The 2023 Graeme Lay Short Story Competition winners have been announced by the NZSA Auckland Branch

PRESS RELEASE – 7 December 2023

The 2023 Graeme Lay Short Story Competition winners have been announced by the NZSA Auckland Branch today.

‘The short story genre is alive and thriving in New Zealand.’

So said renowned author Graeme Lay on Saturday, when he announced the 2023 winners of the annual short story competition named in his honour.

Organised by the Auckland Branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors, the Graeme Lay Short Story Competition is held every October and open to any NZSA member.

According to Lay, six of this year’s 10 finalists were ‘outstanding’.

‘The writers all had something worthwhile to say, and most said it with style and adroitness. I was particularly impressed with several of the writers’ ability to subtly weave crucial back-stories into the present narrative. In these stories, the past impinged delicately but indelibly onto the present.

‘New Zealand writing has a tendency to be gloomy, but several of these stories had flashes of humour, which were very welcome.’

First place was awarded to Angela King for her story ‘Stargazing‘, described by

Lay as ‘imaginatively conceived and skillfully executed. ‘

A middle-aged couple, Merrin and Greg, are stranded on a lonely country road at nighttime. Their car has broken down, interrupting the plan to commemorate Merrin’s daughter, who has recently died. Surrounding the couple, society too is broken and dysfunctional, lawless and violent. The couple conceal themselves in the bush from the pursuers they know will search for them and loot their vehicle for petrol and food.

The story creates a tense, sinister atmosphere, blending the violence of the present with a peaceful past, while, “The stars continue to burn down to Earth, all the way to Greg’s eyes.” 

An outstanding story which demonstrates that in the hands of a skilled writer, a wholly original world can be created and realistically portrayed.


As first place winner, Angela receives $500 prize money.

Angela King has written since she was 8 years old. She completed a Master in Creative Writing in poetry at the University of Auckland, and has published in journals including Blackmail Press. In the last few years she has turned to writing short stories and novels.

Her starting point for the story ‘Stargazing’ was ‘an image in my mind of a middle-aged couple gazing at the stars of a beautiful night sky. Underneath their deep love, undercurrents of grief, guilt, anger and fear swirled. I started writing to find out why.’


SECOND PRIZE – The Hermit Crab, by Susie Winter


Susie Winter was born in Tanzania 72 years ago. She taught art in the UK for 20 years before emigrating to New Zealand in 2012. Susie is married with two children.


‘The Hermit Crab was based on a true story. While living in Fiji we discovered our next-door-

neighbour had committed suicide in a similar manner a few months before we arrived. My intention was to draw on this but to weave together my love of the tropics and the wildlife with a more hopeful message,’



THIRD PLACE  –  Angst and Vexation, by Vivienne Bailey

Vivienne Bailey is a Wellington-based freelance writer, journalist and broadcaster. She has a

Diploma of Creative Writing, Whitireira NZ and her award-winning short stories have been

published in online literary journals and in anthologies including Fresh Ink: A Collection of

Voices from Aotearoa NZ (2019).


Her flash fiction has appeared in Flash Fiction: An Adventure in Short Fiction and her

children’s novel Cricket Crazy was published in 2021 (The Cuba Press).


Angst and Vexation is a combination of random images, triggered by a combination of observed events and behaviour in her past.



Highly Commended and Shortlisted:

We also congratulate Joseph Janiszewski, Kirstie Mackey and Averil Robertson on their highly commended stories, and Averil Robertson, Stella Carruthers, Marina Lathouraki and Susan Ronn for their shortlisted stories.

NZSA Auckland would like to thank all those who entered for their time and stories. 66 stories were received.


Special thanks to shortlisting judges Maria Gill and Kit Willett; and to Christine Sheehy: who all volunteered their time to help this Branch activity run in 2022.


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