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Unleash your literary genius at NZ’s biggest short story competition

Entries are open for the 2023 Sunday Star-Times short story awards

The prestigious 2023 Sunday Star-Times short story competition launches today. The open category winner will receive $8,500, a share of a total prize pool of $13,000, making it one of the richest writing competitions in the country.

Editor Tracy Watkins said the awards provide the ideal opportunity for budding authors to write their future among the stars. Past winners include Kirsten McDougall, Eleanor Catton and Carl Nixon. They’re among New Zealand’s most established writing prizes, thanks to generous sponsorship by the Milford Foundation and Penguin Random House.

“With the biggest prize pool ever, and our fantastic judges now locked in, we’re expecting to see an impressive number of entries for this year’s competition,” said Watkins.

Claire Murdoch, Head of Publishing at Penguin Random House said,

“The storied legacy of these awards just continues to grow, along with the calibre of writing they attract from Aotearoa’s ever more diverse writing talent and the careers they have catalysed. We are wildly proud to be associated with these awards and with the SST after almost 40 continuous years, and just cannot wait to read this year’s brilliant stories.”

Entry categories include:

Open award (up to 3000 words) - $8,500 prize

Emerging Māori writer (up to 3000 words) - $1,500 prize

Emerging Pasifika writer (up to 3000 words) - $1,500 prize

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Milford Foundation secondary schools writer (up to 2000 words) - $1,500 prize

Entries in the emerging Māori and emerging Pasifika writers categories are also eligible to win the Open category award, which means their potential prize could be $10,000.

The 2023 awards will be judged by experienced fiction editor Harriet Allan (Open award), author and doctor Emma Espiner (Emerging Māori writer), author and editor Lana Lopesi (Emerging Pasifika writer) and short story writer and past winner Bernard Steeds (Milford Foundation secondary schools category).

Entries are judged anonymously, so the judges do not know who has written the pieces. The winners will be announced in December and the winning stories will be published in the Sunday Star-Times and on Stuff.

Harriet Allan worked at Penguin Random House and its earlier iterations for nearly 35 years. She worked on books of all genres for both adults and children before becoming a fiction publisher, in which role she published numerous award-winning novels and literary nonfiction titles, working with some of New Zealand’s preeminent writers, including Fiona Kidman, Owen Marshall, Witi Ihimaera and Charlotte Grimshaw. She is currently working as a freelance editor.

Emma Espiner (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) is an award-winning writer, broadcaster and podcaster who wrote the bestselling memoir There’s a Cure for This (2023). Now a trained doctor, she is dedicated to improving the experience of Māori people in New Zealand’s healthcare system.

Dr Lana Lopesi (MNZM) is a writer and critic who has been widely published across Australia and New Zealand, including for her books False Divides (2018) and Bloody Woman (2021). Her new book Pacific Arts Aotearoa comes out this month.

Bernard Steeds knows the Sunday Star-Times short story competition well, having won the Open category in 2022, and also 24 years prior in 1998. He has published one collection of short stories, and his stories have also appeared in several anthologies including The Penguin New Zealand Anthology: Fifty Stories for Fifty Years in Aotearoa which is out this month.

This year for the first time the competition is introducing a theme for its secondary school writers. The Milford Foundation secondary schools category is inviting young people to submit a short story that incorporates themes of the environment, the effect of climate change on the environment and how the world may look for their generation in the future. This category is open to any author attending a secondary school at the time of entering.

Penguin Random House is a long-time sponsor of the awards and in addition to prize money has provided expert guidance and support. The Milford Foundation came on board in 2021, enabling the competition to expand into two new categories, which encouraged newer writers to have a go.

Entries are open until 11.45 pm on Sunday 12th November 2023. Award criteria and entry form can be found here.

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