Results - 2022 Sargeson Prize
In 2022, we received 960 entries in the Open Division and 165 in the Secondary Schools Division; a total of 1125 stories.
Open Division Winners
"My father opens the door. I hesitate. He’s not who usually answers when I knock. He doesn’t step back to let me in and takes forever to say my name. Then he repeats it several times, me nodding along, the way you do with a child struggling to pronounce a difficult word."
Leeanne O'Brien has a BSc in Geology and Geophysics. She is a lawyer who has worked as a legislative drafter for the last 20 years. She has been shortlisted twice in the New Zealand Flash Fiction competition (2022 and 2019) and was also the 2019 Auckland regional prizewinner.
She was runner-up in the 2016 takahē Short Story Competition. She has had a small piece published in the 2020 volume of Mayhem. In 1972 she was the Mt Roskill Swim Club Under 8 Girls Champion.
"But in the bathroom a creeping feeling came over her as soon as she looked in the mirror. People put cameras in places like this. She’d read about it. He was exactly the type to put a camera behind the mirror. Don’t ask how she knew – she just knew."
Photo credit: Ebony Lamb
Emily Perkins’ first book was the short story collection Not Her Real Name, published in 1996. She has written five novels, including Novel About My Wife, The Forrests, and the forthcoming Lioness. Her books have won awards in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States.
Her writing for stage and screen includes the original play The Made (2022) and an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, both with Auckland Theatre Company. Together with director Alison Maclean she adapted Eleanor Catton’s novel The Rehearsal into a feature film.
Emily is co-editor of The Fuse Box, a collection of essays on the writing process. She has taught creative writing for a number of years, most recently at the International Institute of Modern Letters, and her broadcasting work includes presenting The Book Show and The Good Word on TVNZ7.
Emily is an Arts Foundation Laureate and in 2017 was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature.
"Now, in the foreground, right at the edge of the frame, I am drawing Brendon Varney. I am drawing him from behind, because I am not good at faces. I am using the faintest of lines, since he is not sure if he wants to be there. Only the back of his head is visible, and one shoulder."
Stephen Coates comes from Christchurch, where ‘Brendon Varney Opens the Door’ is set. Although he has been living in Japan for many years, he still definitely thinks of himself as a New Zealand writer. His stories have appeared in Landfall, takahē and Headland, as well as various overseas journals (mainly the US). While he is full of admiration for novelists who can think up several hundred pages of plot, his brain seems to be hard-wired for short stories. He tells himself that this is not because he has a short attention span – in fact, a 1,500-word story can take him months or even years to finish (his record is over 25 years between first draft and publication). The main reason he is drawn to short stories is that he loves the discipline required, where every word matters. He is also a firm believer in Terry Pratchett’s maxim that ‘Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.’
Kate Duignan (Wellington): 'Sugar'
Kirsty Gunn (United Kingdom): 'Transgression'
Dr Himali McInnes (Auckland): 'Stripes'
Rob Fisherman (Palmerston North): 'The Jazz Packers'
Liz Breslin (Dunedin): 'Baba Jaga: Redux'
Dara Flaws (Wellington): 'The Last Night'
Secondary Schools Division Winners
"He still spouted the same kind of rubbish he used to. He always came up with weird words for normal things – the seagulls which gathered in front of us were ‘sea chickens’, the bench a ‘people-shelf’, a downy feather by his feet which he kicked at was a ‘bird-leaf’."
Shima Jack is a Year 13 student at Logan Park High School in Dunedin. She is the founder and one of the coordinators of the Dunedin Youth Writers Association, and a co-editor of the group’s monthly writing anthology Minor Gospel. Her writing draws inspiration from music, art, film, theatre, science, and personal experience.
Shima placed third equal in the 2021 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook poetry competition, first in the 2021 Sargeson Prize Secondary Schools Division, second in the 2022 Charles Brasch Essay Competition, and has been included in 2019, 2020 and 2021 Re-Draft editions. She was also selected to participate in the 2022 NZSA Youth Mentorship Programme.
Maggie Yang (Kristin School): 'Breaking up, breaking down'
"I wonder what my mother will think when she wakes up and realises I’m not home. The awful things I said last night sit, like plump little buddhas, chanting at how awful I am to make her worry. But I can’t change for her, not this time, not again."
Maggie Yang is a seventeen-year-old Chinese-New Zealander and attends Kristin School. Since she has learnt to read, she has never stopped, and she fell in love with langauge and writing. Although she has been writing since she was young, the Sargeson Prize competition is one of the first she has submitted her work to.
Maggie finds inspiration in everything she sees and experiences; slowly, small ideas build up until some fit together to form a story. This short story originated from two ideas: the tragedy of people falling out of love, and the oftentimes painful relationship between the art and the artist. When Maggie saw her old pointe shoes, this story was born.
Reema Arsilan (Hauraki Plains College): 'A Half-Truth is a Lie'
"When I swear in Arabic it’s a prayer. When I pray it’s a lie. It feels wrong for me to use this tongue; I’m clumsy and uncertain and it doesn’t feel natural in my mouth the way it should. I’m a liar."
Reema Arsilan is eighteen years old and is a Year 13 at Hauraki Plains College. She has always loved words, and has been an avid reader and writer for most of her life. The endless support of teachers, family and friends has really encouraged her to keep writing and sharing her work, with this year being the first year she has submitted any of it to competitions.
Reema enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction, and hopes to continue developing her style and technique as she writes. She will be attending university in 2023, and intends to keep writing the stories she would want to read.
Ella Sage (Westland High School): 'Face in the Space'
Beth Allwood (Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu): 'Her Garden'
Ana Faville (Palmerston North Girls' High School): 'Mr Sandman'
Ella Quarmby (Ōtūmoetai College): 'Syll-a-bles'
Minna Zhu (Wakatipu School): 'Melody'
Open to view previous winners
Results - 2021 Sargeson Prize
In 2021, we received almost 850 entries in the Open Division, and almost 150 in the Secondary Schools Division; a total of 986 stories.
Open Division Winners
"Saartjie waits for me at the gate, though the sky has turned raw and red. She pulls out a string of porcupine quills she’s tied into a circle as if this can make her lies right. I don’t move when she places the spines over my head and they rattle, hollow boned, as she ties them tight."
Born in South Africa, raised in Aotearoa, with a longer than intended interlude in the United States, Lara Markstein lives in Waikawa, Marlborough. Her work has appeared in a variety of literary journals, including Glimmer Train, Agni Online, and The Michigan Quarterly Review, among others, and has been recognized by the Pushcart awards. She graduated from Harvard University with a BA in English and received her MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College. She is currently completing an epistolary novel, titled Little Wonder.
"The duwende in our house had started acting real baliw. Since forever we’d had it, the tiny fuck with its ugly gnomey face, skittering around in the walls at night, up to some low-key mischief like busting open the windows to let in the mould and damp, and eating our food while we slept."
Mikee Sto Domingo is a Filipino-New Zealander currently living and working in Te-Whanganui-a-tara. She has a BA in English Literature from Victoria University and an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Mikee has been published in Turbine, Salient and A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand.
"When I asked Brayden why he left school before Year 13 to come work here he said he’d been 'called to move' back when COVID was around and the people on Twitter were calling supermarket staff 'heroes'."
Jordan Hamel is a Pōneke-based writer, poet and performer. He was the 2018 NZ Poetry Slam champion and represented NZ at the World Poetry Slam Champs in the USA in 2019. He is the co-editor of Stasis Journal with Sinead Overbye and co-editor of a forthcoming NZ climate change poetry anthology from Auckland University Press. He is a 2021 Michael King Emerging Writer-in-Residence and has recent words in The Spinoff, Landfall, Newsroom, Re:, Poetry NZ Yearbook and elsewhere. His debut poetry collection is forthcoming from Dead Bird Books in 2022; he is very excited.
Caoimhe McKeogh (Wellington): 'Close your Eyes, Girls'
Marama Salsano (Hamilton): 'Inside the Ribcage'
Harley Hern (Puhoi): 'Precipitation'
Phillipa M Roberston (Wellington): 'Honeymoon in a Town called Fog'
Kirsty Gunn (Inverness, Scotland): 'Mam's Tables'
Secondary Schools Division Winners
"Imagine a cicada shedding its armoured shell, and crawling out, pale and weak, to recover. Soft places for me to hurt. No words come, though they sit in metal chambers in my throat."
Shima Jack spent her first ten years in Rotorua before moving to Dunedin. Support from teachers, family and friends has encouraged her to start and keep up her writing over the years. She is the founder and editor of a writing anthology for her high school (Logan Park High School) where students can anonymously submit their writing to be featured in each edition. She enjoys writing stories and poetry – she finds inspiration in big ideas, small ideas, and in music. She hopes to continue developing her writing style and technique. She is currently in Year 12. Shima placed third equal in the 2021 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook Student Poetry Competition for her age group, and has also previously been published in Re-Draft editions Hypnopompia (2019) and Death in a Raincoat (2020).
Jade Wilson (Kaiapoi High School): 'What Makes a Forest'
"Sweetness of mangoes seeps from the wood of the grove. A gentle breeze lifts pages of sketches into the air and watches as they float back down to the floor. Little butterflies. Little charcoal wings of a man’s soul."
Jade Wilson is a Year 11 student at Kaiapoi High School, and is inspired to write by her experiences, feelings, and identity as part of the LGBTQ+ community. She enjoys using nostalgic elements in her stories and is currently exploring creating a sense of hope for the future in her writing. Jade has grown up in Kaiapoi and has a strong connection to the town. In her story she uses willow and pear trees inspired by those that grow along Kaiapoi’s stopbanks and in the town’s old red zone earthquake areas. She has only begun to enter her work into competitions this year, with the Sargeson Prize being one of very few on the list. In addition to writing, Jade is an artist, plays the violin, and takes a keen interest in science and philosophy.
Stella Weston (Rotorua Lakes High School): 'Ghosts'
"Up the stairs I see ghosts hiding, flashes of colour just out of my eyesight, in the corners, behind the doors. One passes me and I catch a glimpse of it racing up the stairs, a younger version of me, exploring the house like the castle I thought it was."
Stella Weston is sixteen and attends Rotorua Lakes High School. She is a fiction writer and has been published in Toitoi five times, has had one story anthologised and one translated into Spanish. She has also read her stories on TVNZ’s on-demand platform HEIHEI. Several of her stories have won or been commended in competitions and she won the Friends of the Turnbull Library’s Smart Alex short-story competition and the international NaNoWriMo novel excerpt competition. She has written book reviews for The Sapling and was part of the Write the World international civics group, writing journalism pieces about global issues, one of which was published on the international sites Thrive Global and Parentology.
Zia Rogers (Feilding High School): 'Blood Orange Season/The Girl Without a Heart'
Ryan Davidson (Wairarapa College): 'Flowers from 1970'
Ana Faville (Palmerston North Girls’ High School): 'Prelude'
Gemma Bennion (Hutt Valley High School): 'Second Sight'
Andrew Crotty (Takapuna Grammar School): 'Ghosts'
Cadence Chung (Wellington High School): 'roll the bones'
Open to view previous winners
In 2020, we received more than 700 entries in the Open Division, and more than 100 in the Secondary Schools Division; a total of 860 stories.
The winning story from the Open Division was published in Landfall 240. The second and third placing stories were published in Mayhem 8, along with the winning story from the Secondary Schools Division. You can now read all of the winning stories below.
Open Division Winners
Angela Pope (Dunedin): 'Lies'
"Sometimes I tell people I was a trapeze artist, how I flew through the air wearing a leotard, sequins sparkling under the lights of the Big Top. How I loved the whoosh of the air flying past my face, the thrill as my hands caught the bar at the very last moment. How my partner, Leonardo, was so shit hot that every girl in the troupe wanted to shag him."
Angela Pope was born in the US, grew up in the UK and moved to New Zealand when she was 26. After abandoning a legal career, she worked as a PA, proofreader and transcriber. She even worked briefly as a tea lady, which she enjoyed because she got to ring a large bell. Finally, she settled on being a preschool teacher.
In between working and raising four children, she sometimes found time to write. She has had short stories and a play broadcast on Radio New Zealand and has had short plays produced in festivals including Short and Sweet in Sydney and Melbourne. In 2018, Angela won the Rhys Brookbanks Prize for Writing. She is currently studying for a graduate diploma in Creative Writing through Massey University whilst also editing her first novel. She lives in Dunedin with her husband, youngest son, three chickens and a small dog.
Sally Franicevich (Auckland): 'The Consolidation Phase'
“How tall is that man?” Zac whispers to Seamus. “Seven foot? Is that what seven foot looks like? Do you think it’s part of the job description, being that tall? Do you think they breed them? Like there’s some sort of a puppy farm somewhere for National Outputs Managers?”
Sally Franicevich is an Auckland writer currently working on a Masters of Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. She has worked as a union organiser, an employment mediator and now works part-time as an adviser in employment relations.
Sally mainly writes short fiction and drafts of novels which, so far, she has abandoned. She won the Fish Publishing Prize in 2013 for her story, 'The Nut Machine', which was published in Fish Anthology 2013: 'The Nut Machine' and Other Stories. In 2016, her story 'Uncle Frank’s Turkeys' was shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize and published in the Bridport Prize Anthology of stories for that year. She’s also had work published in Moondance, Eclecticisms and Less than Three Press.
David Coventry (Wellington): 'Apologies, Please'
"We lay still in the aftermath, quiet as the last several hours slowly remembered themselves behind this wall of mute silence pushing through the room. Dark then, immediate with the hush. The absence of light felt sudden, true, as if all our belongings had vanished in this hastily arranged blackness."
David Coventry is a Wellington-based writer. His debut, The Invisible Mile, described in Landfall as a work that ‘immediately places Coventry among the elite of New Zealand authors’, was translated into five languages and published in over 15 countries. The book won the Hubert Church Award for Best First Book at the 2016 Ockham’s and was also shortlisted for the main prize.
His second novel, Dance Prone, an epic of punk rock and artistic desire, has been described as 'astounding', 'intelligent, intimate and raw', and ‘[one] of the finest in recent New Zealand literature.’
Chris Yee (Wellington): 'Christchurch in Winter'
Majella Cullinane (Dunedin): 'Falling Softly'
Tobias Buck (Havelock North): 'Hecuba'
Edith Poor (Auckland): 'Thursday'
Susanna Elliffe (Paihia): 'White noise machines'
Secondary Schools Division Winners
Amelia Isac (Samuel Marsden Collegiate School): 'Nic'
"The woman continued to say 'Nicki', the name of Dad’s dead father, stroking his hands still held in hers as if they were the years that had passed without knowing him."
Amelia Isac is a Year 13 student at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Wellington where she studies sciences, maths, English and music. She grew up in Palmerston North and Wellington, and has always had a broad interest in the arts, as well as being a keen football player. She is a classically trained pianist who has played solo and chamber music for a number of years. Amelia loves drama and live performance, and has always read widely. She particularly enjoys the poetry of Sappho and Emily Dickinson, and the works of Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf, from whom she draws inspiration in her own writing. Her story is based on the complexities of family history and of understanding culture and experience in different times and places.
Kezia Rogers (Feilding High School): 'Twelve for a Wicked Curse'
"Sometimes he thinks that he wants to fly an aeroplane, seatbelt forcing him into the chair as he takes off and escapes into the atmosphere, dandelion seeds whirling in a storm of iceberg fluff."
Kezia Rogers (she/her and they/them pronouns) studies at Feilding High School, and is inspired to write by her experiences of LGBTQ+ identity, fantasy escapism, and mental health in a small rural town. She taught herself to read when she was three, decided she wanted to be an author when she was six, and now is discovering that dream coming true. Drama is another of Kezia’s passions, and she has performed at Regional Shakespeare Festivals for four years and placed third two years running in the Manawatu Secondary School Theatresports Competition. Her writing style is influenced by Romanticism and Ancient Greek poetry, alternative and emo song lyrics, and her diverse family history. Kezia has a growing list of supportive teachers, mentors and family members who have asked her to dedicate her first book to them. That may be in the future, but she is always exploring her creativity and can’t wait to write ‘The End’ on a page.
Darcy Monteath (Logan Park High School): '3 levels of mandatory obedience & sapien rebellion'
"Five is me and twelve is him. May has filled the gutters with rotting leaves and wild plums and instant dinner packets dumped by careless creatures. We have gumboots on, red is mine and blue is his and the clouds above are purple."
Darcy Monteath is in Year 11 at Logan Park High School in Dunedin. She’s always enjoyed literature and books and loves to write in her spare time (whether that be poetry or short stories). She has grown up in the same city all of her life, so she has a strong connection to Dunedin and its culture. Darcy has only just begun entering her work into competitions and this year she won first place in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook student poetry competition and will be published in the 2021 edition. Darcy often writes about experiences or feelings, and she likes to incorporate special nostalgic objects or places that make the pieces of writing feel personal and individualised. Since a young age, writing has always been a passion of hers and she hopes to continue on her story-telling journey as she moves forward!
Cadence Chung (Wellington High School): 'The Locket'
Leila Barber (Samuel Marsden Collegiate School): 'Copse/Corpse'
Anna Doyle (Marlborough Girls College): 'A Blind Love Story'
Open to view previous winners
In 2019, we received 608 entries in the Open Division, and 120 in the Secondary Schools Division; a total of 728 stories.
Open Division Winners
Sam Keenan (Wellington): Better Graces
"‘Some of us must live in the dark,’ says Miss Honour in morning science. ‘There have to be those who are unfortunate or the word fortunate would not exist.’ She teaches us to hear loneliness in the throats of birds, and how the sound in the valley is a deep hollow you can feel."
Sam Keenan lives in Wellington with her husband and a Noah's Ark of pets. Her work has appeared in Landfall, Cordite, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, Sunday Star-Times, and a number of New Zealand Poetry Society anthologies. She was the winner of the 2014 Story Inc prize for poetry, and she was awarded a New Zealand Society of Authors mentorship in 2016. Her story 'Interim' was placed second in the 2017 Sunday Star-Times short story competition, and her essay 'Bad Girls' came third in the 2018 Landfall essay competition. She has a PhD in English literature from Victoria University of Wellington and an MA with distinction from the International Institute of Modern Letters.
Elizabeth Morton (Auckland): Elephant
"We could all have a sleepover and feel sorry for ourselves. And Elephant would come and live on Fancy Feast, and the rabbit with no ears would grow some back, like a miracle, like Jesus or the saints or the false prophets, but more House and Garden than Leprosy and Wine."
Auckland writer Elizabeth Morton is published in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the USA. She was the feature poet in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017, and is included in Best Small Fictions 2016. Her first poetry collection, Wolf, was published with Mākaro Press in 2017. She twice came second in the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition, and was highly commended in the Kathleen Grattan Award (2016). In 2013 she won the New Voices – Emerging Poets Competition. She completes her MLitt at Glasgow University this coming December. When she thinks nobody is watching, she writes bad rap, and lip-syncs to The Talking Heads.
Hamish Ansley (Hamilton): Vicious Traditions
"But the daddy does not hack the silverside; he shicks the knife up and down a steel, checks it’s sharp on the pad of his thumb and sails the blade clean through the fist of meat. The mummy lops divots of butter off a pound block into a pot of potatoes; she trickles milk from a porcelain jug but she does not bludgeon the spuds."
Hamish Ansley is a sometimes-poet and writer of short fiction from Kirikiriroa, Hamilton, New Zealand. He completed a Masters thesis about masculinity in contemporary fiction at the University of Waikato in 2017.
He was longlisted for the 2019 National Flash Fiction Day prize, and has words in Flash Frontier, Foodcourt, Mayhem, Poetry New Zealand, and Sweet Mammalian.
Robert Hurley (Wellington): 'Heel Turn'
Kathryn van Beek (Port Chalmers): 'The Nor'Wester'
Susanna Gendall (Wellington): 'Hunting'
Zoë Meager (Christchurch): 'Together'
Secondary Schools Division Winners
Elijah Neilson-Edwards (Wellington High School): Stray Dog
"The visitor at the door is a woman. Sebastian turns over and squeezes his eyes shut, forehead and nose pressed into the fraying carpet, hands coming up over his ears. If only there were something to cling to beyond his own body. There are strange things creeping up behind him as he lies and compresses himself down. He is becoming the soot on his father’s old shoes."
Elijah Neilson-Edwards was born in Scotland and now studies at Wellington High School, taking philosophy, biology, painting, sculpture, and art history. From a young age he has taken an interest in language, being increasingly inspired by writing and reading fiction. Creative writing was one of his first genuine passions, and both visual art and music have a great influence on his writing style and subject matter. Following high school he is interested in tertiary study in the areas of art, art history, or literature. Eventually he would like to become a published novelist and write in a range of styles for different publications.
Xiaole Zhan (Westlake Girls High School): Woman, sitting in a garden
"And the old woman wears clothes worn loose and soft and smelling of mother. The old woman wears clothes made of blocks of solid colour. She is plain as the sky, an open palm of green. A breathing plain of grass. She is the shape of the wide dome of the world, the shape of open arms."
A recipient of the 2018 NZSA Youth Mentorship Award (mentored by Ivy Alvarez), Xiaole Zhan is the winner of the National Schools Poetry Award 2019, and the first Featured Student Poet of a fine line magazine. Her novella, The Extinct (Phantom Feather Press, 2019), was published as the recipient of the Editor’s Choice Award in the Young NZ Writers Youth Laureate Prize, and her essay 'In Defence of Confusion: Love, Adolescence, and Shakespeare’s Zoo of Humanity' placed first equal in the SGCNZ/Ida Gaskin Shakespeare Essay Competition with English at Otago. Recently, she had a poem displayed on Ross Island, Antarctica, as part of the International Antarctic Poetry Exhibition. Born in China, Xiaole Zhan grew up in New Zealand where her memories have accumulated and assembled into the growing story she tells herself today.
Ariana Happy (Marist College): Through Glass Eels
"I used to want to go down to the creek with a bucket and scoop up what was left of him, the memory of the great eel, that I was told could live for a hundred years."
Ariana Happy is a senior student at Marist College, Mt Albert. She grew up in Te Atatu, West Auckland, and enjoys writing short fiction in her spare time. Ariana writes mostly on the topics of New Zealand nostalgia and the natural world. Within her school community, Ariana is a member of the Caritas group and is involved in the sustainable school network. Her passion for sustainability has led her to run a weekly environmental group at her school. Next year she will be attending AUT for a diploma in patisserie, but she hopes to continue writing in her spare time.
Amberlea Gordon (Christian Renewal School): The White Dress
"Kahu had insisted on wearing her sacred dress today. Nanny thought little girls should wear vibrant dresses that fitted their slim physiques, the type that had ruffles or patterns or stitches."
Amberlea Gordon was born and raised in Whangarei. Growing up, her dyslexia meant she'd do anything to get out of reading. She learned to recognize pictures, hide in the woods, cry to dodge work, and manage low confidence and teasing from others. Through the grace of God, and her mum's patient home-schooling Amberlea overcame her dyslexia, learning to love literature and read her first novel, Trixie Belden, at twelve. Amberlea's English teachers encouraged her to enter her story in the competition, and she wants to give a shout out to them and other teachers who have more faith in their students than the students do in themselves. Amberlea's mum continued buying her books and often bragged to her friends about her daughter’s writing. Sadly, shortly before Amberlea turned fifteen, her mother died. She plans to be a writer because of her Mum. This one’s for her.
Banisha Barkha Pratap (Papatoetoe High School): 'Pink Bloody Mess'
Victoria Sun (Epsom Girls Grammar School): 'Brian and Elliot'
Caitlin Brennan (Nelson College for Girls): 'Validating my memories'