Short story competition
First offered in 2019, the Sargeson Prize is New Zealand's richest short story prize, sponsored by the University of Waikato. Named for celebrated New Zealand writer Frank Sargeson, the Prize was conceived by writer Catherine Chidgey, who also lectures in Writing Studies at the University.
There is no entry fee, and entries are limited to one per writer, per division.
Entries for the 2022 Sargeson Prize have closed. Entries for the 2023 competition open on 1 April 2023.
Image of Frank Sargeson by Robin Morrison, 1978. Used with permission of copyright holder.
The Open Division is open to New Zealand citizens or permanent residents aged 16 and over who are writing in English. Published and unpublished writers are welcome to enter. Entries must be single stories of no more than 5000 words. They must be original, unpublished pieces of work.
- First Prize: $10000
- Second Prize: $1000
- Third Prize: $500
The winning stories will be published by Newsroom in its literary section ReadingRoom.
Secondary Schools Division
The Secondary Schools Division is open to students enrolled at a New Zealand secondary school, or home-schooled students, who are aged between 16 and 18 years on the date that competition entries close. Entries must be single stories of no more than 3000 words. They must be original, unpublished pieces of work.
- First Prize: $500
- Second Prize: $200
- Third Prize: $100
The winning story will be published by Newsroom in its literary section ReadingRoom.
The winner of the Secondary Schools Division will also be offered a one-week summer residency at the University of Waikato, to be taken up in January or February of the following year. The residency will include accommodation and meals at one of the University of Waikato Halls of Residence, a writing space in the School of Arts, and mentoring from postgraduate students and/or academic staff in the Writing Studies programme. If the winner is under 18 years of age, parental consent will be required.
Read the winning stories
Each year we invite a leading New Zealand writer to judge the Sargeson Prize. In 2022 our Chief Judge was Fiona Kidman.
Fiona Kidman DNZM OBE has written novels, short stories, poetry and plays. Her fiction has an international audience and she has received several awards for her writing. Her most recent novel, This Mortal Boy (Penguin Random House 2018), won the Jann Medlicott Acorn Foundation Prize for Fiction, as well as the Ngaio Marsh Award for Crime Fiction, the NZ Booklovers Award for Adult Fiction and the NZ Heritage Prize for Fiction. In 2021, she was the Inaugural Irish Studies Fellow at Otago University. Her most recent book is So far, for now (2022), a collection of autobiographical essays. Her international recognition includes the French Legion of Honour. She lives in Wellington.
Judging is conducted "blind" – ie without the writer's name attached to their submission. Entries are subject to a pre-judging screening process by a panel overseen and moderated by the Chief Judge.
Photo credit: Robert Cross
Open to view previous judges
Chief Judge in 2021 was the internationally renowned short story writer, novelist and children's writer Patricia Grace (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa, Te Āti Awa). In 1975 Patricia published the first collection of short stories by a Māori woman writer. Her many honours since then include the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize for fiction, the Deutz Medal for Fiction, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (considered the most prestigious literary prize after the Nobel).
(Photo credit: Grant Maiden)
Chief Judge in 2020 was the renowned short story writer and novelist Owen Marshall. In 2000 he became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to literature and in 2012 became a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM). In 2013 he was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement.
Chief Judge in 2019 was international award-winning author Catherine Chidgey. Catherine's numerous achievements include being awarded the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for her fourth novel, The Wish Child.
How to enter
Entries must be typed and 1.5-spaced in a standard legible font (eg Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Palatino Linotype). The story title and page number must appear on each page of the manuscript (as a header or footer). Writers will be asked to provide a word count on the entry form.
The author's name must not appear anywhere on the manuscript, including headers and footers, any title page and the file name. Entries may be submitted online or by post. Online is the preferred entry method.
Entries that do not follow the formatting requirements may be disqualified.
Entrants are responsible for ensuring that their entry, whether by post or online, reaches us by the deadline.
Entries for the 2022 competition have now closed.
There is no entry fee. Only one entry per writer is permitted. A writer may submit in either the Open or Secondary Schools Divisions, but not both. Copyright remains with the author.
To remain eligible, entries must not be submitted to other publications, prizes or anthologies for the duration of the Sargeson Prize entry and judging period. Winners and place-getters will be contacted by 15 September 2023.
Previously published, prize-winning, or broadcast stories will not be accepted. Appearance online on a blog or in an anthology constitutes prior publication.