Two budding Parua Bay School writers have finished first and second in the resurrected and restructured Northland Schools Years 7 and 8 Short Story Competition.
This was the first time the competition had run in 14 years and judges were impressed with the "enthusiastic abundance of expressive language" from the young writers.
The Northland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) ran an annual competition from 1998 for Northland writers, bringing in Years 7 and 8 in 2001, until 2007 when they focused on running workshops instead. However, with Covid putting a stop to that, organisers have resumed the short story competition, this time opening it nationwide.
Said organiser Diana Menefy: "We felt the time was right to start up again to encourage creativity."
The Northland Years 7 and 8 students category, themed The Wish, had a limit of 50-300 words and was won by Brylea McKenzie of Parua Bay School for her story called, A Cold Night. Equal second was fellow Parua Bay student Fiona Tyson for Make Summer Last, along with home-schooled Noah Hewlett-Coffey for The Last Resort and Amelia Marshall of Kamo Intermediate for Lizzy.
Parua Bay School assistant principal Rob Jones said the children were offered the opportunity to enter the competition if they wished.
"Children wrote their own stories, took their own perspective on the idea of having a wish. The variety of final stories was truly surprising and inspiring. I do believe we will be hearing more, and reading more, about these wonderful authors in the future."
The winning school won $50, with a further $30 going to the first placed author, and $10 each for second and third places. These stories will also be published on the NZSA Northland website and in the Northern Advocate.
Judges of the students' stories were Fraser Smith and Patricia Fenton, who said the judging process had been both a challenge and a privilege.
"We were impressed by the overall quality of the submissions, and the enthusiastic abundance of expressive language. All entrants and their teachers must be commended for participating in this initiative to promote excellence in writing."
Fiona's teacher Jeremy Hamilton described her as a natural writer, genre to genre.
"Her ideas have unique perspectives and such pleasant taste. They are complex, often ending in twists, and always have the interest of the reader in mind. I was so happy that Fiona decided to put forward a piece of writing for this competition. When she showed me her draft, I was transformed into another world and I knew that there was something special in front of my eyes."
In the nationwide open category, Whangārei's Viv Hamlin was short-listed to the top 10 for her piece Through a Glass Darkly. The winner - Trish Palmer, from Wakefield, won $300 for her piece titled With All My Heart, and second and third will have their stories edited by a professional.
Menefy and Lesley Marshall were co-judges for the nationwide competition and said they were delighted by the quality of the stories and the huge range of subject matter and character, while still including the 'wish' element.
"So many of the stories featured characters we loved, in situations that were funny or heart-breaking or tender, and a huge number had turns of phrases that were original and evocative."
Next year, it is planned to open the competition to high school students with the theme of Lost for open class and Found for schools.
Further information about next year's competition can be found from early February at: northlandauthors.co.nz