2013 NZ Writers' College Short Story Competition


2013 Annual Short Story Award




The Winners


Congratulations to our top-placed winners in the 2013 NZ Writers' College Short Story Competition.

Our winning story epitomises what we look for from our writers: evocative, original, seemingly effortless and superbly crafted writing. Congratulations to Jade du Preez.

The 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 all our entrants this year.


First place: 'The President, the Ski-Instructor and the Watermelon' - by Jade du Preez


Runner-up: 'The Invisible Woman' - by Lizzie Nelson


Third place: 'Not My Daughter' - by Monique Reymer

Fourth place is awarded to Hayden Pyke for 'Landslide Pantomime', and fifth place goes to Andy Evans for 'The Empty Nest'. Read the judges' comments and the top five stories below the results lists.

People's Choice Award



Congratulations to Lizzie Nelson for winning the 2013 People's Choice Award

for her story 'The Invisible Woman'.






Congratulations to our winners of an Honours Award. These stories narrowly missed making the top five.


  • ‘Rooftops and Lollipops’ by Natasha Blythe               
  • ‘An Untold Truth’ by Hayley Barrett                       
  • ‘Prick-ears’ by Paul Quinlan                                  
  • ‘What Kind of Fish are You?’ By Caroline Lewer   
  • ‘Burnout’ by David Hamilton    
  • ‘Life Class’ by Rudy Lopez     
  • ‘Nocturne’ by Collin Minnaar    
  • ‘Winnie and Luke’ by Miriama Prickett   
  • ‘The Adventure of a Lifetime’ by Rochelle Elliot    
  • ‘Trapped Inside’ by Zoe Brown
  • 'Beautiful Things' by Olivia Maxwell

Honourable Mention


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


  • ‘Metamorphosis’ by Jane Barrow
  • ‘May I Take Your Plate?’ By D.Deonarain
  • ‘Harbourview’ by Joan Rotherham
  • ‘In the Pipeline’ by Val Melhop
  • ‘Fee Fi  Fo Fum’ by Isabel Caves
  • ‘The Art of Possession’ by Sam Murray
  • ‘The Trip’ by Amber McWilliams
  • ‘Two Words Apart’ by Zita Featherstone
  • ‘The Norms – Mark and Rachel’ by Georgina Titheridge
  • ‘Bob’ by Andrew Chatvick
More stories we loved:

'Breaking Out' by Lee-Stuart Boddington; 'The Valley' by Benjamin Elley; ‘The Talented Miss Ripley’ by Maria Masae; 'A Fairy Tale' by Jessica Harvey; '2065' by Bethan Joy FitzGerald; 'A Little Out of Sorts' by Emma Macdonald; 'The Amalgamation' by Anne M. Mckenzie; 'That Girl' by Sarah Taylor; 'A Walking Cliche' by Olivia Spooner; 'Wistful Despondency' by Lyllie Colway; 'For Love of Raspberries' by Webletgurl; 'Bye Bye Daddy' by Aleksandar Filkovic; 'Swashbucklers' by Paul Chapman; 'Lucid Dreams' by Itay Ben-Dom; 'Breaking Out' by Paul Metcalf; 'Purty Pickin' by Sam Brannigan; 'Reflections' by Laurien Barks; 'Infinitely Finite' by Doug Redpath; 'Harmful Use of Cutlery' by Christy Menzies; 'Tokoroa Bros' by Leanne Taylor-Innes; 'Bartholomew Pembridge' by Clinton Bell

Keep up the writing! We look forward to hearing from you again next year for our competition closing 30 September 2014.


The judges' ratings for the top five stories


A big thank you to our judges this year: Paul Smith, Sarah Lang, Philippa Werry, Owen Bullock, Eva Brown and Ginny Swart.


First Place

The President, the Ski-Instructor and the Watermelon

by Jade du Preez

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 25/30
Originality 27.5/30
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 21/30
Characterization 25.5/30
Imagery and use of language 30/30
Overall gut response to story 25.5/30
TOTAL 154.5/180

Judges’ comments
  • Acutely observed, the story moves easily in time and space. It is full of feints, fractionated people and ends in an arresting but understated manner. PS
  • From the wonderfully unexpected first sentence, the story shows immense originality, with surprises at every turn. Towards the end it has the feel of an ancient parable, which is both difficult to pull off and incredibly evocative. One or two transitions need work, but usually you tie the different chapters of the story together with unusual but effective transitions such as a rhetorical question and “Done. Sold. Next.”We get a strong sense of both the mother’s and father’s character, and later the narrator’s character, through wonderful show-not-tell descriptions and comparisons.You use imagery and literary devices such as metaphors, similes, allegory, personification and the rhetorical question incredibly well. I like the subtle humour, snappy sentences, and the mix of abstract and concrete nouns.With a little more work, I think this story has such originality, depth and beautiful language that it could easily be published in a literary magazine.SL
  • There is a lot of gorgeous imagery here, almost poetic. But as a story it just didn't engage my emotions at all. It felt a bit remote, as though everything was happening on the other side of thick sound-proof glass. GS.
  • Loved the opening sequence with the watermelon, and some wonderful vocabulary (e.g. the "striations blurring" and "tectonic segments") and similes ("ignorant as astronauts as to the direction of up".) The change of style about halfway through ("The story of my mother and her curse I will tell like this") did jar a little bit but not enough to break the overall rhythm of the story, which has stayed in my mind the most of any of these five. PW
  • What a voice this writer creates, complex and open-minded. If the story is occasionally baffling, it is also deeply poetic. Allegorical and literal elements intertwine in a highly original fusion: think Frank Sargeson meets Studio Ghibli! An excellent achievement; this writer could go a long way. OB.



The Invisible Woman

by Lizzie Nelson

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 24/30
Originality 23/30
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 26.5/30
Characterization 23.5/30
Imagery and use of language 25.5/30
Overall gut response to story 24.5/30
TOTAL 147/180

Judges’ comments
  • Great use of detail coupled with strong characterisation with an ending that underlined the story's theme. The writer is totally in control of copy. PS.
  • 'Middle-aged-woman feels invisible and insecure' isn’t that original, although the fact that she uses that invisibility to land a job is a fresher angle. The largely chronological story flows well, with good use of transitions. Lydia feels a little like a stock character to start with, but you do a nice job of showing her chutzpah in the scene with the private detective. You've used similes, description, detail, dialogue and subtle humour well. Great use of rhetorical questions to show how Lydia feels invisible. SL.
  • Good, straight-down-the-line story telling. Women of a certain age would easily identify with this invisibility but the way she decides to handle this is very satisfying. Of all the finalists, this one is most likely to be accepted for publication by a women's magazine and the writer should have a go at submitting it.   GS.
  • This is an appealing story with some very funny lines ("Once, he had her convinced she could still wear white jeans" or "she is tempted to mention varicose veins".) Lydia is a sympathetic character, the dialogue works well and I love the descriptions of the party food. However I thought the story had the potential to be even smarter and funnier with just a few extra plot twists. As soon as we read the words "Private Detective Services" at the bottom of page 3, we recognise the plot and know that Lydia will get the job. But what if we didn't find out until the very end - perhaps at the point where she smiles quietly to herself - what sort of firm they were? (That would mean also taking out the bit where Lydia reads the ad out loud.) And what if her success was made even more complete at the party, e.g. she might come across the same man from the cafe and he doesn't recognise her, but by then she knows some guilty secret about him because of her surveillance work?   PW.
  • The astutely observed detail pleased me, as did the elegant phrasing . The writer creates atmosphere with everything from clothes labels to onion bhajis. The new direction for the main character is fun, and the whole story is thoroughly entertaining. A well-crafted story. OB


Third Place

Not My Daughter

by Monique Reymer

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 27/30
Originality 21.5/30
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 25/30
Characterization 24/30
Imagery and use of language 22/30
Overall gut response to story 25.5/30
TOTAL 145/180

Judges’ comments
  • Lots of unrealised potential here. But the characterisation tends to be weak, with an absence of telling detail - names, expressions, attitudes. PS.
  • The opening creates a really visual scene; as a reader I can imagine myself there in that hospital room. It engages my emotions and holds my attention throughout. The exclusion of a close elderly relative from the decision-making is a new angle, but for this to work you need to give us a clue as to why the family is excluding her. Showing rather than telling, you characterise the mother beautifully with your descriptions of her thoughts, reactions and memories - and the way the mental affects the physical. Great use of literary devices including simile and rhetorical questions, coined words like 'spaghettied', and just the right amount of detail. It needs a little clarification in places, but this is an excellent story that grabbed me and didn't let go, until that shocking – but perfect – last sentence. SL.
  • Beautiful writing. I felt completely engaged with the mother all the way through and the unexpected ending was perfect.GS.
  • I found the beginning of this story a bit confusing; the focus jumps about from the doctor to the narrator to the hospital equipment to the patient, then back to the doctor, and the second sentence isn't quite grammatically correct. However the power of it lies in that one reference to the "single electrical socket", which sets up the shocking and very powerful ending. Some of the language is well chosen and effective ("no more than an unused piece of furniture", "night crept into the silent room like a reluctant stranger") but other phrases veer towards cliches ("my blood ran cold", "a chill crept up my spine".) Also, I wasn't sure why the narrator so meekly accepted her rejection by the family. Why doesn't she object? Wouldn't the medical staff have expected her to be included in the consultation? PW
  • A stunning ending! That's all you really need to know. As is so often said, if the ending works, any shortcoming is forgiven. And there are few shortcomings here to forgive; a very effective piece of writing. OB


Fourth Place

Landslide Pantomime

by Hayden Pyke

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 23/30
Originality 22/30
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 23.5/30
Characterization 21/30
Imagery and use of language 22/30
Overall gut response to story 23/30
TOTAL 134.5/180

Judges’ comments
  • To some extent the story was given away in the first sentence and so lost  suspense. Its ending was too clever to be believable, but the writer used  some good imagery along the way . PS.
  • The humour of the start grabs the reader: we sense there will be a crash, and we want to know first how bad it will be, then how the culprit will deal with what he’s done. As the story progresses, the unexpected twists certainly hold the reader’s attention.The second-person voice, and the close relationship between culprit and victim is an original take on a car crash. But the fact they planned the crash feels derivative and implausible, given the uncertainties of the crash's outcome. I like the way we have to wait to find out who ‘you’ is, and the way their relationship is revealed slowly. But I still wanted to know more about the narrator's rationale. Beautifully written. Great use of imagery, especially simile, and nice use of detail and short sentences. I don't like the final twist - that they planned the accident - but aside from that this is an excellent story. SL.
  • An excellent, complex piece of writing which allows the plot to unfold very slowly and reveals the full story right at the end. GS
  • The plot twist at the end of this story didn't quite work for me. I can see it was meant to make the reader reassess the beginning of the story, but it didn't seem feasible that the two of them could have planned an accident to happen like that (how was the narrator supposed to  get out of the car beforehand?) especially with the timing at that exact intersection if the victim had just driven a (presumably) long way from Napier. And if they had planned it as an assisted suicide, why was the narrator relieved ("nothing was as sweet as that moment") to see that the victim was still alive? I was a bit confused (and also wasn't sure about the opening  paragraph, which seemed extraneous - the second paragraph would have made an equally good starting point.) . But I enjoyed some excellent use of language, such as "the words were like smooth round stones in my mouth" and "any noise was wrenched away from the scene like a dog being pulled back on its leash." PW
  • For the most part, the voice is convincing, and the story-teller makes the most of not revealing too much too soon. Serious and dark issues are at stake, but these seem undermined by the revelations near the end of the story. I didn't find the motivation convincing and somehow felt that this trick indicated that the writer was not taking his or her work seriously enough; yet the tone of the last couple of sentences again satisfies. Unnecessary repetition hampers the story, and there are a few typos. OB
  • The story is well told, moves along from the realistically described accident at the start to the several surprising revelations in the end. With some rigorous editing and with more details about the dead man, who was obviously important in the life of the narrator, it could certainly achieve a publishable standard. EB.


Fifth Place

The Empty Nest

by Andy Evans

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 23/30
Originality 20/30
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 23.5/30
Characterization 21.5/30
Imagery and use of language 22/30
Overall gut response to story 22.5/30
TOTAL 132.5/180

Judges’ comments
  • Suspenseful to the end but marred by a lack of clarity in some parts of the story-telling. The ending is truly chilling.  PS.
  • The start hooks the reader immediately. I was interested to see how things turned out for her, but the first half of the story is stronger than the second half. Teenage girl runs away from home to be with older man isn’t very original, and the supernatural ending felt like it was borrowed from a horror story or horror film. In places you get her naivety and innocence across, but often she seems much more mature than a teenage girl, making what she’s doing not that credible. It’s written well. I like the way you use more of the five senses than just sight. You use short, snappy sentences and rhetorical questions well. SL.
  • A chiller with a terrific build-up of tension right throughout. The ending served up a delicious frisson of horror. GS.
  • Enjoyably creepy but I wasn't sure why the girl would be afraid that Bern had come into the house, when she was going outside to meet him anyway. The plot also seems to hinge on the existence of a twin staircase which sounds like quite an unusual feature in a house. The dialogue in the last page is great and the ending is very nasty! (NB Should have been double spaced) PW.
  • I enjoyed the ominous sense of foreshadowing, the level of detail in the story, and the tension. Unfortunately, I found the ending a disappointment, as it doesn't explain motive, or give a full sense of what's going on; reads more like a chapter from a novel than a discrete short story. OB.
  • This is a dark tale smoothly told, complete with touches of gothic horror and realistic details according to the conventions of the genre. Further editing to avoid repetition, overstatements and excessive ornamentation, would definitely place it among publishable young adult stories.  EB.

  • First Prize: $1 000.00 plus entry into one of our short courses
  • Second Prize: $ 500.00
  • People's Choice Award $ 250.00
Top five entries will be published on our college site and the top five winners will receive editorial comments on their submitted works.

Competition-Archives3 View our Archived Competition Entries Here


An award-winning feature writer, Sarah Lang began her career on staff at North & South magazine, and for the last five years has freelanced for around 20 publications including North & South, NZ House & Garden, Reader’s Digest, and Herald on Sunday magazine View.

Awards and nominations include: 2007 Qantas Media Awards: Human Relations winner, 2008 Qantas Media Awards: Science and Technology winner, 2008 Qantas Media Awards: Junior Magazine Feature Writer finalist, The Magazine Awards 2010: Journalist of the Year (Women’s Interest) finalist, The Magazine Awards 2011: Journalist of the Year (Home, Food & Garden) finalist, and The Magazine Awards 2011: Journalist of the Year (Lifestyle) finalist.

Originally from Wanganui, Sarah is a booklover with a BA in English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington and a Bachelor of Communications (journalism major) from AUT University. After 10 years in Auckland, she now lives in Wellington.

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 was a non-fiction mentor for the Society of Authors. Paul lives in Auckland City.

Owen Bullock has published 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 numerous awards, including 2nd Prize in the New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competition and Co-Winner of the Haiku International Association Competition, both 2009.

In 2012, Owen published his second collection of haiku, breakfast with epiphanies (Oceanbooks, NZ). He also edited Poetry NZ #45, and Building a time machine (New Zealand Poetry Society anthology), and was one of the editors of Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Vol. IV. His fiction was recently featured in Takahe #77. Owen is on the International Editorial Board for Axon: Creative Explorations (University of Canberra).

Philippa Werry is the author of five published children’s novels and has written numerous children’s stories, plays, poems and articles for educational publishers. Her novel Enemy at the gate was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards in 2009.  The great chocolate cake bake off and A girl called Harry were both named as Storylines notable books. Her latest title is a children's non-fiction book titled  Anzac Day: the New Zealand story: what it is and why it matters (New Holland, 2013.)

Philippa also writes travel articles and non-fiction for adults. She has been shortlisted three times for the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Creative Science Writing Prize, and won second prize in the 2011 Cultural Icons and Vernacular Lounge Non-Fiction Writing Competition.

In 2010, she was awarded the NZSA Mid-Careers Writers Award.

Ginny Swart has sold over 500 short stories to women's magazines all over the world. On any day of every month she has at least 30 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) and a book of short stories (Lulu.com) and a book for teenagers: Nosipho and the King of Bones (MacMillan Boleswa SA). She has an eBook available on Kindle called Something to Read, a collection of short stories. In 2003 Ginny won the esteemed UK The Real Writers' Prize from over 4000 entrants.

Eva Brown published and edited the Russell Review magazine for two decades and in 1977 started the Russell Writers’ Workshop that is still going and publishing its yearly the “Chalk and Cheese” collection of poetry and fiction. In 2002 she moved to Nelson where she worked as assessor and editor for Maitai River Press, publisher of short stories and poetry.

Her poems and stories have been published in the US and New Zealand. Her poems appear regularly in Kiwiboomers.com and in Magyar Szó. She is the author of several books, including On the Road to Manapouri (Spectrum) and a poetry anthology Taxi!  Taxi!( Maitai River Press).

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 let us know in your email. We charge $45.00 per critique.


  • The competition is open to anyone residing in New Zealand and Australia over the age of 16.
  • The competition closes on 30 September 2013, and winners will be announced and displayed on our web site by 31 October 2013.
  • Prize-winners will be notified via email as well as on our website; 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.


Online Coursessml Nichola Meyer at 09 550 4635 or email her.
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