Kapiti short story in Pacific final berth

Kapiti Coast-based Tina Makereti is the Pacific regional winner in this year's Commonwealth Writers' Short Story Prize. Photo / Supplied
Kapiti Coast-based Tina Makereti is the Pacific regional winner in this year's Commonwealth Writers' Short Story Prize. Photo / Supplied

The winners of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards aren't the only local authors toasting success.

Kapiti Coast-based Tina Makereti is the Pacific regional winner in this year's Commonwealth Writers' Short Story Prize. Now in its fifth year, the prize is for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English and is open to writers in Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Five regional winners, including Makereti, were chosen from 4000 entries. They will now travel to Jamaica for the Calabash International Literary Festival where the overall winner will be announced.

The Curator Maori at Museums Wellington, Makereti writes essays, novels and short stories. Her winning story, Black Milk, was written in response to a series of Fiona Pardington photos from the A Beautiful Hesitation exhibition in Wellington and Auckland.

Makereti said she thought it highly unlikely she would win the regional award partly because the story she entered had "mythological and speculative" themes and there were so many entries.

"Sometimes, with some writing competitions, you assume more realistic stories will get further ahead and I have entered before with a more realistic piece, but I got nowhere so I was completely wrong in my assumptions," she said.

"I think the Commonwealth Writers seem to be very much interested in world literature and a wider variety of themes.

"Black Milk couldn't have existed without Fiona Pardington's photography, which requires us to see things in a different way. Good fiction makes us see in a different way also, so it makes me very happy that Black Milk might have achieved that."

Excited to be going to Jamaica and Calabash - "I've never been anywhere tropical before" - Makereti said she's looking forward to meeting other regional winners and doing research for her next book.

"I'm writing something at the moment where one of the characters gets shipwrecked in the Caribbean so it's perfect timing."

Makereti's first novel, Where The Rekohu Bone Sings, won the Nga Kupu Ora Aotearoa Maori Book Award for Fiction in 2014 and was longlisted for the Dublin Literary Prize.

She's also enjoyed success with short story collections. In 2012, she was Writer in Residence at the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, Germany and, two years later, Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writer in Residence.

Stefanie Seddon, the winner for the Canada and Europe region, grew up on a farm in New Zealand but later moved to the UK. Her story, Eel, is set in the South Island where she spent the first half of her life.

"I think you never really lose the view you grow up with and when you see it through a lens of time and distance, it can be a great source of inspiration for fiction writing."

Other regional winners were: Africa, Faraaz Mahomed (South Africa); Asia, Parashar Kulkarni (India); Caribbean, Lance Dowrich (Trinidad and Tobago)

Black Milk is now available to be read at granta.com

- NZ Herald

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