A winning way with words
A tale of two of life’s casualties in a portrait that is wistful and poignant has scooped the top prize at this year’s Sunday Star-Times short story awards.
Wellingtonian Bernard Steeds won the open category, with his entry Home.
This year’s stories were judged by novelist Owen Marshall (open category) renowned New Zealand author Witi Ihimaera (emerging Māori category), Pasifika artist, writer and publisher Faith Wilson (emerging Pasifika category), and author, artist and playwright Dominic Hoey (youth category).
Of Steeds’ Home, Marshall said; “There's a skillful indirectness to the revolution of character, and an emotional intensity that makes this a remarkable story and a worthy winner.”
The $7000 top prize was sponsored by the Milford Foundation and Penguin Random House.
Kiri Solomon (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa) was crowned the emerging Māori writer for 2022 with her story Our Tūī, which Ihimaera said offered a different reading experience with matrices grounded in mātauranga Māori. “You have to give yourself time and have a bit of knowledge to really savour it to the full,” he said.
This year’s emerging Pasifika writer is Elsie Uini from Auckland with her story A Good Thing. It’s the second year Elsie has taken the category, her entry No Small Thing winning in 2021.
Wilson said Uini’s story stood out, captured her, and sat with her long after she had finished reading.“The writer convincingly painted a picture of a complex protagonist with emotional range and depth,” she said.
Aucklander Youjia Jennifer Liu won the Milford Foundation Secondary School writer scholarship with her story The Lotus. The main character reminisces about her old life in China and what can be learned from the elegant and humble lotus flower.
Hoey said he loved how subtle the themes of the story were, adding “I’m excited to see what the author goes on to do.”
Solomon, Uini and Liu each receive $1,500, sponsored by the Milford Foundation.
The awards wrap up the 39th year of the Sunday Star-Times short story competition, which is among New Zealand’s most prestigious writing prizes.
Sunday Star-Times editor Tracy Watkins says; “The best part of my job every year is contacting the winners. It’s always special to hear how much it means to them, and to hear the stories behind their writing. For instance Youjia, who is just 16, told us how her writing had been shaped by her experience of arriving in New Zealand, alone, in 2020 to pursue academic success, then enduring two years of lockdowns far from home.”
Entries were judged anonymously and winning stories will be published in the Sunday Star-Times and on Stuff from January 1. A podcast of the top stories is also underway and will be released at the same time.