NZ Writers' College 2011 Short Story Competition

 


The NZ WRITERS’ COLLEGE

2011 Annual Short Story Competition


For Emerging Writers in New Zealand and Australia

 




Online Coursessml.jpgNZ Writers' College presents this writing competition annually to acknowledge excellence in creative writing in the Short Story genre. The contest is open to any unpublished writer residing in New Zealand and Australia.

 

This year we enjoyed a bumper number of entries. A warm congratulations to all the writers who entered the 2011 competition.

 

 

The Winners
 

Congratulations to the winners of the 2011 NZ Writers’ College Short Story Competition.
 

  1. The overall winning story is “Regrets”, written by Aaron Ure
  2. The runner-up place is awarded to Sacha Norrie  for the story “The Effects of Cancellation
  3.  In joint third place are Stephanie Attwood’s story “Careless Driving” and “Milk and Two Sugars” by David Hamilton

The fourth-placed story is “Unwritten Stories” by Jenny White.

Well done to our top winners for producing stories that were well-written, original and had that special something that made them stand out.
 

Honourable Mention
 

These 20 writers have received Honourable Mention. These stories are acknowledged for being enjoyable to read and well written.
 

Anastomoses - by Sally Smith

Lamentations - by Brian Luby

Mixed Fortunes - by Nelson Curry

The Tip of the Iceberg - by Collin Minnaar

Hey Joe - by Thomas Walker

Chilled Out - by Kate Highfield

Something and Nothing – by Rochelle Elliot

Keeping Company with Judas – by Yumiko Olliver

His Own Life – by Helen Yuretich

One Never Knows – by Jo Carson-Barr

In Search of Satin – by Carys Goodwin

Introducing Bucky Webster – by Christopher Devereux

The Masters Collection – by David Dudfield

Mouse and Cat - by John Grace

Relentless – by Hayley Cleverdon

Life of Wendy – by Stacey Lepper

A Family Affair – by Christie Williams

Mistaken Identity – by William Pratt

Poolside – by Erik Janssen

Bendon Ads and Death – by Irene Hamer

 

The judges’ ratings and comments for the top five stories
 

A huge thank you to our judges this year: Charlotte Randall, Ginny Swart, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Rebecca Hayter, Alex Smith and Karen Jeynes.

 

First Place

 

Story: Regrets read-the-winning-entry-here


Readability: Does it hold your attention?
23/30

Originality
22.5/30

Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
22/30

Characterization
23/30

Imagery and use of language
20.5/30

Overall gut response to story
21.5/30

TOTAL 132.5/180

Judges’ comments

  • Fresh, intriguing, evocative writing; I was thoroughly entertained and interested. KJ
  • This is a big story to fit into 2000 words and possibly needs another 1000 or more to keep the pace set by the first journal entries. The ending feels rushed, lacks the intensity of the earlier parts. It is a very good story with much potential, but somehow too much for the word count. In addition to the ending, other aspects of the story and the relationship need more development and exactitude. AS
  • The air of slight mystery and knowing something was going to happen compelled me to read on. The diary format and writing in the first person worked well, and the ending gave it a punch which knocked it right into the next level. It flowed seamlessly through the back story and back to the present again without interruption. Markus came across as a tortured soul accustomed to holding his emotions in check who found his real self  again on Thomas’ return. He held my sympathy from the start. Not a huge amount of imagery but some well chosen phrases here giving the reader a full picture. I had an emotional response to this one; I felt empathy with Markus all the way through and only when he touched the coffin in the last para  I realized  we were not at their wedding but at Thomas’ funeral, I felt a pang of real sorrow for Markus. “Regret” is well named. This story is beautiful, a very satisfying read and after the happy reunion and Markus realizing his own stupid error in breaking it off before, the ending was a real kicker. GS
  • A touching story that doesn’t go where you think it might. It’s written with a refreshing lightness of touch for such sombre subject matter - although the ending was a bit sentimental for my taste, and perhaps tries too hard for a ‘twist’. The author occasionally falls into the trap of over-explaining the narrator’s mental processes rather than allowing us to deduce things ourselves. HRI
  • Sensitively written, but could have strengthened the narrator’s reasons for the breaking up the relationship in the first place, i.e. fear of what others would think. RH
  • Ending is good. CR
 
Second Place

 

Story: The Effects of Cancellationread-the-runner-up-entry


Readability: Does it hold your attention?
22/30

Originality
25/30

Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
18.5/30

Characterization
21/30

Imagery and use of language
23/30

Overall gut response to story
20.5/30

TOTAL 130/180

Judges’ comments
  • The story is beautiful, but seems to me too “held together” – I think the writer has tried too hard, not let the story be, let it run free. KJ

  • Brilliantly vivid, an uncompromising non-conformist character matched by non-conforming, sometimes erratic writing style full of fascinating, specific details. Some lines overly nested. Generally, in need of a good edit. It feels like the first chapter of a novel, more than a short story. It feels incomplete. One is left wanting to go along on some kind of trip with this likeable, irascible character in that bleak costal landscape with the diseased birds. The strangeness - of the place and the character - is memorable. AS

  • I was fascinated from the first word. The setting, the inner mind of the story teller and the odd old lady all made for a unique story. The writer carries the story forward while including a lot of information about his work with birds. The unnamed protagonist, who to my mind was the most important person in this story, was obliquely but wonderfully presented. Excellent imagery right the way through, with terrific, original phrases and descriptions. The setting came alive for me and I had suspect this writer might have developed this superb ease with words by writing poetry? I’m still trying to work out why the title is what it is. Loved it. And loved the very New Zealand feel of the whole thing. This is one of the stories you need to read a second time, there are so many layers to it, and questions to ask. E.g. What happened to the writer that he has a metal hook for a right hand? Did the fossilized baby in the bushes belong to the old woman? And yet I don’t really need answers to these. I was just swept along by this torrent of gorgeous imagery and words. It could be part of a novel in which we’d learn more about the protagonist. GS

  • I liked the atmosphere and rich details of this story very much. However, I felt it could have done with a more rigorous edit: some of the more florid language could be pared back. I was also uncertain how the old woman plot strand fits together with the dead bird thread ... and the significance of the ending is unclear to me. I felt more might have been done to meaningfully tie the elements of the story together.   HRI         

  • Some wonderful descriptions but watch the length of the sentences – some are too long. There is a tendency to over-write. The deeper meanings are subtle – use ‘show don’t tell’ but don’t make the reader work too hard. The title felt clumsy. RH 

  • I really liked the story, but couldn’t ‘get’ the character of the narrator.  It was one of the two best, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have serious reservations about the voice. CR

 
Joint Third Place

 

Story: Milk and Two Sugars    |    Read the Story Here


Readability: Does it hold your attention?
21.5/30

Originality
19/30

Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
22.5/30

Characterization
22/30

Imagery and use of language
19/30

Overall gut response to story
22/30

TOTAL 126/180

Judges’ comments
 
  • The story has a quiet poetry which is very warm, and readable. The story has a truth which is very pleasing. KJ

  • A carefully paced, moving and engaging study of difficult loves. The arc of the relationship is deftly highlighted in the flashbacks. The male character is well drawn as is the farm scene with the cow. The female character is less memorable and perhaps this accounts for a slight overall lack of impact. AS

  • I really got into this man’s head and felt quite desperate for him that he just couldn’t get the words out when he needed to. A cowman trying to deal with being dumped by a girl is not something I’ve read before. So yes, it’s original. Story flows well, helped by the italics as he remembers times past. We really got a handle on the protagonist – a monosyllabic lonely country man not used to speaking or coming up with even the basic “I love you” no matter how much he wanted to. All those unspoken emotions boiling inside him – so sad! A touch of Aspergers maybe? The setting of the farm and cowshed is beautifully pictured. Loved it, it felt so real. This was a subtle tale well told, with the reader knowing what was going on in his mind and what he really wanted to say, and how pitifully he expressed himself. I didn’t blame the girl for leaving; he seemed better able to talk to the cows than to her! This story left me feeling such sympathy for this poor fellow and his bleak and lonely life ahead. GS

  • This is a sensitively written story that vividly evokes a farmer’s emotional and physical world, full of sensual detail. The characters feel real, particularly the farmer's. However, it doesn’t feel to me like there is enough complexity of plot: this is more a tableau or a sketch than a story. I also found the time shifts slightly confusing, with the distant and very recent memories in the same tense and formatting. HRI

  • Lovely control of the story throughout, despite the changing perspectives. I liked the subtle imagery around the landscape and his handling of the herd to characterise him. Originally I thought he had killed her – this ending is just as good. His final speech to her jarred a little with me – perhaps too long for such a stoic character. Her use of ‘cowboy’ was a little cliché for me. Good title. RH

  • Well written, but not my cup of tea. CR   

 
Joint Third Place

 

Story: Careless Driving   |   Read the Story Here


Readability: Does it hold your attention?

19.5/30

Originality
21.5/30

Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
20.5/30

Characterization
23/30

Imagery and use of language
20/30

Overall gut response to story
21.5/30

TOTAL 126/180

Judges’ comments
  • I wasn’t drawn in to the story, and very little happened. The twist is interesting, but then ends too abruptly. KJ

  • Good twist in the plot, and the Dad’s ‘other’ life cunningly hinted at throughout so it makes sense in the end. It drags a little, even though the mother-son relationship is well developed. Could do with a little more context or vividness of the home location during the long dialogue to engage and stimulate the reader on a sensory level. Somehow needs more rounding.  AS

  • From the word go, I was riveted by these two warring characters and the whole story seethed with energy. Terrific, unexpected ending. A wonderful slice of family life here, loved the dialogue between mother and son which gave us an immediate insight into both of their characters. Robert is a manipulative, devious teenager, able to pull his mother’s strings in just the fight way, but he also won our sympathy for his pathetic attempt to get the girl to notice him.  Dad, as the reader and the family know, is a bit of a vicious thug and mother has a hard, realistic take on life but is on the side of her son, like most mothers are! When we read about the meth factory which Ma obviously knows about, we are not surprised, it fits. Not a lot of imagery as such but the forceful language and slang was perfect for the situation. The writer really brings these people alive, they were so well presented they practically jumped off the page into the reader’s face. By the end we had to like both lonely, devious Robert and his fiery Ma. The fact that Robert is now going to be the man of the house while his dad’s away might be the making of this boy! GS

  • I enjoyed reading this one a lot – it’s written in a lively tone, with great natural dialogue, engaging characters and good suspense. I did feel it dragged a little in the middle – the conversation about how the accident happened went on too long. The author might find ways to foreshadow the ending ... suggesting something subtly “off”, maybe, to make the reader curious about the father, the family and the situation - without giving anything away and spoiling the ending. (Something more subtle than the mention of “transient lifestyle”.) I think this would add suspense to the scene. HRI

  • The ending felt a bit clichéd. The mother has integrity, as they all rely on her to keep their secrets to keep them safe from each other. Good dialogue – the language denotes the social economic status but the designer clothes and nice car jar with that – hence the P lab. Cleverly done. The title was a bit too obvious. Writing feels unpolished in places. RH

  • Well written. Ending is a bit contrived? CR

Fourth Place

 

Story: Unwritten Stories


Readability: Does it hold your attention?
18/30

Originality
20/30

Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
20.5/30

Characterization
19/30

Imagery and use of language
17.5

Overall gut response to story
17.5

TOTAL 112.5/180

Judges’ comments
  • The writer is very talented, but the story feels a little self-conscious. I want more to happen in the story, it feels as though it needs more space to live. KJ

  • Well observed piece, honestly examining the emotional anguish of a person with a terminal illness. Although moving, in narrative quality it reads more like a work of memoir than a short story.  AS

  • Very readable, it held my attention. The thoughts of a woman under sentence of imminent death – the originality here was that she felt so angry and helpless, knowing she would leave this life with so much not done. By the end of it, I felt I knew her quite well. She was not a fighter, this one. She accepted her medical prognosis too willingly, and spent all her time regretting things she hadn’t accomplished and stories she had never written. Unaccomplished things. We never learn anything about her background except that she is a failed writer aged 46. This was an insightful piece with not a lot of imagery, although we had a good sense of where she was. Perhaps this slice of time didn’t really need imagery to tell us what was going on in her mind; not all stories need that IMO. My gut response was impatience with her attitude to her cancer, actually, which over-rode any enjoyment of this sensitive story. This was so well written but I felt this story needed a bit more oomph. It was too passive in its approach to this woman’s problem, a bit too bleak at the end. I know bleak is what the writer was aiming for but for me it didn’t make for a satisfying read somehow. GS

  • A heartfelt and engaging story.  Again, however, this struck me as more a tableau or meditation than a short story: it needs one or two more turns to the plot to satisfy narratively. HRI

  • A good plot and well handled, but over-written in places, eg “Uppermost in my mind now….” This could have been simply a line on its own: “The tumour is inoperable.” And: “Perhaps cursing the Almighty was not the wisest option!” This states the obvious and would have been far more powerful without the exclamation mark. Also: “visually” in final sentence. Unnecessary – we know he has just seen her, therefore it’s visual. RH


PRIZES:
 

  • First prize: $1000.00
  • Second Prize: $500.00
  • Top two entries will be published on our college site and the top five winners will receive individual editorial guidance on their submitted works.
 

THE JUDGES:

 

The top five entries were assessed by our panel of award-winning international writers who tutor at NZ Writers’ College.

CharlotteRandall_letterbox_.jpg Charlotte Randall is the author of six published novels. Her first novel, Dead Sea Fruit (1995), won the Reed Fiction Award for unpublished manuscripts and Best First Book, Southeast Asia/South Pacific, in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.

Her second novel, The Curative (2000), was runner up in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and afterwards was made into a successful play and serialised for national radio. Her novels What Happen Then Mr Bones? (2004) and the Crocus Hour (2008) were also finalists in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Her sixth novel, Hokitika Town, was published in 2010.

She has been awarded two prestigious writers' residencies, including the writer in residence at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University and The Ursula Bethell/Creative NZ Residency at Canterbury University.

Charlotte also writes short stories. She has been published in the literary journal Landfall and, out of four entries, has twice made the shortlist of stories receiving special comment from the judges in the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award.


Ginny_Swart_Short_Story_Tutor_lb.jpg Ginny Swart has sold over 400 short stories to women's magazines all over the world. On any day of every month she has at least 15 stories out there on editors' desks. Her more serious work has appeared in literary publications in America, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and on the Web. She is also the author of three romance novels (Ulverscroft Press UK) a book of short stories (Lulu.com) and a book for teenagers: Nosipho and the King of Bones (MacMillan Boleswa SA).

In 2003 Ginny won the esteemed UK The Real Writers' Prize from over 4000 entrants. Ginny tutors the Short Story Course at NZ Writers' College.


Karen_Jeynes_letterbox.jpg Karen Jeynes studied English and Drama at UCT. Her plays include "Laying Blame", "sky too big", "Backwards in High Heels" (co-authored with the cast), "Don't Mention Sex", "Kiss Kiss" and the multi award-winning "Everybody Else (is Fucking Perfect)". She has also directed "The Best Man", "Pillow Talk" and "Txt Me". Her adaptation of Thomas Rapakgadi's "The Purse is Mine" aired on Bush Radio last year, and she is busy writing a radio drama series for Safm with Nkuli Sibeko, tentatively entitled "Office Hours".

Her teenage novel, Jacques Attack (co-authored with Nkuli Sibeko) was published in 2004, and her new book, Flipside, co-authored with Eeshaam September, was published in 2009.

Karen Jeynes tutors the Scriptwriting Course at NZ Writers' College.

Alex_Smith_letterbox.jpg Alex Smith is the author of three novels. Algeria's Way and Drinking from the Dragon's Well were both published by Random House Umuzi. Drinking from the Dragon's Well was long-listed for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. Four Drunk Beauties, her third novel, was published by Umuzi.

Alex has had many short stories published in anthologies and journals. Her short story 'Buffalo Panting at the Moon' was short-listed for the 2007 SA PEN Literary Awards.

Most recently her writing appeared in Touch, along with other writers, including Henrietta Rose-Innes, Damon Galgut, Andre Brink, and Nadine Gordimer. Alex was shortlisted for the 2009 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award. She came second in the 2009 Sanlam Youth Literature Prize and was a finalist for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing. In 2011 Alex won the Nielsen Booksellers People's Choice Award.

Alex tutors the Write a Novel Course.

Rebecca_Hayter_lb.jpgRebecca Hayter has enjoyed a successful career in writing, firstly as a freelancer for several magazines including Boating New Zealand and ArtNews Auckland. She joined BoatingWorld magazine as associate editor in 1995 and became editor of SeaSpray magazine a year later.

In 1998, Rebecca began what would become a decade as editor of Boating New Zealand. During this time, she wrote two books: Endless Summer and Oceans Alone. In 2006, she was named MPA Editor of the Year – Supreme Winner, and Boating New Zealand won Magazine of the Year – Special Interest.

Rebecca was awarded the 2011 Journalist of the Year, Sports and Leisure, in the 2011 Magazine Publishers Association Magazine Awards, as well as 2011 Journalist of the Year, Custom and Membership (Trade magazines).

After leaving Boating New Zealand, Rebecca co-wrote What You Wish For. She continues to write for Boating New Zealand and is Australasian correspondent for YachtingWorld, UK. Her work has also appeared in House and Garden, NZ Life and Leisure, SkySport, Alive and NBR. Her first novel is underway, with the encouragement and guidance of the Creative New Zealand mentor programme.

Rebecca tutors the Magazine Journalism Course at NZ Writers' College.

Henrietta Rose-Innes has offered to be a judge again this year, despite her heavy schedule promoting her new book, Nineveh.


CRITIQUES: We unfortunately do not have the time to supply a critique for each submission. If you wish to receive a professional one- to two-page report of your work, please state your requirement on your title page. We charge $45.00 per critique.
 
COMPETITION RULES:
  • The competition is open to anyone residing in New Zealand and Australia over the age of 16.
  • The competition closes on 30 September 2011, and winners will be announced and displayed on our web site by 31 October 2011.
  • Prizewinners will be notified via email as well as on our web site; please ensure you supply a valid email address with your entry.
  • Prize money will be paid via electronic transfer.
  • We only accept entries written in English.
  • Entrant must own full copyright of the piece.
  • Writers retain copyright, but give permission for their work to be displayed on our website.
  • The judges' decision is final; no disputes will be entered into.
  • If your entry has not been acknowledged within 72 hours, please contact us –your mail may have got lost in transit.
  • NZ Writers’ College reserves the right to extend the competition deadline, or cancel the competition should the entries not be of publishable quality or up to the required standard.
 
Enquiries:

nichola2-lb.jpg 
Speak to Nichola Meyer at 09 550 4635 or email her.

 Read the 2010 winning entries here.


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