The Superheroes of the Short Form

Here we go, Folks. I know you’ve been scribbling away. Genius first drafts which transform, overnight, into steaming piles of…


… self-doubt. That’s what that smell is.

But a couple of days later it’s cooled off, and so have you, and you see what those humble little words could beAnd you take a second run at, you know… words. Sentences. Yes, some of them are fragments. On purpose!

The inner-editor is firing flaming arrows at you.


The entire world is comin’ atcha. Pullin’ out the big guns to stop your brain from doing the thing with the words and the sense and the art.

The pages of the thesaurus slip and slide between your quivering, over-caffeinated fingers.

But you stick with it.

Leap of faith, baby, this thing will work if you just…


Ooh! Shiny new idea.

It’s something. It’s surprising. It’s a heritage revelation.

Handy, because you totally forgot about the competition theme when you penned the first THING, hereafter referred to as THING 1. THING 2, on the other hand—which is definitely worthy of a better title—just shines with HIDDEN HISTORY (that’s the theme of the competition, by the way) and you can’t believe something so genius fell out of your own head.

But the next day, oy! What happened?

How’d it get so contrived and indulgent and bleaurgh over night? The faeries? The subconscious? Some nefarious force has fudged your words and DECIMATED your genius. Maybe…

Maybe cuppa tea.


Chocolate biscuit.

Just a quick look at THING 1, just in case, before you can let yourself give up entirely. Just to confirm your suspicions that you’re in fact a total…


Well, that’s some brutally honest and clean prose and maybe you’re a distant relative of Mansfield or Hemingway because DAMN! When did you get so talented?

Quick, add ‘nice celebratory wine’ to the shopping list because you’re going to need it.

Ooh, and if you changed this one little bit then suddenly, magically, THING 1 is all about the HIDDEN HISTORY.

And BAM, you’re ready to enter the competition.

Hold on. Remember how that one writer-friend who is so great at spotting your homophone errors. And one time she got totally confused, and you swore it made sense, until you realised it didn’t… maybe email her. Promise her a chocolate bar (full size) of her choice, if she’ll take five minutes and check you haven’t gone completely bonkers with this THING.

I’m serious.


NOW you’re ready to enter.

Handy! Because we are ready to judge. When I say we, of course, I don’t mean me. I mean the…


So, without further ado, only 400 words into the blog post (it’s called building tension, folks. And you should probably do it more succinctly in your competition entries) here you have, for the short prose category…

the plucky,

the perceptive,

the playfully perplexing, be it with pen and paper or an entire playhouse…

Carl Nixon!

carlThat’s right. The man himself. Playwright and novelist, and master of the darkly hilarious.

Carl won The Katherine Mansfield Short Story Contest in 2007 and TWICE took out first prize in The Sunday Star Times Short Story Contest. His stories have been in numerous anthologies and over a dozen have been broadcast by Radio New Zealand.

We are over the moon that Carl’s on board to judge the short prose category of the New Zealand Heritage Writing Competition.

The man’s got three novels under his belt and numerous plays but I first came across him with his short story collection, FISH ‘N CHIP SHOP SONG which came out in 2006 and immediately went to number one on the New Zealand Fiction bestseller list. And to top it off, this delectable collection was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best First Book, Southeast Asia, and South Pacific Region.

In 2006 Carl was also Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury, where he completed ROCKING HORSE ROAD. His later novels are THE VIRGIN AND THE WHALE and SETTLERS’ CREEK, which Witi Ihimaera described as,

“Brave, bold and unflinching…one of the best novels to come out of New Zealand. It’s not only a gripping, brutal thriller but also a dissection of a country and its culture. It’s the kind of book that gets you run out of town.”

And of course, earlier this year, his play MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE AND JOANNE, was on at the Court Theatre here in Christchurch. A brilliant piece of thought-provoking comedy, which I was lucky enough to see myself.

But wait, this is New Zealand and we can’t assume our local artists, even the genius ones, are well-known, so perhaps you haven’t come across this name before. He was a founding member of our beloved Court Jesters, but still, hey, it’s possible. So if you want to know more about our short prose judge, here’s his website.

Grand. Spiffing. If you’re a prose writer, you’re all set. He’s your man.

But don’t forget, there is another way to play. Another way to write. A bucket-load of other ways because here’s the game with no rules.

And so many rules.

Perhaps you’re playing with a Pantoum or a Pentrarchan Sonnet, a Pindaric Ode or a Paean. You might be wrestling with a rondeau or a rhapsody, a Rubai or a refrain.


However you harangue those Heroic Verses and haiku, whichever way you spruce up those sevenlings and Sapphic Odes, IT IS TIME.

Oh yes, it is.

(To stop looking up all the different types of poetry… ahem.)

To meet the the judge of the Poetry Category. It is my honour to present to you,

the vibrant

the versatile,

the veritable virtuoso of visionary verse…

Barbara Petrie!

petrie_barbara2-150x150Yes, that’s right. Our very own Barbara!

Barbara has published two books of her own poetry and edited several anthologies. Her poetry has appeared in New Zealand’s own foremost and longest running arts and literary journal, Landfall, and in numerous Australian Literary Journals, including Poetry Australia, Southern Review, SoutherlyQuadrant, Poet’s Choice, The Bulletin, and Ars Poetica. Her poem, The Whelping, won a recent Christchurch FM Radio poetry competition.

Barbara lived many years in the Blue Mountains in NSW, but we are glad to have her back in New Zealand! She recently released her debut novel and has also written plays. Talk about a many-feathered cap!

Barbara is an active member of the Canterbury Branch of the NZ Society of Authors and she runs Bridgidada Press. She is currently writing a second novel, TE RAKI’S EEL, a speculative piece exploring pre-European history in Te Wai Pounamu South Island. She is also working on a collection of poems inspired by Pegasus Bay.

So, there’s only one thing for it.

It must be time. Time to polish off those poems about the family heirlooms, the town folklore, the great great great grandma, the hilarious and the heart-breaking, the rhythmic and the ridiculous, the philosophical and the found, the rhyming and the random, the simple and the satirical.


Wrangle them words, and read ’em out loud, and spend hours deliberating about that m-dash. Go on.

And if you want an audience, check out our latest newsletter for open-mic opportunities… and then—

and THEN… you’re ready to enter.

It’s easy.

It’s all right here.



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