Announcing the winners!
the inaugural AT THE BAY | I TE KOKORU
Katherine Mansfield creative writing 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
‘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
Catherine Chidgey and Emma Neale
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
‘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.
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.
‘Diving the Wreck’: short story
‘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.
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.
‘All I Have’: hybrid
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
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
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
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
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
Lyrical meditation on ageing and family relationships, with some effective use of repeated imagery and motifs.
‘The Tournament’: flash fiction
Evocative and dramatic story that is in subtle dialogue with KM’s ‘The Garden Party’ in its understated treatment of class, hypocrisy and loss.
Congratulations to all!
Thanks to judges Catherine Chidgey and Emma Neale. Emma announced the winners on October 14 at the Katherine Mansfield Birthday Party at the Dunedin Readers & Writers Festival.
These 10 stories will be published at the end of October.