2012 NZ Writers' College Short Story Competition Winners


2012 Annual Short Story Award

For Emerging Writers in New Zealand and Australia

The Winners


Congratulations to our three winners in the 2012 NZ Writers' College Short Story Competition. As you will see from the results, there were only a few points separating the final positions. Judges' comments and ratings follow below, as well as our Honours List, Honourable Mention List and a 'more stories we loved' list. Well done to our entrants this year for setting a superb standard.

First place: 'The Barrier' – by Timothy McGiven

Runner-up: ‘A Certain Hardness’ – by Collin Minnaar

Third place: ‘Gravity’ – by Andy Evans

Fourth place is awarded to Manisha Anjali for ‘Goldie the Turtle', and fifth place goes to Richard Hall for ‘Skinny’.
Our top five stories had that winning 'presence' we look for in NZ Writers' College short stories: originality, authenticity, unpretentious writing, believable characters and that hint of bittersweetness that runs through all our lives.


People's Choice Award

Manisha Anjali is the winner of the 'People's Choice Award' for her story 'Goldie the Turtle'





Congratulations to our writers who receive an Honours Award. These stories narrowly missed making the top five.

‘Salt Memories’ – by Aaron Ure

'When I am Twenty' - by Lucy-Jane Walsh

‘Sparks’ – by Hayden Pyke

‘It’s Only a Game’ – by Andrea Stitson

‘Other’ – by Stayci Taylor

‘The Hunt of the Fauves’ – by Kelsey Ipsen

'The Blue Rope' - By Beckford J. Richie

‘The Secret of Happiness’ – by Lizzie Nelson

‘Prostitutes Dress Fast’ – by Jo Foster

‘Treading Water’ – by Sacha Norrie 

‘The Tidal Race’ – by Edward Robinson


Honourable Mention


These writers receive an Honourable Mention for stories that were well-written and a delight to read.

‘The Boss’ – by Evelyn Doyle

‘Lost and Found’ – by Rochelle Elliot

‘Him and Her’ – by Jo Barr

‘The Memory Garden’ – by Nadine Ward

‘Payback’ – by Terrie Ferman

‘Beyond Security’ – by Judith Lofley

‘Bullet-proof’ – by Janine Wilcox

‘Boy of Summer’ – by Shweta Kissun

‘Paradise Lost’ – by Lynette Wrigley-Brown

'Seven Dollar Fifty Life' - by Justene Musin


More storie
More stories we loved:

‘Forbidden’ by Connie McDonald; ‘Buenos Aires’ by Juliana D. Feaver; ‘Shaman’ by Bruno Passos; ‘Me, my Mum and I’ by Ash Lambert; ‘Vole Sex’ by Lindsey Horne; ‘The Coat’ by Kirsten Dixon-Kollar; ‘!’ by Mary-Lynne H'allot; ‘Nothing to Hide’ by Glennis Salmon; ‘The Full Circle’ by I.M Phillips; ‘Revolution’ by Michelle Child; ‘Caroline had been Dreaming’ by Helen McIntosh; ‘Holding Pattern’ By H. Lucy Hodgson; ‘Better off  Dead?’ by Holly Le Vaillant; ‘Project Girl’ by Mia Wilson; ‘More than that’ by Hayley Barrett; ‘Disclosure’ by Des Molloy; ‘Stranger at the Wedding’ by Whitney Cox; ‘Going Home’ by Emma Codd; ‘Ameliotation’ by RJ Byrnes; ‘Close Shave’ by Sandy Fabrin; ‘Counting Butterflies’ by Kylie Thorne; ‘After the Fact’ by Kate Bariletti’; ‘A Mackerel Sky’ – by Richard Barry; ‘Death on Fox Lane’ by Laura Fisher; ‘Two Halves of an Orange’ by Nikki Maddison; ‘Creation and Control’ by Hannah Collins; ‘The Jacaranda Tree’ by June Bowen; ‘Mrs Beecroft’ by Jenny Dawson; ‘Alphabet Broth, Disturbed by a Twig’ by Dan Morgan

The judges’ ratings and comments for the top five stories

A huge thank you to our judges this year: Charlotte Randall, Ginny Swart, Sonny Whitelaw, Owen Bullock and Paul Smith.


First Place

The Barrier

by read-the-winning-entry-hereTimothy McGiven

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 19/25
Originality 16.5/25
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 20.5/25
Characterization 21/25
Imagery and use of language 21.5/25
Overall gut response to story 18/25

TOTAL 116.5/150

Judges’ comments

  • Vivid use of language to  describe the Hippie metaphorically  and physically washed up on the beach. Laconic and with the story ending in circular fashion but with the sun shining and promise in the air. PS
  • Well written but the ending left me flat because it was prosaic. This is a too common theme that doesn’t leave the reader feeling satisfied that the journey you took them on was worthwhile. All your imagination was exerted in the use of imagery and language at the expense of story. Watch your use of commas. Too many and in the wrong place, then an absence where they should have been. Also, watch out for common typos. For example a possessive that should be a plural : ‘the 60’s’ should be  ‘the 60s’. I know these are nitpicks but they form part of an overall impression when an editor is considering your work for publication.In sum, your writing is of a very high standard. SW
  • Wonderful feeling of the sea interspersed with the Hippie’s memories, and the growing realization of what he intends to do. Great ending!. GS
  • Interesting and sometimes eccentric details colour this story. The phrasing seems to swing between originality and vagueness. Giving the main character a name, instead of a label, would have helped enhance the reader's interest in him as a person. OB
  • Enjoyed this. Loved the 'how was Australia?' line and the ending. CR


A Certain Hardnessread-the-runner-up-entry

by Collin Minnaar

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 20.5/25
Originality 18/25
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 19/25
Characterization 18/25
Imagery and use of language 19.5/25
Overall gut response to story 16.5/25

TOTAL 111.5/150

Judges’ comments
  • As hard in tone and content as its title. Unsparing of the main characters and with strong characterisation, settings and motivation. Held attention throughout and haunted me long after I'd finished reading. PS
  • A fabulous story that ticked all the right boxes. Great characterisation, you stuck to one point of view throughout which lent a wonderful intimacy to the story. It had the right pace, the most appropriate voice, language and imagery for the character and theme, and the world you created is credible and very accessible to a broad range of readers. The only nitpick I have is technical. Add a few commas. Otherwise, very well done. SW
  • Tough minimalist story which fits the writer’s take on life. A small masterpiece of writing -  carries so much grudging emotion in so few words. GS
  • I profoundly disagree with the moral relativism that is the main message of this story. CR
  • The point of view is intriguing. The gritty, colloquial language carries much weight and details are often vivid. Sometimes unclear wording or construction hampers appreciation. There is a subtlety about the story which is effective but which occasionally spills over into vagueness. I was left with the feeling of wanting to know more; the story has impact. OB

Third Place


by Andy Evans    


Readability: Does it hold your attention? 19/25
Originality 17/25
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 20/25
Characterization 19/25
Imagery and use of language 20/25
Overall gut response to story 16/25

TOTAL 111/150

Judges’ comments
  • Beautiful language capturing guilt, and the moment, over and over. Imaginative and perhaps universal for those who fear losing their loved ones in this way. In my view the story lost something in the first paragraphs when what was about to happen became clear. PS
  • Great characterisation and excellent crafting; a lovely style and pace, however where it fails is in the use of the recurring nightmare theme, forever damned to relive the same moment in perpetual 'Groundhog Day' punishment, in this case without redemption. This is a far too overdone plot device. Best turn your natural writing talents to something more original. Use the same theme if you must, but add a quirky unexpected twist at the end. Short stories should leave the reader with something. It could be a visceral impact, a laugh, a ‘wow’ or a twist that makes them think. This left me wishing you’d been more original, with something that matched the high quality of your writing skill. SW
  • Terrific writing. I’m still not sure about the conclusion.  Does he just imagine himself being run over and he’s stuck in an endless loop of this, or is this just me being thick? GS
  • Well done. CR
  • Of the five stories, this is the one which registers most for me on an emotional level. The writing is lucid throughout and shows genuine insight into human nature: "Guilt is an endless loop." Expressions are fresh and compelling; the strength of diction does not overwhelm the story and its first person narration. There's a dreamy quality to the writing that's consolidated by the interestingly curious ending. OB

Fourth Place

Goldie the Turtle

by Manisha Anjali 


Readability: Does it hold your attention? 19/25
Originality 20.5/25
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 17.5/25
Characterization 18.5/25
Imagery and use of language 19/25
Overall gut response to story 16/25

TOTAL 110.5/150

Judges’ comments
  • Imaginative but disjointed. Ultimately it left me unmoved when the opposite should have been the case. The author seemed to be trying too hard. PS
  • Beautifully written, with powerful imagery and delightful language that flowed easily. The author has real talent and a highly publishable writing style. However, I was confused at the outset because I had no idea whose point of view I was supposed to be following.  It's crucial from the very first lines to get the reader inside the headspace of whoever is telling the story. Because you kept referring to the characters in the third person, it was hard to truly connect with them and without that, it's difficult to make an emotional investment in their fate. I should have cried at the end of this story. Instead, and this leads to the second criticism, I had no idea why it ended this way because nothing led me to the moment. There was no real foreshadowing, no purpose, and no sense of consequence. In short, it was a well written story that led nowhere. I realise the writer was trying for an effect but it eluded me. If it eluded me, it will likely elude a good portion of potential readers.
  • I recommend  that when writing short stories, stick to one point of view. Two at the most if it’s absolutely crucial to add the twist in the tale. There simply isn’t enough time in a short story for readers to make a connection with several characters. Secondly, don’t let great penmanship, which you clearly have, get in the way of clarity, especially when laying foundations for the end, which must sing rather than fall flat. SW
  • Magic runs through this whole story. The imagery is wonderful and every word is perfectly chosen. What an ending. GS
  • Liked this the best, although at times the language took over the story a little. CR
  • Quirky details invigorate this piece of writing. There's an imaginative element that appeals and which I'm curious about, but much is left unexplained. The relative absence of plot makes me hunger for something more, and I am perplexed by the purpose of the ending. OB
Fifth Place


by Richard Hall  


Readability: Does it hold your attention?


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


Imagery and use of language

Overall gut response to story

TOTAL 105.5/150

Judges’ comments
  • Nice slice of life, some vivid figurative language but a promising story languished for lack of a strong ending and dramatic moments. PS
  • A lovely tale, simple but very well crafted with superb characterisations. I most liked the fact that you used a voice that was appropriate for the story and  theme. There was nothing pretentious about this story and you didn’t make the common error of trying to impress with inappropriate language or imagery. I would personally have liked to see a bit more drama and imagination, perhaps the dog saving Colin’s life on the trek home, but that’s just my personal preference, not a critique of an otherwise very well written tale. SW
  • Loved this story. The characters of the two mates away hunting were spot on, and the way the skinny dog grew on Colin well done. GS
  • A good little story. CR
  • The use of demotic language in this story greatly pleases the ear. Unfortunately, the plot lacks dramatic tension. OB


  • First prize: $1000.00, and entry into any NZWC short course
  • Second Prize: $500.00
  • People's Choice Award: $250



The top five entries were assessed by our panel of award-winning writers.

CharlotteRandall 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  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.

Owen-Bullock-150 Owen Bullock has published poetry, haiku, tanka, haibun, short stories, essays and reviews in over one hundred publications in eight countries. His books include a collection of poetry, sometimes the sky isn’t big enough, (Steele Roberts, New Zealand, 2010); haiku: wild camomile (Post Pressed, Australia, 2009), and the novella, A Cornish Story (Palores, UK, 2010). His poetry and haiku have won awards on numerous occasions, including 2nd Prize in the New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competition and Co-Winner of the Haiku International Association Competition, both 2009.

Owen gained an M.A. (Hons) from the University of Waikato. He has been an editor of a number of literary journals, including Poetry NZ, and was the inaugural poetry editor of Bravado. He is currently on the International Editorial Board for both Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Vol. 4, and the online journal, Axon: Creative Explorations (University of Canberra).

Owen Bullock tutors the Poetry course at NZ Writers' College.

sonnywhitelaw-150 Sonny Whitelaw has enjoyed a successful career as a writer for more than thirty years. Her work as a photojournalist has appeared in dozens of international magazines including National Geographic. She won a Draco Award for her first novel, The Rhesus Factor and all eight of her novels including five based on the television series, Stargate, have been international bestsellers.

A qualified adult educator with an MA in Creative Writing, Sonny taught writing courses to adults and teenagers in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. In 2008 she moved with her teenage son to a small lifestyle property in Oxford, Canterbury.

When she’s not having an enormous amount of fun exploring the South Island, Sonny divides her time between researching and writing scientific reports, editing fiction and non-fiction manuscripts, and working on a young adult science fantasy series, The Runes of Creation. To find out more, see www.sonnywhitelaw.com

Sonny Whitelaw tutors the Write a Novel Course at NZ Writers' College

Paul Smith Magazine Journalism Tutor  Paul Smith is a veteran journalist and author and former media commentator. He began his reporting career on the Auckand Star in 1964 and then went to London for three years to work on newspapers and magazines. He was a senior reporter for the New Zealand Herald, Dominion and the New Zealand Times.

Paul was New Zealand correspondent for the London Standard for 20 years, and the Sydney Morning Herald's correspondent for five. As a freelancer his stories have appeared in magazines ranging from the Readers' Digest to the Guardian and Asian Wall Street Journal. He specialised in media from 1988, beginning the country's first Media Watch column for the National Business Review. He also became a long-serving correspondent for the show biz bible, Variety.

Paul is a winner of the Sir David Beattie Award for best news reporter in the print media, and a runner up in the 2002 Peace Awards. In 1986 he was awarded a Press Fellowship to Wolfson College Cambridge.

A past President of the New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN) he has written six best-selling non-fiction books, ranging from social histories to a text on the social impacts of broadcasting de-regulation. Paul has taught freelance and non-fiction writing at Auckland University's summer schools for 18 years and is a non-fiction mentor for the Society of Authors. Paul lives in Auckland City.

Paul Smith tutors the Magazine Journalism Course at NZ Writers' College.

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.

Speak to Nichola Meyer at 09 550 4635 or email her.

 Read the 2010 winning entries here.

 Read the 2011 winning entries here.

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