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University of Waikato academic shortlisted in international short story competition

23 April 2020

University of Waikato lecturer and eminent New Zealand writer Catherine Chidgey has been named this week as a shortlisted author for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

The Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth, and is one of the most prestigious international writing competitions.

This year’s shortlist of 20 authors was chosen from 5,107 entries from 49 Commonwealth countries, with Chidgey as one of two New Zealand authors shortlisted.

“I’m delighted to have my story recognised in such a prominent international competition,” says Chidgey.

Chidgey’s story is titled ‘Attention’ and is about a former child actor whose career is cut short when he takes on his most challenging role.

Chidgey says that inspiration struck for this story when she was listening to true crime podcasts while enduring a lengthy daily commute to a previous role she had at MIT in South Auckland.

“The story focuses on a man thinking back on his pushy stage mother, who expected him to go on to become a famous child star.

“However, his role as a murdered boy in a TV re-enactment thwarts his acting career and colours the rest of his life.

“At its heart, it’s a story of how the past impacts the present, and how certain experiences never leave us,” explains Chidgey.

On her writing process, Chidgey says that short stories tend to come in a rush every now and then, in between novels, but that’s not to say that it’s an easy process.

“At the moment, I have my head down in my next novel with not a lot of time to focus on short story writing. However, when they do happen, I love the charge I get from completing one, and the immediate sense of achievement I feel compared to the much more delayed gratification of a novel.”

As well as copyediting her next novel, Remote Sympathy, due out in October this year, Chidgey is busy with the Sargeson Prize, a short story competition she initiated and judged last year. Sponsored by the University of Waikato, it has just launched again for 2020.

The Sargeson Prize is New Zealand’s richest short story competition, offering the overall winner a $5,000 cash prize, and has two divisions: Open and Secondary Schools. The 2020 competition will be judged by celebrated master of the form, Owen Marshall.

The regional winners for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize are due to be announced on 2 June, with the overall winner to be named on 7 July.

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