotara. The judges' decision on winners is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Entry is open to Hunter residents aged 18 and over, and limited to one story per person. By submitting an entry, the author warrants the story is original and has not been published elsewhere and that they own the copyright. Stories must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. They must be emailed as an attachment, with a cover sheet listing author's name, address, email address and phone contacts. Submissions close at midnight on December 23 2023.