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

First Place

Lara Markstein (Waikawa): 'Good Men'
This story was published on ReadingRoom (16 October 2021)

"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.

Second Place

Mikee Sto Domingo (Wellington): 'The Duwende'
This story was published on ReadingRoom (6 November 2021)

"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.

Third Place

Jordan Hamel (Wellington): 'Unexpected item in the bagging area'
This story was published on ReadingRoom (13 November 2021)

"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.

Highly Commended

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

First Place

Shima Jack (Logan Park High School): 'Muscle Memory'
This story was published on ReadingRoom (23 October 2021)

"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).

Second Place

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.

Third Place

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.

Highly Commended

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'