The 2023 inaugural manuscript competition winners
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
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
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’
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
Claire Gray, ‘The Bar’
Gerard O’Brien, ‘And Then Everything Goes Dark’
Angela Trolove, ‘A Miro for Cleo’
The three winning manuscripts will be published later in 2023.
Watch this space for
The 2023 Katherine Mansfield ‘Sparkling Prose’ competition winners
– announced October 14th!