2023 competition winners


Manuscript competition winners


Flash Fiction:

Jenna Heller, The End of the Beginning


It was a pleasure to read this year’s flash fiction manuscript collections. What a variety! Subjects and themes ranged over relationships, the hazards of old age, the vulnerability of the environment, and personal histories and catastrophes. The strongest stories combined a taut use of language with original ideas, and I enjoyed seeing the leaps of creative faith that writers made in their stories.

Congratulations to Jenna Heller for winning the flash collection. I loved the inventiveness of her stories and the sensory, New Zealand-ness of her work:

…croquet in the shade, sweetbreads, sleeping with our ancestors, learning to swim, a barn hideout, Fanta Boy, peanut butter pumpkin soup …

Peanut butter aside, much of it took me back to my own childhood. Stray lines rang out: ‘When the heck did I enter the land of adulting anyway? I need a hall pass.’

With a delicate but strong sense of narrative voice, this writer, to my mind, has seized the flash form and made it her own.

Tina Shaw, convenor


Short List:

Cristina Schumacher, ‘Read with Care: Stories with prescriptions’



Sharni Wilson, One to Many


Hybrid is the literary form that eludes definition; it’s a boundary-crossing form, verging on notions of the transgressive. In dictionary definition terms, hybrid is a literary genre that blends themes and elements from two or more different genres to produce something different, disconcerting, and yet also illuminating, path-finding. Hybrid works are often referred to as cross-genre, multi-genre, or fusion-genre. Hybrid as a literary category, to be successful, demands provocative and iconoclastic work, one that intelligently mixes genres such comedy, science fiction, fantasy, horror and romance. This makes it quite a demanding form, for which authors have to display a variety of abilities.

‘One to Many and other wild experiments’ was for us the only possible first choice in this competition. We found it deft and daring in its disjunctions, in its linguistic virtuosity, in its bravura of imagination, and in its variety and inter-mingling of textual ideas and narrative tropes. In short, its zig-zagging between genres offers true hybridity, which moreover is impassioned and engaging, rather than just cerebral. It’s an arresting, exhilarating, unstable bricolage: sometimes dystopic, sometimes chic lit-ish, sometimes futuristic, sometimes topically issue-driven, sometimes socially realistic. There’s a constant juxtaposition of tone and potential response from the imagined reader. None of the competition’s other finalists remotely match up to its daring and controlled helter-skelter, which admittedly it achieves with some clever tricks, such as incorporating self-made translations from other writers. It has confidence and audacity; it is a worthy winner.

David Eggleton and Harry Ricketts, convenors


Short List:

Lincoln Jaques, ‘Unlocking Xavier’s Room’
Keith Nunes, ‘Whatever the Weather: Letters from Quwerty’
Reihana Robinson, ‘Grassfire Pū Ahi’
Alex Stone, ‘Umkhapalanga – the Song of a Son’
Marjory Woodfield, ‘The Day begins with Rain’


Short Story:

Janis Freegard, Wild, Wild Women


Wild, Wild Women seized the attention of several of the judges right from the outset and as one person said: ‘I couldn’t stop reading!’ Another felt that (as with another of the collections) the stories were delightfully zany and full of surprises and that the writer is to be commended for this. The collection has spark, colour and tonal variety: from satirical to whimsical, fantastical to socially astute; from humorous to empathetic and moving. It shows a wide range of angles on female wildness: it’s not just advocating for freedom and looseness but shows the cost or consequences at times, too. It feels contemporary and also often has a comic energy which is refreshing, with deftly used vibrant imagery: this is a writer who understands how even just a dab of colourful imagery in the right place can carry huge emotional significance. The stories were well-paced, the voices convincing; sometimes there was a fluent, funny mischief and excellent use of surprise plot twists.

Emma Neale, convenor


Short List:

Claire Gray, ‘The Bar’
Gerard O’Brien, ‘And Then Everything Goes Dark’
Angela Trolove, ‘A Miro for Cleo’


These books are forthcoming in 2024.

The inaugural Katherine Mansfield Sparkling Prose competition



‘Manel’ by Bernard Steeds / short story



‘Diving the Wreck of the F69’ by Anna Scaife / short story



‘All I Have’ by Cathy Silk / hybrid


Short List

‘Funny Ugly Little Baby’ by Alex Reece Abbott / hybrid

‘Heavy Lifting’ by Emma Hislop / short story

‘Held Tight’ by Mary Raleigh / short story hybrid

‘Love Palindromes’ by Norman Franke / flash fiction

‘Lucky Little Creature’ by Tim Saunders / short story

‘Skin’ by Renee Liang / flash fiction

‘The Tournament’ by Deb Jowitt / flash fiction

Judges’ comments 

Catherine Chidgey and Emma Neale


General notes:
We would like to congratulate all the writers who took on board what was no easy task: not only responding to selected lines from Katherine Mansfield’s work but also tackling this in a fairly tight time frame.

We were impressed by the immense range in styles and of angles on the given prompts for this competition, although the diversity of approach did bring a mixed bag of overall quality, too: so we experienced all kinds of ‘reading weather’ — fogs, squalls, frost, tangling windstorms, brilliant overarching clear skies showing — in one of the Mansfield phrases the entrants most often chose — that marvellous transparent blue, flecked with silver.

It was challenging for us, trying to compare very short experimental flash fiction with more expansive, psychologically explorative short stories. Those writers whose terser entries still managed to hold their own against entries with more aesthetic space to move in can feel a firm sense of achievement.

Some stories with enormous potential just missed out, either on a higher placement or on the short list, because after several readings they revealed internal inconsistencies, a need for more careful copy-editing, or perhaps subtler linguistic shading. Others showed confusion in sequencing or didn’t clarify crucial contextual elements (e.g., why exactly are the characters in this scenario?). That said, several stories that jostled for inclusion on the short list were often delightfully inventive (either in hybrid experimental structure, or in their use of science fiction contexts) or they revealed an attractive emotional warmth in the texture of their language. We feel confident that several of the unplaced stories, in revised drafts, will find a home elsewhere.



‘Manel’: short story
Bernard Steeds

‘Manel’ transports us to an utterly believable Riviera café. We linger in the margins of this elegant story of absence and loss, eavesdropping on a private conversation between strangers, witnessing connections made and missed. The emotion is understated yet deeply felt: a class act.

— CC

This is lyrical, psychological, with both extrinsic and intrinsic questions of identity, as a woman waits to meet her birth mother for the first time. These aspects, along with the cosmopolitan café setting and the central premise of a woman waiting alone (and a mildly insinuating waiter), quietly nod to Mansfield’s fiction and to her journal, yet the writing and protagonist are fresh and credible in a story that also addresses, in an understated way, issues of colonialism and sexism. Polished, moving, insightful.

— EN



‘Diving the Wreck’: short story
Anna Scaife

‘Diving the Wreck’ is both funny and sophisticated in its presentation of an authentic family dynamic. The author handles the large cast with assurance, slipping from voice to voice with impressive fluidity and clarity. The arresting image of the scuttled frigate works beautifully to comment on the preservation of the past.

— CC

This story stood out for its gentle sense of humour, good character dynamics, and its persuasive portrait of the retelling of a loved anecdote in a large family; the story shows a nimble handling of a large cast in a tight space and the story within the story is surprising, dramatic, quirky.

— EN



‘All I Have’: hybrid
Cathy Silk

A tender and clever reprisal of Mansfield’s love for her younger brother, which merges prose, lyrical and concrete or shape poetry. This piece feels timeless in that the sensuous writing is vivid and immediate yet is also subtly referring to literary history.


‘Funny Ugly Little Baby’: hybrid
Alex Reece Abbott

Interesting and smooth use of Northern Ireland dialect; more than one KM line woven in; good control of tone and narrative within the short, poetic lines. The voice and the distressing political topic work strongly together. (It made the judges think of KM’s ‘An Indiscreet Journey’, too: i.e., the theme of liaisons in war time, and the dangers of distraction and fraternization that story touches on.)


‘Heavy Lifting’: short story
Emma Hislop

Gives a contemporary young Māori gallery intern’s perspective on a very imperialist institution; skillfully built around KM’s line ‘I’m always acting a part. I’m never my real self for a moment’ without directly stating the line, yet character’s inner monologue and shifting confidence make it clear and carry impact.


‘Held tight’: short story
Mary Raleigh

In a new relationship with a perfect-on-paper man, a woman’s past returns to her, allowing her to better negotiate the present. Beautifully evoked sense of place and a pitch-perfect interior world.


‘Love Palindromes’: flash fiction
Norman Franke

Technically clever, patterned, tightly compressed and playful; the cello references, too, are an enjoyable nod to KM’s first artistic calling.


‘Lucky Little Creature’: short story
Tim Saunders

The laconic style makes a strong first impression in this vivid and poetic articulation of setting, atmosphere and the illumination of a turning point in a child’s understanding of mortality and pain.


‘Skin’: flash fiction
Renee Liang

Lyrical meditation on ageing and family relationships, with some effective use of repeated imagery and motifs.


‘The Tournament’: flash fiction
Deb Jowitt

Evocative and dramatic story that is in subtle dialogue with KM’s ‘The Garden Party’ in its understated treatment of class, hypocrisy and loss.

Thanks to judges Catherine Chidgey and Emma Neale.

Winners were announced October 14 at the Katherine Mansfield Birthday Party at the Dunedin Readers & Writers Festival.

You can find the 2023 stories published here.