The much anticipated Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards are open for entry. A fixture on the writing scene since 1984, the awards have launched the careers of some of New Zealand’s most respected authors, including Eleanor Catton and Sarah Quigley.
Some winners, like Barbara Anderson, Linda Olsson and Eleanor Catton, were unknown when they won, but have gone on to become well established.
Harriet Allan, fiction publisher for major sponsor Penguin Random House, said new writer Frazer Rangihuna won the competition in 2017, and she loved his story so much he was commissioned to write a story for the collection Purakau, published this year and edited by Witi Ihimaera and Whiti Hereaka.
Sunday Star-Times editor Tracy Watkins said this year’s winner would take home $3000 in prize money from Penguin Random House, and their short story would be published in the Sunday Star Times and on Stuff.
“There is an extra special incentive this year because their entry will also be illustrated by the amazing Ruby Jones,” Watkins said.
Jones’ images following the Christchurch mosque shootings were shared around the world on social media and her work has been featured on the cover of Time Magazine.
Jones also did the illustrations for the Sunday Star Times short story award posters.
Jones said she loved the idea of illustrating for the short story awards because her work was often inspired by other people’s words in stories, poems and songs.”I will read something and immediately see an image of it in my head that I want to draw. Words and images go hand in hand for me so this kind of feels like the perfect thing to be involved in.”There are two categories in the competition, the $3000 open section, sponsored by Penguin Random House, and a secondary school students competition, attracting a $500 prize from the Michael King Writers Centre.
But for many authors, grabbing the attention of a major publisher is as much of an incentive as the prize money.
Allan said Penguin Random House became a sponsor in 2005 and had been backing the competition ever since.
Part of the prize package is the opportunity to have Allan critique your work. Allan said the competition was significant in invigorating both reading and writing.
“It encourages people to focus on the short story form, to read the winners, but most important of all to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).”
Short stories might seem easy, but they require most of the skills needed to write a novel, plus concision and precision, Allan said.
“Finding your voice to get started is rarely easy; however, with this competition, the Sunday Star-Times gives you the perfect chance to find an audience.”
Just being shortlisted could offer the encouragement to get going: “Sarah Quigley regarded being shortlisted in 1995 as her ‘first step’ in writing, and she went on to win the competition in 2004 and publish many books,” Allan said.
Another winner, Carl Nixon wrote: ‘Winning the contest in 1997 was a huge emotional shot in the arm and gave me the confidence to continue writing in a sustained and disciplined manner.’
“Carl is one of several writers who have won twice – Judith White and Norman Bilbrough have also done so. I later published Carl’s short stories and subsequent novels, as I did with other winners, such as Sarah Laing.”
Because the judging is blind, unknown names can pit their skills against established writers.
NEED TO KNOW
• Open division – 3000 word limit
• Secondary school division – 2000 word limit.
* Terms and conditions can be found here
Entries close Friday, 8 November, 2019, at midnight. Winners will be announced in December, and the winning entries published in the Sunday Star-Times and on Stuff.co.nz over summer.
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