Sunday Star-Times Short Story Award Winners
New Zealand’s best short story was announced tonight at the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards ceremony held at the Auckland City Gallery Art Lounge at a lavish literary affair.
Supreme Award for the open division went to Waimate writer Sue Francis for “The Concentrators”, who struck gold with her third entry into the competition.
Head judge of the Awards’ open division Elizabeth Smither says “The Concentrators” has all the right ingredients for a winning short story – engaging characters, similies and subversive humour.
“The Concentrators” is a small town New Zealand story about an unlikely friendship between two young women who meet every Friday night over a game of tennis.
“Sue Francis’story is fun, interesting and yet it still has something to say,” says Smither.
Francis has won $5000 in cash, publication of her story in the Sunday Star-Times as well as $500 worth of books from Random House.
This year the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards invited the public to vote for their favourite short story. Palmerston North’s Thom Conroy was the People’s Choice award winner with several hundred people placing their votes online. Conroy was also runner-up in the open division.
Conroy’s story “The Open Well” is a story about a woman’s journey to recovery after a traumatic incident.
Conroy’s story “The Open Well” has won the published author $750 cash, publication of his story in the Sunday Star-Times and $250 worth of books from Random House.
Third prize in the open division went to Emma Gallagher from Wellington.
The Sunday Star-Times received a record number of short story entries this year with more than 1400 New Zealand writers submitting pieces into the open division, and nearly 300 in the secondary school division.
Open division head judge Elizabeth Smither said the selection process was difficult due to the high calibre of entries. “All of the stories on the shortlist are there simply because of the quality, and are all, in their own way, entertaining.”
Smither was joined by Fleur Beale, head judge of the secondary school division, plus eight judges who are all professional writers or book editors.
Now in their 25th year the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards, in association with Random House, encourage and recognise the talents of published and unpublished New Zealand writers
The awards are nationally recognised for championing and showcasing New Zealand short fiction. Some of this country's leading writers, including Norman Bilbrough, Judith White, Barbara Anderson, Linda Olsson and Sarah Quigley, have achieved success in the competition.
First prize in the Secondary School division went to Rangitoto College’s Anna Krepinsky for her story “Gardening Lessons”. Krepinsky went home with $1000 cash, $500 worth of books from Random House for her school and publication of her story in the Sunday Star-Times.
The winning stories will be published in the Sunday Star-Times on Sunday 1 November.
Open Division Winners
First Prize Winner: Sue Francis (Waimate)
Second Prize Winner: Thom Conroy (Palmerston North)
The Open Well
Third Prize Winner: Emma Gallagher (Wellington)
The Building of Windows
Secondary School Division
First Prize Winner: Anna Krepinsky (Rangitoto College, Year 12)
Second Prize Winner: Lucy Diver (St Cuthberts College, Year 11)
Third Prize Winner: Duncan McKechnie (Rutherford College, Year 11)
Excerpt from the winning story: The Concentrators
That was a Friday and on Friday nights Jane and I played tennis until it was nearly dark, sipping gin and tonics in between games. She was a blonde giantess with a slight lisp doing her second year of teaching while engaged on a focused hunt for land-owning bachelors.
I was down 7-3 when I decided to tell her about the American. She struggled to concentrate on more than one thing at a time, and if you put males in the mix, she was all over the place with questions instead of dealing with what was right in front of her.
'How old is he?'
'He looks ten years older than us. Different though.'
'I don't like different.'
'How'd you know?'
“Because," Jane said, doffing her backhand, 'I like planning, I like knowing what's going to happen. I don't like different.'
'Oh. But you like me, don't you Jane?'
'I know you. You just dreth funny. You'll grow out of it.'
I gave her the fingers, and won the next couple of points whacking the ball down the tramlines into the corners. We had another gin and changed ends.
'A Porth?' she said. ''I haven't seen it. You're having me on.'
I was up 8-7 when I saw the slim figure of the American sitting in the park - not close enough to hear us talking, but close enough for him to watch.
“Is he good looking?” Jane said. 'What sort of books does he read? He's probably done it lots of times.' Jane liked sex, the more the better. Her lisp and blonde hair cancelled out any fears men may have had about her height, her Amazonian poise.
I was about to serve for the match, but I put down the balls and went to the net.
'Jane?' I called. She skipped up to centre of the court, flouncing her skirt like a can-can dancer.
'What?' she squealed. 'Shelley, I'm feeling a bit drunk.'
'That's okay,' I said. 'The American. He's just over there, see, in the park?'
What the judges had to say about the winning stories:
Open Division: The Concentrators. “At first I thought I might have been drawn to the winning story since I was a librarian (without wings). But what really captured me was the Betjeman-like bounce of lisping tennis-playing Jane. And when Shelley rejects mysterious Stanley it is because ‘there was an aura about him that reminded me of shiny paper sewing patterns slipping through my fingers’. I stopped for a moment and thought of those patterns.” Elizabeth Smither, Head Judge of the Open Division.
People’s Choice Award: The Open Well. “A high-accomplished story that works on many levels. The plot is quite tightly-woven but the style is sharp and clear. The memory of the assault is the core but it is not the only thing – and this is where the strength of the writing lies – there is room for a future, for regaining the outside world.” Elizabeth Smither, Head Judge of the Open Division.
Secondary Division: Gardening Lessons. “Gardening Lessons is a story about love, loss and the fragility of life. It draws a touching (in the best sense) portrait of the relationship between two orphaned sisters Katie and Bianca as they cope with the death of their mother. Nothing is stated overtly. The characterisation is strong and the language is rich but controlled.” Fleur Beale, Head Judge of the Secondary School Division.