Sargeson Prize winners

Results of the 2023 Sargeson Prize – from 835 entries in the Open Division and 231 in the Secondary Schools Division; a total of 1066 stories.

Open Division winners

First Place

“I thought about the pig often that day, somehow transposing its arrival with Paul’s disappearance – swapping the two so whichever I thought of reminded me of rutting and heaviness, of loam and blood.”

Anna Woods (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland): 'Pig Hunting' (PDF)

Anna Woods is a Tāmaki Makaurau writer. Her short fiction and poetry has been published in New Zealand journals and anthologies including LandfalltakahēThe Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook and elsewhere.

The manuscript she completed with the support of Alison Wong during her 2019 NZSA mentorship was shortlisted for the 2022 Michael Gifkins Prize for an Unpublished Novel.

Anna Woods was the Caselberg Trust Elizabeth Brooke-Carr Emerging Writer Resident for 2022. In 2023, she completed a Master of Creative Writing at the University of Auckland, for which she received the Crystal Arts Trust Scholarship.

"Pig Hunting" was published on ReadingRoom (4 November 2023)

Second Place

“Privacy, she said, was something that she was now thinking a lot about, because she’d assumed her communication to the student was private, that it was undertaken in a private capacity, but it had nonetheless taken on this public and therefore disciplinary life.”

Jake Arthur (Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington): 'On Beauty' (PDF)

Jake Arthur is a lecturer in English and Literary and Creative Communication at Victoria University of Wellington.

His first book of poetry, A Lack of Good Sons, was published in 2023 (THWUP), and he has also been published in Sport, Turbine, Sweet Mammalian and Food Court. He has a PhD in Renaissance literature and translation from Oxford University.

"On Beauty" was published on ReadingRoom (11 November 2023)

Third Place

“On Friday nights, if there are no parties on, we work our way through a flagon of apple wine and consider our options. The first time, I end up asleep under the ferns in the garden, face down amongst the shredded pine and chunks of bark.”

Claire Gray (Ōtautahi Christchurch): 'Apple Wine' (PDF)

Claire Gray lives in Ōtautahi, Christchurch. She has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Canterbury and in 2022 completed her MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her short stories have been published in ReadingRoom, Headland, Turbine, and Swamp.

She is currently working on her first novel: a crime story based in Ōtautahi.

When she’s not writing, you can find Claire running in the hills or after her teenage daughter.

"Apple Wine" was published on ReadingRoom (18 November 2023)

Highly Commended

  • Rebecca Ball (West Melton): ‘How it is in dreams’
  • Majella Cullinane (Ōtepoti Dunedin): ‘The Long Way Home’
  • Breton Dukes (Ōtepoti Dunedin): ‘The Boys’
  • Emma Martin (Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington): ‘The New Rain’
  • Jackie Lee Morrison (Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington): ‘She Who Hears the Suffering of the World’
  • Naomii Seah (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland): ‘Two hundred and seventeen over three’

Secondary Schools Division winners

First Place

“He adores the thickness of my lips and thighs. I’m starting to forgive him since he can’t possibly understand why watching her is violent. He has never met the young girl I once was, born to a Nigerian father and mother, but who grew up surrounded by foreigners.”

Tunmise Adebowale (St Hilda’s Collegiate School): 'The Catastrophe of Swimming' (PDF)

Tunmise Adebowale is a Year 13 student at St Hilda’s Collegiate School in Dunedin. She is a member of Ōtepoti Writers Lab and Dunedin Youth Writers Association. Tunmise is a Nigerian-born New Zealander and writes from her personal experience surrounding being a third-culture kid who was born in Nigeria, raised in South Africa and moved to New Zealand.

Her writing draws inspiration from different cultures and languages that influenced her growing up. Tunmise is the winner of the 2023 Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook poetry competition for the Year 13 category. Her work has been published in the 2021 Re-Draft edition, NZ Poetry Shelf, Verb Wellington, Minor Gospel, and was featured in the Canadian theatre company Threatrefolk’s 2021 BIPOC Voices and Perspectives Monologue Collection.

Tunmise was invited to read some of her writing pieces at the 2023 National Flash Fiction NZ and the National Poetry Day events. She has also performed her poems at the New Zealand Young Writers Festival.

"The Catastrophe of Swimming" was published on ReadingRoom (25 November 2023)

Second Place

“There is someone here. Someone I do not know. I am afraid. Their heartbeat is unfamiliar, a rumbling hum of redness. It is sticky. Their feet are steady and their steps are even. Their shoes are clean.”

Leo Reid (Hillcrest High School): 'triptych' (PDF)

Leo — or Pigeon depending on who you ask — was born in County Durham, England. When he was twelve, he moved to Aotearoa, and has since immersed himself in arts and crafts. He won the People’s Choice Award in the 2022 National Youth Art Awards and maintains that there is no joy in life if you do not see at least one creature a day.

He is inspired by authors such as Philip Pullman, Leslie Feinberg and Keri Hulme, as well as poets Danez Smith and Franny Choi.

Outside of writing, Leo can be commonly found reading or engaging in other creative endeavours. In typical writing fashion, Leo enjoys em-dashes, avoiding writing, semi-colons, oxford commas, and his bookmarked tab for He lives in the Waikato with his family.

Third Place

“Gum wrapper, vape capsule, grey-stone grit. No boy. None of his footprints left. No space for him in the stone. None for me either, really, but I stand there, waiting for him.”

Jade Wilson (Kaiapoi High School): 'Archaeological' (PDF)

Jade Wilson is a queer and half-Samoan aspiring poet, artist, and writer from North Canterbury. She is currently the Head Girl at Kaiapoi High School, and award winner of the 2023 Waitaha GirlBoss Arts & Culture Award. Jade is a returning writer for the Sargeson Prize, having placed second in the Secondary Schools Division in 2021.

Her writing draws inspiration from scientific ideas, culture, nature and art, with this story being influenced by the erosion of coastal cultural and heritage sites by climate change.

Jade will attend university in 2024 and plans to continue writing stories and poems that reflect her passions for the arts and the environment, in addition to studying towards a future in Science Communication.

Highly Commended

  • Jave Lafuente (Glenfield College): ‘Waiting Room’
  • Anaya Mundamattam (Taieri College): ‘Estranged’
  • Zee Murray (Tauraroa Area School): ‘Tragedy’
  • Sue Park (Glenfield College): ‘Aerie and the Lark’
  • Mal Siobhan (Motueka High School): ‘Chasing Ghosts’
  • Stella Weston (Rotorua Lakes High School): ‘An Analysis of Biking’

Past Winners