takahē Short Story Competition 2017 – Results and Judge’s Report

SHORT LIST (alphabetically):

Romilly and Flawdinall, Diana Duckworth
Save The Last Dance for Me, Diana Duckworth
The Auburn Trail, Katharine Derrick
The Desert Road, Bonnie Etherington
The Principal, Rose Cook
Vinegar, Becky Woodall

One hundred and twenty one stories were sent in for this competition, and I have enjoyed the range of topics and writing styles. Common topics were revenge, love lost and regained (or not), and the recent death of a loved one. For me, the stories that stood out weren’t necessarily about new themes – they were those that told an old story in a new way, that made me feel as if I’d been transported out of my armchair, or used original, lyrical prose. The short-listed stories all had at least one of these characteristics, and sometimes all three.

The winning story, Romilly and Flawdinall, is a beautifully sensual tale of an early New Zealand settler, Romilly and her extra-marital affair with a Maori man, Flawdinall.  The rich imagery and unique turns of phrase drew me back to this story again and again –

The light quickens and teases in shades of pea-green, sunlit like stained glass…

Romilly fills like billowing sails, salt on her lips. Stars are diamond buttons, brilliant in black velvet…

He grinned, pleased with her sea foam whiteness…

A worthy winner, this story lingers, and I look forward to seeing more work from this writer.

The second placed story, Vinegar is a refreshingly unique story about a woman searching for her Romeo. The tightly controlled prose, scientific references and understated humour also drew me back to this story, and left me smiling each time.

The third place was hotly contested, and I’d like to commend all those who were also short-listed as all of these stories were worthy contenders. The Principal made me laugh out loud; I enjoyed the punchy, witty dialogue and the satisfying ending.

—Eileen Merriman 
December 2017


First placeRomilly and Flawdinall by Diana Duckworth

Second place: Vinegar by Becky Woodall

Third placeThe Principal by Rose Cook


The winning story is published in takahē 92.