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The judges’ ratings and comments for the top three stories

A huge thank you to our judges this year: Sonny Whitelaw, Alexandra Smith, Andrew Salomon and Karen Jeynes.


First Place



by Moira Lomas

NZ Writers College Short Story Writing CompetitionWinner-2018
Readability: Does it hold your attention? 18/20
Originality 15/20
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 17/20
Characterization 20/20
Imagery and use of language 18/20
Overall gut response to story 17/20

TOTAL 105/120


Judges’ comments
  • Simple story, beautifully rendered characters, well written, and an unexpected ending that came with enough foreshadowing to make complete sense. Exactly what a short story should be. While the story itself is not entirely original (few are), the theme of 'hot air' is used in an unexpected context. I would like to see a little more care taken with punctuation, especially in dialogue. This does not influence my mark, but would make the heart of an editor/publisher glow, as it would show you not only know how to write a great story, but also write professionally. Sonny
  • The scenes of the beach, the fire, the shore and its creatures, including the crabs, are exceptionally vivid and memorable.  The story is authentic and without melodrama, but it is those specific, local details that make this story stand out. (Dialogue punctuation and general copy editing need attention.) Alex
  • This story is a small, self-contained gem wherein the dismal  weather and the bleakness of the narrator's family life resonate with each other. A very original interpretation of the competition theme. Andrew
  • An evocative piece, it implies as much as it tells, and leaves several questions. Above all it succeeds in communicating emotion - while you are reading this story, you become the boy, you see the crabs, you feel part of this world. Karen

Runner Up




by R. L. Jeffs

NZ Writers College Short Story Writing Competition Runner Up-2018
Readability: Does it hold your attention? 17/20
Originality 14/20
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 16/20
Characterization 18/20
Imagery and use of language 17/20
Overall gut response to story 15/20

TOTAL 97/120


Judges’ comments
  • Powerful, elegant, and well written. Ticks all the boxes but one: the subtle nuances are too subtle. Deeper elements of foreshadowing such as, 'Refusing to acknowledge, just now, the truth in that statement', are threads left untied at the end. In short, what drives the narrator's perspective is just a little too esoteric. A short story should end with a sense of understanding and completion. Even if 'completion' is a cliffhanger, there needs to be a clearer direction, not just about what might happen next, but why the narrator feels as he does.  This leaves me feeling uncertain about how I should interpret what I, the reader, am supposed to feel; how I should interpret the narrator's emotions. This in turn makes it hard for me to have satisfactory 'gut' response. It really is an elegant piece of writing and I would love to see it fleshed out just a wee bit more. Sonny
  • The sense of a school buzzing with gossip is utterly convincing, and so is the first person narrator's unsettling realisations about the Golden Boy, the subject of the gossip, who was once a good friend. Alex
  • This forthright story dealing with the intense emotions associated with a young adult grasping for identity and a sense of belonging is supported by well-written dialogue. Andrew
  • This is powerful writing, showing some things, hiding others, keeping you guessing. It feels very authentic, and real. It doesn't shy away from the darkness. Karen

Third Place




by Mary Francis


NZ Writers College Short Story Writing Competition Third Place-2018
Readability: Does it hold your attention? 16/20
Originality 15/20
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 16/20
Characterization 17/20
Imagery and use of language 15/20
Overall gut response to story 17/20

TOTAL 96/120


Judges’ comments
  • I love the way you have distilled our modern dystopian world view into a single 'everyman' perspective. The language is simple and straightforward, which is what you would expect from a teenager struggling to deal with a mother whose 'catastrophe' neuroses destroy her family. This allows the reader to empathise with the character on several levels. The simple imagery fits the character, the pace is good, and most important of all for me, the ending works. That's what always works for me, because no matter how compelling the story or the writing, no matter how realistic and accessible the character/s, the ending is what we, the reader, are left with, and thus what we take away from the story. This ending is compelling in its simple poignant irony: the 'end of the world' is a whimper rather than a bang. I particularly like the fact that you did not use the term 'hot air' directly in your story.  It's there. This is the art of showing, not telling. Well done. Sonny
  • This take on the 'hot air' theme is potentially one of the most fascinating as it draws on a climatic event that caused heat and humidity to create catastrophic pollen over Melbourne. It's such a wonderful idea and the author could perhaps make even more of this setup. Alex
  • How mental illness can wreak havoc with the bond between a parent and child, leading to isolation and grief are skilfully portrayed in this moving story. Andrew
  • A delicate, sensitive story, it captures characters and emotions beautifully and simply, and carries them through from beginning to end. It's told very sparingly, but that's part of its power. Karen



The Winners


We are delighted to announce our winners for the 2018 NZ Writers College Short Story Competition.
The winning stories were beautifully written, authentic,
and a thoughtful interpretation of this year's theme: 'Nothing But Hot Air'.
Congratulations on an outstanding effort.



FIRST PLACE: ‘Crabs' - by Moira Lomas

RUNNER-UP: ‘Golden’ - by R. L. Jeffs

THIRD PLACE: 'Thunderstorm' - by Mary Francis


In fourth place is Billy Richardson’s ‘Exhaust’.
‘Splodge’, written by Eddie Williams, placed fifth.

Read the judges' comments and the top three stories below the results lists.



Highest Honours


These stories narrowly missed making the top five. The characters are authentic, plotlines are credible, and the storytelling is excellent.

'The Knack' - by Jack Sutherland
'Secret Cigars' - by Akshata Rao
‘Postcards to Nowhere’ - by Haley Kelsey
‘Gift or Curse’ - by Edna Heled
‘Caught of Law’ - by Emilie Hope
‘Spurious Legend’ - by Nicholas Molhoek
'The Lies We're Told' - by Tom Adams
‘Category Five’ - by Janelle Wilkey
‘Home’ - by Moragh Todd
'The Boat' - by Kevin Bélanger-Taylor
‘Cabin Fever’ - by Selina Kunac
'Sole Reflex' - by Casey Rothwell
‘Blue Smoke’ - by Toni Wi
'The Sweet Life' - by Zara Irigo
'In After-Earth' - by Eleanor Schollum
‘No Going Back’ - by Lance Robinson









These stories had good plotlines, well-rounded characters, and were thoroughly enjoyable to read.

‘On My Word’ - by Nicole Folwell-Ambler
‘The Writers’ - by A.S Downie
‘A Bit of Time in the Bush’ - by Michelle Campbell
‘Baby Grand’ - by Monique Reymer
‘The Last Hurrah’ - by Emma Harris
‘Ear Ache’ - by Hayleigh Clarkson
'God Give Me a Sign' - by Gabriella Cumming
‘Forgotten Places and Airless Spaces’ - by Megan Florence.
‘One Fine Day’ - by Lucy Hodgson






Honourable Mention

These pieces held our attention with their good story-telling.


‘The Loft’ - by Scott Butler
'Senseless' - by Alana Rae
‘Fully Accepted’ - by Matthew Armstrong
‘Imperative’ - by Sharon Anne Bailey
‘Fleece and Denim’ - by Raphael Van Workum
‘Memoirs of a Youtuber’ - by Richard Christopher Jack Brown
‘Returns To’ - by Joanna Cho
'Heat Pump' - by Tabatha Wood
'Necessary Evil' - by Mike Baird
'Between the Rock and a Hard Place' - by Ben Plummer
‘Road to Roto-Vegas’ - by Anna Zam
‘The Only Photograph’ - by L.W. Davie
‘Rising Steam’ - by Cameron Gray
‘The Fall’ - by Tarsh Turner
‘Stuck’ - by Nick Baily
‘Fast Forward to Glory’ - by Ying Lim
‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust’ - by Brian Gu
‘Hidden Gold’ - by Gareth Edwards
‘Harold's Idiot-Proof Plan’ - by Carol Sharma
‘The A Word’ - by Jessica Finnigan

      More Stories We Loved

Great writing is about attention to detail, and pushing the boundaries with words, characters and structure. Next year we'd like to see these authors climbing up the results ladder.

‘The Sky Is on Fire’ - by Yasmin Sharp
‘Stone Cold’ - by Eliza Jackson
‘Te Hau Kai Tangata – The Wind That Devours’ - by Moya Bawden
‘A Chance to Fly’ - by Connor McLay
‘Spread Your Wings’ - by Sam Brannigan
'In the Airing Cupboard' - by Emma Riley
‘The Bright Side’ - by Mandy McMullin
‘Woven Mats and White Lace’ - by Fania Kapao
'Burn the Bloodsuckers' - by Fox McCrae
'Devastation and Terror' - By Hannah Rickit
‘Afternoon Tea’ - by Catherine Kelly
‘Crossword. Cross Words’ - by Lorraine Brockbank
‘The Albatross and the Phoenix’ - by S. Cook

Keep up the great writing! We look forward to hearing from you again for our 2019 NZ Writers College Short Story Competition.
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