2017 Annual Short Story Award


For Emerging Writers in New Zealand


Theme for the NZ Writers College 2017 Short Story Competition

The annual NZ Writers College Short Story Competition is held to acknowledge excellence in creative writing in the Short Story form.


The competition is open to any writer residing in New Zealand who is unpublished, or has been published fewer than four times.


The Winners


We are proud to announce our winners in the 2017 NZ Writers College Short Story Competition.
The winning stories were uniquely Kiwi-centric, original, and beautifully written. Congratulations on an outstanding effort.



FIRST PLACE: ‘White Boy Wonder' - by Victoria Louise Lawrence

RUNNER-UP: ‘The Hole’ - by Regan Drew Barsdell

THIRD PLACE: 'Alan Matsumoto' - by Paul M. Clark


Fourth place is awarded to ‘Glow Worms’ by Emma Bassett


Fifth place is awarded to ‘The Attendant’ by Matthew Fulton

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



Highest Honours


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

‘Scapulae’ – by Aaron Douglas Horrell
‘Annie's Radio’ – by Michael Aaron Muir
‘Together is Enough’ – by Kirsty Adele Wadworth
‘Avalanche’ – by Joe Parker
‘Exposure’ – by Donna Broadhurst
‘1982’ – by Margaret Ross
‘Sunday in the Suburbs’ – by Christine Anne Gore
‘The One That Got Away’ – by Emma Harris
‘Truth’ – by Jessica Harvey
‘Ready Setty Go’ – by Trevor Williams
‘The Bet’ – by John W Prentice
‘Camp’ – by Molly Wilson









These well-written stories had great plotlines, solid characters, and were thoroughly enjoyable to read. Well done to these very good writers.

‘Eyes and Life and Something-in-Between’ – by Belinda Hsu
‘Heroes Always Win’ – by Matthew Whitta
‘How We Use Glass’ – by Danny Bultitude
'Performance Art' - by Abby Shieh
‘Toilet Troubles’ – by Alistair James Gordon
‘Lessons Learned’ – by Kevin David Allan Bélanger-Taylor
‘Push On’ – by Matthew Nolan
‘Selling Yourself’ – by Andrea Ewing
‘Unintentional Love’ - Zeandri Rautenbach
‘A Little Death’ – by Liberty van Voorthuysen
‘The Green Dress’ – by Janelle Wilkey
‘NO Baby’ – by Monique Reymer






Honourable Mention

We enjoyed these well-written tales.


‘Bottomless Coffee’ – by Bianca de Wit
‘They're Festoons, Not Fairy Lights’ – by Natasha Lay
‘Dog’ – by Scott Butler
‘The Lake’ – by Evelyn Blackwell
‘Double Jeopardy’ – by Chez Cox
‘Negative Space’ – by Tian Gibson
‘Free Ride’ – by Taylor Nixon
'My Good Idea' – by Lee Smith-Gibbons
‘The Bird Bath’ – by Sarah Bailey Brown
‘Your Bracelet’ – by Olivia Spooner
'You Are What You Eat' – by Gemma-Marie Brylee Te-Roti Goodwin
‘Stop and Smell the Roses’ – by Monique Wiles

      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.

‘Because I Lost You’ by Kathryn Hardwick
‘Here Be Dragons’ – by R. L. Jeffs
‘Selfie’ - by Gillian Moon
‘Reverie’ - by Hilary McKay
‘The Knife in the Dark’ - by Jeanna Thomson
‘Eaten by Oscar’ - by Richard Christopher Jack Brown
‘Whipped Cream’ - by Kerin Casey
‘Drive All Night’ - by Jonathan Arnold
‘New Birth’ - by Carole Muir Pring
‘Attitude Changes Everything’ - by Isabella Ramdhanie
‘Chocolate and Liquorice Ice Cream’ - by Moragh Todd
‘It Was Still Worth the Effort’ – by John MacTaggart
'A is for Angel' – by Alex Bennett
‘I Was Nineteen’ - by Helena Copsey
‘One Child One Chance’ - by Michael William Tolhurst
‘Southern Stand’ - by Suzanne Ashmore
‘Blind Success’ - by Emily Louise Oakes
'A Day at the Shed' - by Chelsea Karl
'No Retreat' - by Leanne Pearson
‘A Short Fall’ - by Greg Keenan
‘Pecksniffian’ – by Kathy Servian
‘The Art of Being Human’ – by Hayleigh Clarkson
‘An Aspect of Faith’ – by Piper Mejia
‘Breaking With Only the Best of Intentions’ – by Hannah Mae Wetzel
‘To Be’ – by Nicholas James Fairclough
‘Lay You Down’ – by Chloe Cook

Keep up the great writing! We look forward to hearing from you again for our 2018 NZ Writers College Short Story Competition.

The judges’ ratings and comments for the top three stories

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


First Place


'White Boy Wonder'

by Victoria Louise Lawrence

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 23/25
Originality 20/25
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 21/25
Characterization 23/25
Imagery and use of language 24/25
Overall gut response to story 24/25

TOTAL 133/150


Judges’ comments
  • Two cultures meeting with the death of a child: the interplay between Jake, the ignorant but well-meaning white  boss, and Semisi the Samoan employee gave this story an extra emotional layer. Excellent imagery and a great understated ending. Ginny
  • Exceptional and memorable story with beautifully evoked places and characters. Terribly, terribly sad and yet not bleak,  'just how it is'. Extremely insightful too – gives the reader so much and also so well captures that sense of great awkwardness people feel around death, about what to say and what to do, and then in contrast to that awkwardness there is the clarity of a traditional ceremony. It's heartening (in this age in which culture and religions can be used so destructively)  to show how grounding, how strong and helpful traditions actually can be (when they are not causing conflicts). Alex
  • How loss and grief can be both isolating and draw souls together are skillfully portrayed in this heart-wrenching story. Andrew
  • This is a powerful story, told with simplicity and elegance. It's full of careful choices of words, and well-conceptualised moments and phrases. It exudes honesty and pain and truth. You've done a remarkable job. Karen
  • A wonderfully executed insight into two different cultures, from the perspective of someone who has no idea how clueless he is, until confronted with the death of a child. Having been in this situation myself, organising a funeral, but having no idea exactly what was appropriate, I admire the way you have handled this with accuracy and aplomb, but most importantly, using your characters as a vehicle to tell their stories. There is a touch of genius in the way you have achieved this, and while it does not end with a classic twist, it is the sheer banality of the ending that makes it that much more compelling. Subtle and really well done. Very enjoyable to read. Sonny

Runner Up



'The Hole'

by Regan Drew Barsdell

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 23/25
Originality 22/25
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 19/25
Characterization 23/25
Imagery and use of language 22/25
Overall gut response to story 23/25

TOTAL 132/150


Judges’ comments
  • Beautiful imagery and use of language that hits home. Enjoyed the local touches that make this unmistakably  New Zealand writing. Visceral, tragic story. Ginny
  • Extremely topical in the light of recent shootings in the States, but interesting to see this problem of guns and violence transplanted to New Zealand. There is a question as to whether the highly publicised mass shootings elsewhere might be inspiration to distressed, misunderstood, alienated, sidelined or disturbed youths around the world. The symbolism of burying the gun is powerful. The hole and its surrounds, trees and birds (all that is living) are skilfully created and described. Alex
  • 'The Hole' is an exceptional short story: genuinely surprising and poignant, the reader can feel the bottomless hurt of the narrator and empathise with his desperate search for some kind of explanation or deeper truth following an unspeakably traumatic act. Andrew
  • I couldn't always follow this story, and I wasn't always sure who I was meant to be rooting for. I know that that ambiguity is what you're probably aiming for, but you needed to hook me in more strongly. What your strength is, is that your way with words is poetic, your lines have a beauty and a grace to them that's wonderful to see. Karen
  • Very powerful and thoroughly engaging from the first paragraph. There's a sense of something coming. Not a foreshadowing as such, but an almost inevitable 'beat' to the language, that pulls me into a journey I'm not certain I want. It makes me uncomfortable and that discomfort grows with each word, inexorably and compellingly. Truly good short stories should have this kind of impact, to provoke thoughts and twist emotions, to leave the reader a little changed after having read your story. Well done. Sonny

Third Place



'Alan Matsumoto'

by Paul M. Clark

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 22/25
Originality 22/25
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 19/25
Characterization 19/25
Imagery and use of language 19/25
Overall gut response to story 20/25

TOTAL 121/150


Judges’ comments
  • Has one of  the best opening paragraphs I’ve ever read! This had me thinking “weird... weirder...really weird...” for a long time until I realized Alan was a robot. It’s topical and very funny and had me laughing out loud. Ginny
  • Quite hilarious. Lovely title / name of the sex-bot. Great to see speculative fiction in the competition. Cleverly executed so that the reader is forced to wonder what on earth is going on and of course has to keep turning the pages. There is also, in addition to the wit, a layer of sadness to the story as it is a sneak preview of how grief and loss of a loved one might be dealt with in the robotic future. Alex
  • The effects of loneliness and the desire to be desired are deftly portrayed with sharp humour in this story. It's hard not to feel compassion for both the central character and her robot. Andrew
  • What a fun, original story. It has humour, it has pathos, and it works really well. If anything, I found the ending a little underwhelming, I was expecting more, after the great way you hooked us in and held our interest. Karen
  • The use of sexbots is a standard trope in SF trope, so while the concept is not original, your stylistic approach is refreshing. Through Gabby you have created an engaging and enjoyable tale. It would take a bit of work, I know, but if you could maintain the illusion that Alan is human until the last paragraph or so, it would have much greater impact. The cult classic movie ‘Bladerunner’ (based on Phillip K Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) for example, the question of whether Deckard was an android was bandied back and forth for decades, and contributed hugely to the ‘cult’ status of the story.
    One more thing to consider: the aim of any storyteller is to immerse the reader in the story so completely, that they are not conscious they are 'reading', but for a brief moment in time, are living in the world you create. Unnecessary scene breaks (denoted by an asterisk) or incorrectly punctuated dialogue (in the first line) ‘throws’ the reader from the story, giving it a disjointed effect: the reader is expecting a new scene but instead the scene continues. Just pay a wee bit more attention to the mechanics of writing, and don't make the mistake of thinking that an editor will 'fix it for you'. In today's competitive market, mistakes like these can lead to rejection. Sonny


Course details here


  • First Prize: $1 000.00 and publication in an anthology of winning stories
  • Second Prize: $ 500.00 and publication in an anthology of winning stories
  • Third Prize: $ 250.00
The top three winners will receive editorial comments on their submitted works.


Only the best of intentions...

Now closed for entries



  • We aim to support beginner writers. We only accept stories from writers who have never been published, or who have been published fewer than four times in any genre. This includes fiction and non-fiction, in any publication (for payment or otherwise). Journalists, copywriters or web writers must please not apply. People who made a living from writing at any point in their life (e.g. decades earlier) are also not eligible for entry. We make an exception for unpaid articles for community or work newsletters, or blogs, where the circulation is under 1000.
  • The competition is open to anyone living in New Zealand over the age of 16.
  • Entrants must submit a story of maximum word count: 2000 words. Any entries exceeding the word count by 50 words will not be considered.
  • Writers can interpret and represent the theme in any way they choose. Stories that appear to be entirely unrelated to the theme will not be considered. Writers must produce their own title.
  • Only one story per entrant is allowed.
  • We only accept entries written in English.
  • The competition closes at midnight on 30 September 2017. The shortlist will be published by 25 October, and the winners announced and displayed on our website on Friday 10 November.
  • 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.
  • Stories must not have been previously published. Entrants must own full copyright to the story submitted.
  • 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.
  • All submissions and enquiries can be sent to Nichola Meyer:
  • If your entry has not been acknowledged within three working days, please contact us as your email 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.

  • Only e-mail submissions are acceptable, with stories attached as Word Documents. Mark your entry clearly with the subject line: NZWC Annual Short Story Competition.
  • Your email must state your full name, as well as the title of your story, total word count and confirm your email address.
  • Do not include your name on any page of your story. All entries will be judged blind.
  • Use a font such as Arial or Times New Roman, size 12 or more. Use 1.5 or double spacing between lines. We prefer a clear line between paragraphs rather than indenting.
  • Make sure your story has been edited and polished according to tips and guidelines provided on our college site under “Writing Resources”, or on our webzine. Read these:

Guidelines to make your entry amazing! Read our archived winnning stories here



The top five entries will be assessed by our panel of award-winning writers.
Ginny Swart Short Story Tutor lb Ginny Swart has sold over 600 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 ( 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.

Sonny Whitelaw has enjoyed a successful career as a writer for more than thirty years.  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. Read more here.
Alex Smith is the author of five novels, Algeria's Way, Drinking from the Dragon's Well,  Four Drunk Beauties and Devilskein & Dearlove all published by Random House (Umuzi) and Agency Blue published by Tafelberg. Devilskein & Dearlove is nominated for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal in the UK. Read more about Alex here.

Karen Jeynes   Karen Jeynes is the head writer for Both Worlds Productions, overseeing ZANews: Puppet Nation (winner of 22 SAFTAs, two WGSA awards for Best TV Comedy, and two time International Emmy Nominee for Best TV Comedy), as well as Point of Order (SAFTA winner for Best Game Show in 2017), Comedy Central News, and Parlement Parlement, and other projects in development.

Karen also freelances for online and print media, and lectures and consults in Digital Culture and playwrighting.

Read more about Karen here.
Andrew Salomon’s Young Adult Novel The Chrysalis was published by Oxford University Press and his latest novel, the fantasy thriller Tokoloshe Song will be published by Random House Umuzi in 2014. Read more about Andrew here.

fb2 Join us on Twitter

Click to Pay with PayPal


Pay using Mastercard Pay using VISA  

About Us

NZ Writers College is a leading online writing school in New Zealand.

We offer specialised, online writing courses tutored by award-winning writers. Get the writing tools you need, expert insider advice and hours and hours of writing practice. Work one-to-one with a professional writer and realise your writing dreams.



NZ Writers College offers online writing classes all over New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands. We have students from Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Whangarei, Rotorua, Hastings, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Hawkes Bay, Palmerston North, as well as Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, Australia.

Contact Us

Nichola Meyer or Koos Turenhout

Phone:      +64 9 550 4635

9-5 Monday to Friday

Writing Services

white line grad
Student Log-in