NZSA Central Districts Branch Summer Essay competition results

Where writers from all over central district told us about where they lived, the people and spaces that made their “there” special.

FIRST PLACE went to Palmerston North writer Anna Sophia with her essay @42

HIGHLY COMMENDED were Shelley Burne Field from Takapau with The Shape of Me, and Miriam Sharland from Palmerston North with Westerly.

Judge David Hill’s report

I enjoyed reading all the entries in this competition. If that sounds like a platitude, I definitely don’t mean it as such. I felt I’d been admitted to something important in the life of each writer. I often had that sense of intimacy which I feel the best essays can bring, the sound of a specific voice speaking directly to me. The authors pondered, described, told stories and/or anecdotes, evoked places and people who mattered to them, who (or which) had often changed the course of their lives. In the best entries, there was that dialogue between writer and reader which makes reading so rewarding. So congratulations to all entrants. I hope many of these pieces will find publication.

Those entries which stood out were often ones which moved among narrative, description and soliloquy; which covered a variety of times and spaces; where the writing style was one where a specific voice confided in the author. They weren’t didactic, even if they had an issue to discuss. They weren’t only a history of a place or places; they turned a location into an emblem, an encapsulation of the writer’s or another person’s life. They were at ease with their own level of address; they often had an excitement or urgency about them – this place mattered to the author, and s/he wanted to share it with the reader. I felt that sense of privilege which comes from being trusted by the writer.

Entrants wrote about houses, gardens, idiosyncratic friends, a beach, a bed, a personal history as epitomised in a specific location. Each one was readable, crafted, thoughtful. The essay is alive and well in Central Districts.

WINNER: @ 42

Yes, that’s the title, and of course it was an intriguing one. This was a piece which very adroitly blended memory and reminscence with description and a variety of emotions. We were admitted to the writer’s life; we shared a movement through time with her. Language ranged from demotic to lyrical. It was forceful writing, looking you straight in the face and treating you with that intimacy I mentioned earlier. At times, it almost resembled a sinewy short story, but it was underpinned by a commitment to specifics that strengthened and focused it.


A tight, sustained fusion of description and evocation. Its structure as a series of impressionistic scenes and mini-narratives nicely fitted the topic of a slapping, blustering weather feature. Good combination of personal history and memories, with confident movement across times and spaces.


A closely, attentively written piece which like the other winners moved ably through a range of places and times, with a good sweep from the individual to the global. The writing particularly impressed me; I felt the author had measured, considered every phrase for its aptness and impact.

Congratulations again to the winners, and all entrants!

Visit the Central Districts Branch page here.

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