Short Story Competition

Proudly Supporting Emerging Writers


The annual Writers College Short Story Competition is held to acknowledge excellence in creative writing in the short story form.

The competition is open to any writer who is unpublished, or has been published fewer than four times.






Congratulations to our longlisted finalists in the 2021 NZWC Short Story Competition. The writers portrayed the theme of ‘Time After Time’ in various ways, from characters stuck in their relationships with others to those trapped in a pattern of unwanted behaviour with themselves. Each story is unique and thought-provoking.

Our finalists will now go through to the final tier of assessment, judged by Sonny Whitelaw, Tania Hutley and Andrew Salomon.

A big well done to all of our entrants, writing during a difficult lockdown in New Zealand. Please visit this page again on 19 November where we honour the top 50 entrants in the Highest Honours, Honours, Honourable Mention and ‘More Stories We Loved’ lists.


In no particular order:

‘The Bridge’ – by John Tipper

‘The Trolley Ladies’ – by Jess Aitken

‘The Thing With the Lawyer’ – by Travis Inglis

‘Everest Challenge’ – by Juliet Wiseman

‘With Love: From Me to You’ – by Christopher Reed

‘Love In Isolation’ – by Claire Hemming

‘Rising Waves, Falling Angel’ – by Anthony Pita

‘Meant to Be’ – by D J Sanders

‘On Our Last Day Together’ – by Jen Eller-Kirkham

‘Family History’ – by Emma Harris

‘Maybe Tomorrow’ – by Phil Glaser

‘That’s All I Know’ – by Joseph Curran

‘The Place For Words Unspoken’ – by Henry Grey

‘Flowers For Meredith’ – by Ronnie Pankova-Karadjova

‘Vodka Cruisers and Warfarin’ – by Henry A. Francis

‘The Orchard’ – by Will Frew

‘The Walker’ – by Margot Mclean

‘Five Days’ – by Corné Claasen

‘Unlucky’ – by Matthew Armstrong

‘On the Spectrum’ – by John Carstensen

‘The Riroriro Sings of Rain’ – by Paula Moros

‘Listen to the Madman’ – by Kiaana Harris

‘Napoleon’s Soldier’ – by Gerrie Van Der Zanden

‘Battleground’ – by A. D. Anderson

‘Can’t Wake Up’ – by Tracy Solea


We are delighted to present our winners in the 2021 NZ Writers College Short Story Competition. Thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, strongly original: these stories represent the 2021 theme ‘Time After Time’ in striking ways.

Read the judges’ comments and enjoy the winning stories below the results’ lists.

A big congratulations to our writers who made the honours’ roll. Your writing stood out among hundreds of entries. To every writer who bravely entered, keep writing. We look forward to seeing your next story in 2022.




‘The Trolley Ladies’ – by Jess Aitken



‘The Bridge’ – by John Tipper



 ‘With Love: From Me to You’ – by Christopher Reed


In fourth place is ‘Rising Waves; Falling Angel’, written by Anthony Pita.

And in fifth place is ‘The Thing with the Lawyer’, written by Travis Inglis.


Read the judges’ comments, as well as the top three stories, below the Highest Honours, Honours, Honourable Mention and ‘More Stories We Loved’ results lists.


These stories narrowly missed inclusion in the top five.

The characters were authentic and memorable. Plotlines were generally plausible, interesting and unpredictable, and the manuscripts were polished.

In no particular order: 

‘Everest Challenge’ – by Juliet Wiseman

‘Love In Isolation’ – by Claire Hemming

‘Meant to Be’ – by D. J. Sanders

‘On Our Last Day Together’ – by Jen Eller-Kirkham

‘Family History’ – by Emma Harris

‘Maybe Tomorrow’ – by Phil Glaser

‘That’s All I Know’ – by Joseph Curran

‘The Place For Words Unspoken’ – by Henry Grey

‘Flowers For Meredith’ – by Ronnie Pankova-Karadjova

‘Vodka Cruisers and Warfarin’ – by Henry A. Francis


Good storytelling and enjoyable reading. Some good imagery and description in places. For the most part, the writing is not forced or contrived.

In no particular order:

‘Napoleon’s Soldier’ – by Gerrie Van Der Zanden

‘Can’t Wake Up’ – by Tracy Solea

‘The Riroriro Sings of Rain’ – by Paula Moros

‘The Orchard’ – by Will Frew

‘The Walker’ – by Margot McLean

‘Five Days’ – by Corné Claasen

‘Unlucky’ – by Matthew Armstrong

‘On the Spectrum’ – by John Carstensen

 ‘Listen to the Madman’ – by Kiaana Harris

 ‘Battleground’ – by A. D. Anderson


Great writing is about attention to detail, creating characters and plot that are original and bold. Next year we’d like to see these authors move up the results ladder.

In no particular order:

‘Soiled’ – by Adam Carter

‘Requite’ – by Kelly Anne

‘The Long and Very Irritating Last Day of the World’ – by Sarah Anderson

‘Never Let Me Down’ – by M. R. W. Taylor

‘With A Capital P’ – by Rachel Cunningham

‘Toe-Sucking Octogenarians’ – by Emily Broadmore

‘Once More Over Rimutaka Hill’ – by Joseph Janiszewski

‘Noise’ – by Julie Oakes

‘Because’ – by Sharon Fergusson

‘Fishing Comes First’ – by Mary Prendergast


In no particular order:

‘Change’ – by Mahara Heslop

‘A Lonely Night At Station One’ – by Liam O’Neill

‘The Interview’ – by David Whitehead

‘The Interloper’ – by Carmela C. Thomas-Small

‘Cracks’ – by Marie Nemcova

‘The Decline’ – by Grant Aldridge

‘Lest We Forget’ – by Michal Horton

‘Commencement’ – by Brandi Bridges

‘Blue/Blue’ – by Zachary Hing

‘Our ‘Ie Toga’ – by Monique Saofia

‘Summer Storm’ – by Julie Taylor

‘Please Hear Me’ – by Bea Julie Cornelius 

‘The Monster Within’ – by Mikayla Hill

‘Nobody To Stop’ – by Mark Barlow

Keep up the great writing! We look forward to hearing from you again for our 2022 NZ Writers College Short Story Competition.

The judges’ ratings and comments for the top three stories

A huge thank you to our judges this year: Sonny Whitelaw, Tania Hutley and Andrew Salomon.

First Place

'The Trolley Ladies'
by Jess Aitken

Judges’ comments

  • Wow. Pretty hard to impress me to the point where I have so little to say, other than this almost drove me to tears. Like all judges, I read stories with the aim of assessing them purely on their literacy merits using the marking criteria, parking any emotional baggage or personal genre preferences I might bring to one side. That’s not entirely possible, of course. This story ticks all the literacy merits, is mechanically well written and edited, and then insisted on dragging in my emotional baggage to leave me wanting more. If I could give a 6/5 for my gut response, I would. Sonny
  • Vivid and potent imagery combine in this clever and intriguing tale of powerful opposing forces, with compelling and competing points of view. Andrew
  • Vivid, lyrical storytelling that paints some beautiful images and has a strong sense of mood and atmosphere. I especially enjoyed the modern-day incarnations of the women, which reminded me a little of the characters in American Gods by Neil Gaiman. The story was original and very well told, with a wonderful ending. I would have liked a touch more physcial description of the sunhat lady at the beginning of the story to get a clearer mental picture, but on the whole the descriptions are excellent. Tania

The Runner-up

'The Bridge.'
by John Tipper

Judges’ comments

  • Very well-paced sense of urgency from the outset that holds the readers’ attention. The reader connects with the character and the commonplace moments and emotions that she feels; the quiet desperation that drives her. It is the commonplace nature of this desperation that makes the story less ‘original’ but equally so appealing. Certainty that the character is more than capable of negotiating this journey and deserves to be rewarded by completing her simple yet compelling quest, is suddenly upended by hubris. I would personally leave out the final scene and use the required phrase elsewhere; the story has already been told; the ending is clear. Hubris has won. As it does, time after time. Sonny
  • Tension ratchets up beautifully in this visceral story, where a character’s desperate longing creates a fatal maelstrom of events. Andrew
  • I loved the sense of urgency in this story. The race to get to the bridge is brilliantly tense. When she hit surface water on Pike, I thought Sophie was a goner! This is a very well written story that kept me gripped from beginning to end. I would have loved some foreshadowing of how the crash actually meant Sophie made it home – a small hint of what might have allowed her to let go of her own life and to be happy for Jake in his future fatherhood. Perhaps a small mention of a remembered incident from Iraq, or something that happened with Benji, and the reader can extrapolate out from there? A bridge to help the reader cross from longing to acceptance along with Sophie. Tania

Third Place

'With Love: From Me to You '
by Christopher Reed

Judges’ comments

  • This is a wonderful, elegant story of love at it its simplest and yet most profound. The characterisation is not overstated. The settings brought alive by smells that evoke a far more visceral reaction that sounds and sight alone. There is no sense of rushing to complete this story; no desire to shout a punchy theme with all the trappings or heat-wrenching fear. The understated dread is far more subtle and thus more powerful. A really stunning story. Sonny
  • A fine portrayal of the emotional toll that accompanies the fear of losing a loved one, along with reverence for the deep reserves of love that can see both the patient and their family through. Andrew
  • This is a lovely story that beautifully captures the relationship between mother and child. I love the conversations they have, and the small descriptive details that make the hospital visits so vivid and real. I also love that the story uses the unusual second person, as though talking directly to the mother. I would have liked to see a little more of who the narrator is – for example, are they male or female? A few more small physical descriptions would give the reader a more vivid mental picture of your protaganists, to match all the other lovely details of the treatment and the relationship. Tania

Closing date:

30 June 2023

Longlist Announced:

31 July 2023

Winners Announced:

18 August 2023

Submissions and enquiries can be sent to Nichola Meyer:



  • First Prize: NZ $ 1 000.00 and publication in an anthology of winning stories
  • Second Prize: NZ $ 500.00 and publication in an anthology of winning stories
  • Third Prize: NZ $ 250.00
The top three winners receive editorial comments on their submitted works.

The Basics of Creative Writing Course

A rigorous training for both beginners and seasoned writers


  • We aim to support beginner writers only. We accept stories from writers who have never been published, or who have been published fewer than four times in any genre. This includes fiction and non-fiction, in any publication (for payment or otherwise). Journal articles (sciences of any kind) count as being published. Journalists, copywriters, web writers or content writers must please not enter. People who made a living from writing at any point (e.g. decades earlier) are also not eligible for entry. We make an exception for unpaid articles for community or work newsletters or blogs where the circulation is under 5000 readers.
  • We accept stories in any genre (literary/horror/sci-fi/fantasy/spec fic). However, literary fiction tends to fare best with our judges. Please read past winning entries (scroll down this page) to get a sense of the kind of writing that we like.
  • All submissions and enquiries can be sent to Nichola Meyer:
  • The competition is open to anyone, from any country aged 16 and over.
  • Entrants must submit a story of maximum word count: 2000 words. Any entries exceeding the word count by 50 words will not be considered.
  • The 2023 theme is ‘Words have consequences’. Writers can interpret and represent the theme in any way they choose. Each story must include the phrase ‘Words have consequences’ somewhere in the story. Writers must produce their own title.
  • Only one story per entrant is allowed.
  • We only accept entries written in English.
  • The competition closes at midnight on 30 June 2023. The longlist will be published by 31 July 2023, and the winners announced and displayed on our website on Friday 18 August 2023.
  • Prizewinners will be notified via email as well as on our website; please ensure you supply a valid email address with your entry.
  • Prize money will be paid via electronic transfer or PayPal.
  • Stories must not have been previously published. Entrants must own the copyright to the story submitted.
  • Writers retain copyright, but give permission for their work to be published on our website and in an anthology.
  • The judges’ decision is final; no disputes will be entered into.
  • If your entry has not been acknowledged within three working days, please contact us as your email may have got lost in transit.
  • The Writers College reserves the right to extend the competition deadline or cancel the competition should the entries not be of publishable quality or up to the required standard.
  • Absolutely no generative AI to be used (ChatGPT etc.). If we deem stories were not written by a human they will be excluded, and the author banned from entering all further competitions with us.


  • Only e-mail submissions are acceptable. Stories must be copied and pasted into the body of the email, AND sent as a Word document attachment. Mark your entry clearly with the subject line: The 2023 Writers College Short Story Competition.  
  • Each story must have a unique title. Do not use the theme as your title.
  • Your email must state the title of your story, as well as your name. E.g. ‘Once Upon a Time’ – by John Smith
  • Your email must include the declaration: ‘I declare that this is my own work, 100% unassisted by generative AI (such as ChatGPT etc.), and I have been published in a mainstream print or online publication fewer than four times.’
  • Winners will be asked to show a valid proof of identity.
  • State your word count in your email.
  • Do not include your name on any page of your story. All entries will be judged blind.
  • Use a font such as Arial or Times New Roman, size 12 or more. Use 1.5 or double spacing between lines. We prefer a clear line between paragraphs rather than indenting.
  • Make sure your story has been edited and polished according to tips and guidelines provided on our college site under “Writing Resources”, or on our webzine. Read these:


Tania Hutley

Tania Hutley started her literary career by writing short stories and has been a runner up in New Zealand’s two most prestigious short story competitions, the Katherine Mansfield Awards and the Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition. In 2010 she won the Page and Blackmore National Short Story Award.

After branching out into novel writing, she published two middle-grade chapter books for children. Then she wrote the Skin Hunter science fiction trilogy, and co-wrote The Trouble With Witches urban fantasy series. Under the pen name Talia Hunter, she has also published eleven contemporary romance and romantic comedy novels and even made the USA Today Bestsellers List.  

Though Tania started off with traditional publishers, she’s now enthusiastic about self-publishing and the control it gives to authors.

She was born in New Zealand, but has recently moved to Australia where she’s constantly amazed and not at all freaked out by the weird and wonderful critters. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her with a glass of wine, a good book, and a jumbo-sized can of bug spray.

Sonny Whitelaw

Sonny Whitelaw has enjoyed a successful career as a writer for over 30 years. Her work as a photojournalist has appeared in dozens of international magazines,  including National Geographic.

She won a Draco Award for her first novel, The Rhesus Factor, and all eight of her novels, including five based on the television series Stargate, have been international bestsellers.

A qualified adult educator with an MA in Creative Writing, Sonny taught writing courses to adults and teenagers in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. In 2008, she moved with her teenage son to a small lifestyle property in Oxford, Canterbury.

When she’s not having an enormous amount of fun exploring the South Island, Sonny splits her time between researching and writing scientific reports, editing fiction and non-fiction manuscripts, and working on her own exciting young adult science fantasy series called The Runes of Creation. Find out more about this series on her website.

Sonny tutors the Write a Novel Course, the Literary Short and Flash Fiction Course and the Advanced Novel Writing Course.

Andrew Salomon

Andrew Salomon is an award-winning author. His debut novel Tokoloshe Song was shortlisted for the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award.

Additionally, his short fiction has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He has also received the PEN Literary Award for African Fiction and the Short.Sharp.Stories Award.

Andrew is the author of the young adult thrillers The Chrysalis and Wonderbear. His latest novel is the dark fantasy thriller The Equilibrist. He completed an MA at the Institute for Archaeology at University College London. Some of his most memorable experiences have been at rock painting and engraving sites in subterranean caves and shelters across the world. These often find their way into his fiction.

Andrew tutors several courses at The Writers College, including the Write a Novel Course, the Advanced Novel Writing Course and the Advanced Short Story Writing Course.

The Literary Short and Flash Fiction Course

Learn how to write winning short stories


Click on a cover to download our free anthologies that showcase the winning stories from past competitions (+/- 1MB).


Past Winners of the NZ Writers College Short Story Competition

We would like to acknowledge the past winners of our Short Story Competitions.


First Place: ‘The Trolley Ladies’ by Jess Aitken

Runner-up: ‘The Bridge’ by John Tipper

Third place: ‘With Love: From Me to You’ by Christopher Reed


First Place: ‘Drainpipe’ by Akshata Rao

Runner-up: ‘let it be. waiho’ by Christopher Reed

Third place: ‘Paper Planes’ by Hannah Woolhouse


First Place: ‘Meat’ by Nicky Taylor

Runner-up: ‘The Long White Cloud’ by Toakahu Pere

Third place: ‘Truth-Telling’ by Nicola Bentley


First Place: ‘Crabs’ by Moira Lomas

Runner-up: ‘Golden’ by R. L. Jeffs

Third place: ‘Thunderstorm’ by Mary Francis


First Place: ‘White Boy Wonder’ by Victoria Louise Lawrence

Runner-up: ‘The Hole’ by Regan Drew Barsdell

Third place: ‘Alan Matsumoto’ by Paul M. Clark


First Place: ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ by Suzanne Main

Runner-up: ‘Moving Patterns’ by Nicholas Buck

Third place: ‘A Handful of Dust’ by Madeline Dew


First Place: ‘Aroha’ by Jeff Taylor

Runner-up: ‘Out to Sea’ by James MacTaggart

Third place: ‘Contractual Remedies’ by Barnaby McIntosh


First Place: ‘Norman’s Letter’ by Lizzie Nelson

Runner-up: ‘Being a Ghost’ by Abby Jackson

Third place: ‘Other People’s Lives’ by Ruth L. Jeffs


First Place: ‘The President, the Ski-Instructor and the Watermelon’ by Jade du Preez

Runner-up: ‘The Invisible Woman’ by Lizzie Nelson

Third place: ‘Not My Daughter’ by Monique Reymer


First Place: ‘The Barrier’ by Timothy McGiven

Runner-up: ‘A Certain Hardness’ by Collin Minnaar

Third place: ‘Gravity’ by Andy Evans


First Place: ‘Regrets’ by Aaron Ure

Runner-up: ‘The Effects of Cancellation’ by Sacha Norrie

Joint Third place: ‘Careless Driving’ by Stephanie Attwood, and ‘Milk and Two Sugars’ by David Hamilton


First Place: ‘Tell Me About the Love of Your Life’ by Feby Idrus

Runner-up: ‘Expunge’ by John Drennan

Third place: ‘The Bridge’ by Tony Wi