Competition judge, writer and University of Waikato lecturer,Catherine Chidgey, commented that while the story was one of the shorter entries, every word earned its place: “Narrated by an anonymous, collective ‘we’, ‘Better Graces’ is an aching evocation of a time when children were beaten for speaking te reo. It considers the nature of language itself; how it can erase as much as it can name.”
Ms Chidgey says whittling down the entries was a near-impossible job due to the quality of stories submitted. “We attracted over 600 entries to the Open Division, and the standard was very high. Big names competed with new talent, which is a real testament to the enduring interest in this beautiful and exciting literary form. “The New Zealand short story is in excellent health,” she says.
Second place was won by Aucklander Elizabeth Morton for ‘Elephant’ and third place by University of Waikato graduate Hamish Ansley for ‘Vicious Traditions’.
Part of the award’s focus is to encourage new voices and ensure the future of the genre in New Zealand. Two stories in the Secondary Schools Division led to a joint win for Elijah Neilson-Edwards of Wellington High School for his piece ‘Stray Dog’, and Xiaole Zhan of Westlake Girls
High School for ‘Woman, sitting in a garden’. Ms Chidgey says both stories were exceptional and could hold their own easily in the Open Division. She says Elijah and Xiaole are names to watch.
“The wonderful thing for the Secondary Schools Division winners is that in addition to the prize money, they also receive a week-long summer writing residency here at Waikato that will help develop their skills further,” she says.
Hosted by award sponsors the University of Waikato, the event was held in conjunction with the University’s annual Frank Sargeson Memorial Lecture. For 17 years the memorial lecture has celebrated the memory of the Hamilton-born writer who changed the face of New Zealand literature through his short stories and novels.
The full list of winners can be found here