THE WRITERS COLLEGE
Short Story Competition

Proudly Supporting Emerging Writers

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The competition is open to any writer who is unpublished, or has been published fewer than four times.

Scroll down to see the prizes, theme, judges, rules and entry requirements.

THEME FOR 2024

It didn't have to be this way

THEME FOR 2024

IT DIDN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY

THE LONGLIST FINALISTS

Congratulations to the top 20 entrants in the 2023 Writers College Short Story Competition—a truly enormous achievement!

From all around the world, we received over 800 entries—an exhilarating showcase of diverse cultures and talent. To each writer who participated, a big well done for your remarkable contribution.

Mark your calendars for 18 August, when we unveil the winners. Plus, we reveal the names of the top 60 writers who secured places in the prestigious Highest Honours, Honours, Honourable Mention, and ‘More Stories We Loved’ categories.

In no particular order, here are our top 20 stories:

‘Black Ginger’ – by Clementine Matsobane
‘Return to Court’ – by Taki Scordis
‘End of’– by Rosalind Adler
‘Disneyland’ – by Sierra Martin
‘The People of Colour’ – by Ross Fleming
‘Red and Sticky Blackberries’ – by Fatemeh Ebrahimi
‘The Faint’ – by Ella Boyle
‘Rules of Engagement’ – by Ihsan Sim
‘The Words Effect’ – by Emmanuelle Duong
‘Screw Your Courage’ – by Oliver Forrest
‘The Time Love was Good to Me, or: How I Came to Grow Apples’ – by Travis Inglis
‘Last Words’ – by Sarah Moon
‘Travelling Man’ – by Mary Francis
‘Plain Signs’ – by Taryn Hochstrasser
‘Long Pig’ – by Brady Heslop
‘Draw, Dorky Shaa’ – by Abbey Bensemann
‘Butter Wouldn’t Melt’ – by Haley Byrnes
‘Mrs Tapuna at Number Forty-Three’ – by Claire Hemming
‘Thin Places’ – by Joseph Janiszewski
‘What Goes Unsaid’ – by Sydney Brandolino

THE WINNERS

Hearty congratulations to the 800+ participants who took part in our inaugural global short story competition. This event marked a significant milestone: for the first time, we united the forces of the SA Writers College and NZ Writers College competitions, inviting voices not only from South Africa and New Zealand but reaching out to beginner creative writers worldwide.

The result was a captivating cultural tapestry, proving that our backgrounds may vary, but the essence of a well-told tale resonates universally.

It is with great pride that we introduce our top-placed writers for 2023. These winners skilfully navigate the complexities of human relationships; their narratives serve as mirrors to our human experiences. Their ability to blend vivid imagery, compelling characters, and thought-provoking narrative arcs has made them triumph in this writing contest.

FIRST PLACE:

‘Return to Court ’ – by Taki Scordis

 

RUNNER-UP:

‘The People of Colour’ – by Ross Fleming

 

THIRD PLACE:

 ‘The Time Love Was Good to Me, or: How I Came to Grow Apples’ – by Travis Inglis

 

In fourth place is ‘Plain Signs’, written by Taryn Hochstrasser

And in fifth place is ‘End of’, written by Rosalind Adler

 

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.

HIGHEST HONOURS

In this category, the judges were looking for unparalleled creativity, narrative depth and emotional resonance. Entries exhibited masterful storytelling techniques, innovative plot development and character exploration, captivating the readers from start to finish.

In no particular order: 

‘Black Ginger’ – by Clementine Matsobane

‘Disneyland’ – by Sierra Martin

‘Red and Sticky Blackberries’ – by Fatemeh Ebrahimi

‘The Faint’ – by Ella Boyle

‘Rules of Engagement’ – by Ihsan Sim

‘The Words Effect’ – by Emmanuelle Duong

‘Screw Your Courage’ – by Oliver Forrest

‘Last Words’ – by Sarah Moon

‘Long Pig’ – by Brady Heslop

‘Travelling Man’ – by Mary Francis

‘Draw, Dorky Shaa’ – by Abbey Bensemann

‘Butter Wouldn’t Melt’ – by Haley Byrnes

The Song Thrush – by Gerrie van der Zanden

‘Thin Places’ – by Joseph Janiszewski

‘What Goes Unsaid’ – by Sydney Brandolino

HONOURS

These stories displayed well-crafted narratives with strong coherence and skilful execution of the theme ‘Words Have Consequences’. The stories effectively drew in readers through their clear prose, compelling characters and evident command of literary techniques.

In no particular order:

‘The Price of a Loose Tongue’ – by Lauren Roode

‘Tuesday Is Bin Day’ – by Hilary Hughes

‘The Words That Mattered’ – by Wandile Kumako

‘All That Is Unsaid’ – by Amalie Rupasinghe

‘Quick and Deadly, or Harmless’ – by Mattea Orr

‘Stills’ – by Ruby Vincent

‘Star-Crossed to Oblivion’ – by Findlay Donnan 

‘Mrs Tapuna at Number Forty-Three’ – by Claire Hemming

‘Monster Upon Dana’ – by Immaculate Halla

‘All She Talks About Is Heroin’ – by Adam Graham

HONOURABLE MENTION

Honourable Mention recognizes stories that exhibited potential, displaying elements of promise in terms of imagination, character dynamics, and thematic exploration.

In no particular order:

‘Butterfly Wings and Unkept Promises’ – by Zoe Ramasawmy

‘Battleground’ – by Adele Anderson

‘Sorry Kiri’ – by Leanne Jepson

‘Forever Sleep’ – by Zulaiga Mohamed Hoosain

‘Exhaustion Lit by Fury’ – by Alane Delano Obeso

‘Four Summers Down’ – by Claire de Wet

‘What Does Zack Fox Say?’ – by Clement Spocter

‘Triple Word Score’ – by Nadia Cassim

‘The Silence Within’ – by Lasheena Khan

‘The First Time’ – by J F Dangarembizi

MORE STORIES WE LOVED

In the “More Stories We Loved” category, the stories chosen resonated with the judges for a variety of reasons, either through unique perspectives, unusual settings, or unexpected emotional impact. These stories may require further polishing, but they possess an undeniable charm that has captured the attention and admiration of the panel.

In no particular order:

‘The Door with No Handle’ – by Nazia Islam

‘Things He Said’ – by Shey-Lee Scott

‘Creeping Creeping’ – by Rick Neale

‘But Why?’ – by Nicole van Staden

‘Eggshells & Other Breakables’ – by Phoebe Bush

‘A Sign of The Times’ – by Liyema Ngcawe

‘Never Again’ – by Lynne Moses

‘My Blanket Called Nana’ – by Tamzyn Huggard

‘Promises and Lies’ – by Keith Williams

‘Little’s Ditch’ – by T. J. Perkins

‘The Journey of a Book’ – by Adele Dubarry

‘Graffiti’ – by Lucy Goodman

‘Friday’ – by Yvonne Wang

Our next short story competition will open November 2024 and closes on 31 March 2025.

 

The judges’ ratings and comments for the top three stories

A huge thank you to our judges this year: Lorraine Forrest-Turner, Karen Jeynes and Andrew Salomon.

First Place

'Return to Court'
by Taki Scordis

Judges’ comments

  • A fabulous tale that races along at a pace I could barely keep up with. I was torn between wanting to slow my reading down to enjoy the slick writing and get to the next paragraph fast enough to satisfy my burning curiosity. To say I was totally hooked from start to finish is a gross understatement. Like all great twists, the ending makes total sense. You go back in your mind and think ‘of course, it was so obvious’. Except it wasn’t. This story is a great example of where excellent use of characterisation and language is not compromised by a brilliant plot. We often read beautifully written stories that have little or no plot. This writer combines both arts perfectly. Lorraine
  • An entertaining tale, characterised by well-timed humour. Andrew
  • A sharp, well written story, which manages a number of twists and turns, before a satisfying ending. The characters are interesting and unexpected. There are great layers of meaning and metaphor. Karen

The Runner-up

'The People of Colour'
by Ross Fleming

Judges’ comments

  • An exceptional piece of poetic writing that deserves time to savour each word, phrase, sentence and paragraph. Unfamiliar with much of the language, I had to go back and read it several times to appreciate the full beauty and nuances of the writing. This is a story I would love to hear read out loud by a native speaker. I loved the originality of the language and characterisation. Lorraine
  • Smart and effective use of onomatopoeia, to lend a poignant side to this story that takes an unflinching look at the grim physical and mental effects of poverty and marginalisation. Andrew
  • A fascinating, flowing piece, almost meditative, that plays with sense of space and time. There’s an interesting approach to language and wordplay, and a sense that the writer is playing with their craft. Karen

Third Place

'The Time Love was Good to Me, or: How I came to Grow Apples '
by Travis Inglis

Judges’ comments

  • This is a beautifully written love story with a simple plot that flows along charmingly. The first person narrative uses dialogue well to portray the love interest’s thoughts without needing to explain them. I particularly like the opening lines. ‘I lied at parties. It was an attempt to be anonymous, or perhaps interesting.’ These lines had me hooked right away. As the story unfolds and the lie about the orchard comes true, there’s a gentleness in the writing that befits the pace the trees and apples grow. The ending is a little ambiguous – but appropriate. Lorraine
  • A touching exploration of the push and pull between recriminations and desire when an old flame that was never really extinguished can flare up again. And of how quickly time passes between youth and middle age. Andrew
  • An intricately woven story, with excellent use of imagery. A strong central character, and a well-crafted story that offers the reader enough, without trying to resolve everything too neatly. It contains a kind of magic. Karen

Closing date:

30 September 2024

Longlist Announced:

31 October 2024

Winners Announced:

15 November 2024

Submissions and enquiries can be sent to Nichola Meyer: 

nichola@nzwriterscollege.co.nz

 

PRIZES FOR 2024

SECOND PRIZE

NZ$ 500

And publication in an anthology of winning stories

FIRST PRIZE

NZ$ 1 000

And publication in an anthology of winning stories

THIRD PRIZE

NZ$ 500

And publication in an anthology of winning stories

FIRST PRIZE

NZ$ 1 000

And publication in an anthology of winning stories

SECOND PRIZE

NZ$ 500

And publication in an anthology of winning stories

THIRD PRIZE

NZ$ 500

And publication in an anthology of winning stories

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

COMPETITION RULES:

  • 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: Nichola@nzwriterscollege.co.nz
  • 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 2024 theme is ‘It didn’t have to be this way’. Writers can interpret and represent the theme in any way they choose. Each story must include the phrase ‘It didn’t have to be this way’ 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 September 2024. The longlist will be published by 31 October 2024, and the winners announced and displayed on our website on 15 November 2024.
  • 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.
 
 

ENTRY FORMAT:

  • 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 2024 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:

THE JUDGES:

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.

 

Alex Smith

Alex Smith

Alex Smith is the award-winning author of five novels: Algeria’s WayDrinking from the Dragon’s WellFour Drunk Beauties, Devilskein & Dearlove (published by Random House/Umuzi) and Agency Blue (published by Tafelberg). 

Her work has received widespread acclaim. Drinking from the Dragon’s Well was longlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award and Devilskein & Dearlove was nominated for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal in the UK. Agency Blue won a Sanlam Youth Literature Award, while Four Drunk Beauties won the Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award. 

Alex tutors the Novel Writing Course, the Advanced Novel Writing Course, the Advanced Short Story Writing Course and the Grammar Skills Course, sharing her knowledge and expertise with students of all skill levels.

Karen Jeynes

Karen has won numerous awards and nominations for her co-writing of TV series, including two Emmy nominations for Best TV Comedy. Currently, she is the head writer for Both Worlds Productions, overseeing ZANews: Puppet Nation (winner of 22 South African Film and Television Awards and two Writer’s Guild of South Africa Awards for Best TV Comedy), as well as Point of Order (SAFTA winner for Best Game Show in 2017), Comedy Central News and Parlement Parlement.

Lorraine Forrest-Turner

Lorraine Forrest-Turner has been writing professionally for over 30 years. As well as writing PR and marketing content for business, she also writes short stories and stage plays.

Two of her plays (Seven Stages of an Affair and To Have and to Hold) are published by Samuel French and three (Dear Lily, Bank Holiday Mondays and Other Ways to Kill a Marriage and Three’s Company) are published by Lazy Bee Scripts.

Many of her short stories have been published in fiction and women’s magazines. These include Planting Primroses in Potholes in Yours Fiction, Getting on with Freya in Take a Moment, and First Dance in Royal Marsden Hospital Magazine.

Her stage plays have won numerous awards and have been performed throughout the UK. These include Sparks at the Cockpit Theatre, London, Isosceles at the ABC Theatre in Cambridge, and Spin at the Kenton Theatre in Henley.

Lorraine has recently rewritten her stage play To Have and to Hold as a film script. It is currently in production. Her book of short stories 13:22 and other stories is published on Amazon.

The Short Story Writing Course

Learn how to write winning short stories

Download our Free Anthologies

Click on a cover to download our free anthologies that showcase the winning stories from past competitions in South Africa and New Zealand (+/- 1MB). Since 2023, the competition has opened to international entries.

 

Past Winners of The Writers College Short Story Competition

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

2023

First Place: Return to Court’ – by Taki Scordis

Runner-up: ‘’The People of Colour’ – by Ross Fleming

Third place: ‘The Time Love Was Good to Me, or: How I Came to Grow Apples’– by Travis Inglis

2021

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

2020

First Place: ‘Drainpipe’ by Akshata Rao

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

Third place: ‘Paper Planes’ by Hannah Woolhouse

2019

First Place: ‘Meat’ by Nicky Taylor

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

Third place: ‘Truth-Telling’ by Nicola Bentley

2018

First Place: ‘Crabs’ by Moira Lomas

Runner-up: ‘Golden’ by R. L. Jeffs

Third place: ‘Thunderstorm’ by Mary Francis

2017

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

2016

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

2015

First Place: ‘Aroha’ by Jeff Taylor

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

Third place: ‘Contractual Remedies’ by Barnaby McIntosh

2014

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

2013

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

2012

First Place: ‘The Barrier’ by Timothy McGiven

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

Third place: ‘Gravity’ by Andy Evans

2011

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

2010

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