A Clean Sweep for the Nation's Top Short Story Writers

Wednesday 9 November 2011, 7:53AM
By Goode PR

Three of the country’s top writers were recognised tonight [Eds: Tuesday 8 November] at the 27th annual Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards at Fables Gallery in Auckland.

Invercargill born Fraser Robinson (36) took out the Open Division supreme award and the title for Best Unpublished Writer, Emily Draper (17) from Auckland was awarded first and second prize while Maria Ji (16) also from Auckland walked away with both third and fourth place in the Secondary School Division.

Critically acclaimed New Zealand writers Charlotte Grimshaw and Joy Cowley found the judging process challenging this year given the high caliber of entries received.

Charlotte says she found a great deal to admire and enjoy about the finalists’ stories short listed for this year’s competition.

“The range of subjects was wide, the styles diverse and the voices fascinating,” says Charlotte. “It’s a difficult thing to define ‘best’, but this year’s winning story “The Bus Terminal” by Fraser Robinson was outstanding. It is smoothly written and full of vivid description. It is a story that manages to convey a series of impressions and ideas in an economical and striking way.

“Fraser shows confidence in his reader to be thoughtful and engaged enough to draw his or her own conclusions.”

Fraser is a language translator who is currently based in Rio de Janeiro. Earlier this year, he wrote a radio play for Radio New Zealand which will broadcast in 2012.

Joy who judged the short list of stories in the Secondary School Division was suitably impressed the finalists.

“All of these stories were so much better than the stuff I wrote in secondary school,” says Joy. “Today’s students are very sophisticated. These stories have skill born from twin experience: life experience with awareness; and the experience of language that comes from the education system in this country.

“And, this was certainly the case for Emily’s stories,” says Joy. “This first prize story came directly from the experience of youth, yet its execution was the work of a mature writer, every word dropped into place with the weight of its meaning carefully calculated.

“This is a story I will remember,” adds Joy who was in awe of Emily’s writing.

It was a case of third time lucky for the Epsom Girls Grammar pupil who is in her final year of study.

The winning stories will be published in the Sunday Star-Times on Sunday 13 November.

Open Division winner and Best Unpublished Writer Fraser Robinson received a $5,000 cash prize, Random House experience including time with a Random House editor, and $700 worth of books from Random House.

Emily Draper won $1,500 cash for both the first and second prizes in the Secondary School Division, a work experience day at Random House along with $800 worth of Random House books and $800 of Whitcoulls gift cards for her school.

The Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards, in association with Whitcoulls and Random House, encourage and recognise the talents of published and unpublished New Zealand writers.
The awards are nationally recognised for championing and showcasing New Zealand short fiction. Some of this country's leading writers, including Norman Bilbrough, Judith White, Barbara Anderson, Linda Olsson and Sarah Quigley have achieved success in the competition.

Open Division Winners

First Prize Winner: Fraser Robinson (Invercargill)
The Bus Terminal

Second Prize Winner: Rajorshi Chakraborti (Wellington)
Knock Knock

Third Prize Winner: Susanna Gendall (Wellington)
A Mistake

Secondary School Division

First Prize Winner: Emily Draper (Epsom Girls Grammar, Auckland, Year 13)
Smoke Rings

Second Prize Winner: Emily Draper (Epsom Girls Grammar, Auckland, Year 13)
The Climbing Tree

Third Prize Winner: Maria Ji (St Cuthberts, Auckland, Year 12)
A Letter’s Difference

Best Unpublished Writer

Fraser Robinson (Invercargill): The Bus Terminal

Excerpt from the winning story: The Bus Terminal

What the judges had to say about the winning stories:

Open Division: The Bus Terminal
“A couple is on holiday in South America when one of them goes missing. It’s smoothly written and full of vivid description and it manages to convey a series of impressions and ideas in an economical and striking way. This story has what the less successful ones don’t - a relatively light touch. It takes a degree of command and skill merely to suggest ideas where you could be explicit. The willingness to be oblique implies trust: that the reader will be thoughtful and engaged enough to draw his or her own conclusions. And, it shows confidence that the reader will pick up the signals, and enjoy the challenge of a narrative that seems partly hidden.” Charlotte Grimshaw, Head Judge of the Open Division.

Secondary Division: Smoke Rings
“Near perfect, this story describes the relationship between two brothers whose awareness is sharpened by fear. Their parents are out. In the dark night, the boys lie on the pavement, passing a cigarette between them. Their parent’s car returns and there is a scramble to get back in their bedroom window. That is the skeleton of the plot. The living flesh on those bones, comes from superbly executed characters and dialogue.” Joy Cowley, Head Judge of the Secondary School Division.