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US Short Story award win for Northland author

Whangarei writer Michael Botur has won first prize in Short Story Land’s largest contest, given out twice-yearly to entrants from around the world.

Botur’s winning story, ‘Silent Retreat,’ beat entries from Tennessee, Missouri, Utah and Florida to take first prize on October 4, winning a prize of $USD500 in the Short Story Land 6-Month Competition.

‘Silent Retreat’ tells the story of a male and female backpacker couple from the UK who become locked inside their heads battling demons as they undertake a vipassana silent retreat in the mountains of northern India.

Botur has published five collections of short stories, won the 2019 Northland Short Story Award and this year competed in the inaugural Tall Tales Festival in Russell, which challenged competitors to perform an exaggerated story.

Botur said this is fitting as his most recent published collection, ‘True?’ resulted in many book critics conjecturing about how true the stories are and what it means when the human mind distorts memories and experiences.

“The story Silent Retreat, as with most of my stories, takes real-life inspiration from emotions that people I know are going through, then blends that with fictive and narrative devices,’ Botur said. “I also make a lot of composite characters by combining attributes from many people I know, so that’s what you’ll find in this story.”

“When I was starting out in fiction writing, I used to agonise a lot over whether people would associate my worldview with the worldview of my characters. After a while, I realised it’s pointless worrying about that. A proportion of the public will think my stories are true; another proportion will assume the stuff in my stories is too far-fetched to be true. Sensible readers understand that telling a convincing lie is behind all successful storytelling. Winning this award-thing is pretty sweet.”

Botur delivers creative writing classes in Tai Tokerau and runs the website, which warmly welcomes submissions of creative writing from Northlanders.

Silent Retreat will be published as part of Hell of a Thing, Botur’s sixth short story collection, in 2020.

The story is free to read on US and NZ platforms - and

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