2020 Annual Short Story Award


For Emerging Writers in South Africa



Scroll down for entry details

The Winners


We are delighted to announce our winners for
the 2020 SA Writers College Short Story Competition.

The winning stories were original, honest and bold. Each was a thoughtful interpretation of this year's theme: 'You're up to your neck in it'.

Congratulations on a very good effort.



FIRST PLACE: ‘The Moot Mulatto' - by Taki Scordis

RUNNER-UP: ‘Misstep’ - by Stephen Harrison

THIRD PLACE: 'Unfinished Business' - by Jessica Spyker


In fourth place is Nastassia Da Silva’s ‘Rain Dancer’.

‘Santa's Last Christmas’, written by Barry Ger, placed fifth.

Read the judges' comments and the top three stories below the results lists.



Highest Honours

These stories narrowly missed inclusion in the top five.

The characters are authentic and memorable. Plotlines are credible and unpredictable, and the style and grammar are generally excellent.


In no particular order:

‘He Touched Me’ – by Ogugua Patricia Ajayi
‘What To Expect When Your Grandmother Dies: A Numbered Guide’ – by Ness Rajah
‘To Float’ - by Celeste Bouwer
‘The Mushroom Incident’ - by Mary-ann Thomson
‘Memoirs of a Cape Flats Woman’ - by Wesley Van Wyngaardt
‘Haunt’ - by Dimpho Mogakabe
‘Surprise’ - by Diana Hansen
‘Possession’ – by Dominic Davimes
‘Yellow’ - by Lynique Krüger
‘Lockdown’ - by Seshadari Jesse Moodley
‘Monsters of the Cape Flats’ – by Christina Nieuwoudt
‘Verdun’ - by Cal Harding
‘The Detective and the Murder Suspect’ – by Daniela Beley








Good storytelling and enjoyable reading. Some good imagery and description in places. For the most part, the writing appears to be effortless and unforced.

In no particular order:

‘The Lighthouse Keepers’ - by Salo Poggenpoel
‘Fishing for Olives: The Unorthodox Method’ - by A.M. Holder
‘The Golden Hour’ - by Michael Smit
‘Dead Man’s Wonderland’ - by Kirsten Baldwin
‘I L--- Y--: A Game of Guesswork & Gravity’ - by Cebo Hadebe
‘How We Made the Pavement’ – by Alboricah Rathupetsane
‘I’ve Got You Covid’ – by John Keith Anderson Holland
‘Mothers and Daughters’ - by L. Tladi
‘un/Clean’ - by Dexter Padayachee
‘Kwik’ - by Angus Paul
‘Nomhoyi’ - by Franciscus Crouse
‘The Chair’ – by Javi Reddy
‘On the Occasion of Her Lah-Di-Dah Hoopla’ - by Zita Consani
‘The Parts of Her That Matter’ - by Jordan Jacobs
‘You’re the Best, Man’ - by Pieter Bezuidenhout
‘That Should be Everyone’s Business’ – by Sherredine Dunn
‘Intuition’ - by Brady Heslop
‘Just Another Face in the Crowd’ – by Babalwa Dastile
‘Canaan-The Promised Land’ - by Akudziweishe Dugunye
‘Hearing a Deaf Girl During Lockdown’ - by Siwongiwe Mata
‘In and Out’ - by Uvile Ximba
‘A Sinking Trio’ - by Nonjabulo Malinga
‘Siviwe!’ - by Siphokazi Peter
‘Meanwhile, on Planet Earth’ - by Tammy Pieterson
‘The Dumpster Killer’ - by Trent Meikle
‘It’s a Kind of Magic’ - by Widaad Pangarker
‘Whispers Goodbye’ - by Morne Visser
‘Puddles of Fury’ – by Marinda Claasen
‘Let’s Break the World With A Straw In Your Nose’ - by Natalie Fraser
‘September’ - by Nicole Demi Moses
‘Painting with Pocketknives’ - by Franco Rheeder
‘In a Time of War’- by Alaika Khan
‘The Ballad of Fidel and Naledi’ - by Siphumelele Mpikeleli
‘Snowslide’ - by Malamba Radzuma
‘The Obedient Child’ - by Yandi Hlomuka
‘Alpha Female’ - by Cerise Enslin
‘Post-mortem’ - by Jonathan Bosch
‘A Time to Give’ – by Kim Vermaak
‘The Porcupine’ – by Caxton Setou
‘Kameel and the Firecracker Dog’ – by Cynthia Kistasamy
‘My Monsters’ – by Abigail Fisher
‘Keepers Finders’ – by Ken Farnsworth
‘The Distance’ – by Jody David Sampson
‘Poker Chips’ – by Charmain Williams






Honourable Mention

We enjoyed reading these stories.


‘The Hole’ - by Henrico Thomas Marks
‘Memoirs of a Gang Dad’ – by Bianca Matthis
‘Last Call to God’- by Shenaaz Msusa
‘The City I Once Desired’ - by Nabeela Karim
‘Burnt-Orange Lipstick’ - by Eurika van Zyl
‘Tolerance’ - by Ozyl Marufu
‘The S.O.N.D - The State of Nathan’s Distress’ - by Denzel Duloo
‘The Galleria of Gems’ - by Vusi Mthembu
‘Ocean Boy’ - by Hiyoowi Hamainza
‘Uncle Eric’- by Annel Bokodisa
‘A Cure for Insomnia’ - by Ian Oosthuizen
‘Quixotic’ - by Karen Reddy
‘When a Fountain Runs Dry’ - by Donna Mokae
‘Have Wings, Will Fly’ - by Tessa Ashbury-Taylor
‘Bare Feet’ - by Thabelo Mulenga
‘Labour Pains’ - by Zama Mlanjana
‘Last, Christmas’ - by Kamini Govender
‘The Beginning of the End’ - by Tiisetso Lekopa
‘Stranger Love’ - by Teneal Naidoo
‘I Forgive You’ - by Manzendonga Njokweni
‘Unicorn’ - by Diren Rampath
‘Unearthly’ – by Tracy Fankomo
‘Recipe for Disaster’ - by Merin Jacob
‘Hazy Boy’ - by Byron McLeroth
‘Mango’ - by Savannah de Bruyn
‘The Brief Thieving Career of Leah Peters’ - by Lauren Steenkamp
‘Now or Never’ - by Nina Foley
‘New Beginnings’ - by Faeza Samsodien
‘Under the Karoo Sky’ - by Dieter Hulshof
‘Out of Sight’ - by Azraa Parak
‘The Epic Proportions of Karma’ - by Anel Niemand
‘Dark Jigsaw’ - by Jane Wrench
‘Swept Away’ - by Katja Martini
‘Would the Nightmare Ever End?’ - by Pollert Mashau
‘Being Unfathomable’ - by Lubabalo Ngejane
‘Teacher’s Pet’ – by Micah Editour
‘Phases Life Takes When Shooting You in the Foot’ - by Khanya Manyathi
‘Rise with the Power of Sheba’ – by Cassandra Reddy
‘The War of M’ - by Chanel Georgopoulos
‘Imagined Memory of a Twenty-something Suburban Boy’ - by Lizelle van Dijk
‘Diary of a Woman Scorned’ – by Daniel Greeff
‘Mysteries Next Door’ - by Khomotso Phefadi
‘Rage Against Mr Rager’ - by Philani Mpofu
‘Holding’ - by Simone le Roux
‘So She Was Smart...’- by Aurian Bals
‘I Dream of Sheep’ - by Rory Scott Atkinson
‘Fateful Encounter’ - by Jonathan Blaauw
‘But for the Gift of Trees’ – by Jeanpaul Booysen
‘The Green Room’ – by Derek Griffin
‘The Evaluation’ – by Bradley Baxter
‘I Am a Hero! Right?’ - by Brandie Branders
‘Rooikat’ – by Sue Woodward
‘Love You Too’ – by Claire Tucker
‘Like a Moth to a Flame’ – by Natasha Rudman
‘Life’s Little Treasures’ – by Natalie Ball
‘I’ll Fix You’ – by Gemma Riding
‘If Winter Comes Can Spring Be Far Behind?’ – by Robert Lourens
‘Enough’ – by Katlego Mbele

      More Stories We Loved

Great writing is about attention to detail, creating characters and plot that are original and bold. Cut out clichés and stereotypical characters. Be inventive with your plot. Next year we'd like to see these authors move up the results ladder.

‘Secretly Ghosted’ - by Joalize Minnaar
‘The Steak Knife’ - by Celente Morley
‘Threadbare’ - by Zizipho Lunga
‘The Snake Who Sought Gold’ - by Stephanie Nyle
‘The Mind is the Battlefield’ – by Masego Mothlabane
‘Milestone Death’ - by Pebetse Matabane
‘Nix Mapha’ - by Lisa Michelle Thembalethu
‘Vervet Victory’ - by Pandora Long
‘The Road Frequently Travelled’ - by Sarah Patel
‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’ - by Nondumiso Zondi
‘The Chosen One’ - by Shreshtha Ramsout
‘Darkness Overcome’ - By Nicole van Staden
‘Wrath’s Bruised Heart’ - by Aaliyah Kader
‘An Overused Oil Lamp’ – by Caitlin Tyler
‘V for Vengeance’ – by Desiry Beukes
‘Theatre of Dreams’ – by Andy Draai
‘The Scarf and the Spoke’ – by Taranee Naidoo
‘The Man in the Mirror’ – by Neema Masinde
‘Street Children ‘ – by Rynn Calyster
‘Luna Eclipse’ – by Nadine Buttress
‘Marmalade’ – by I.L. Govender
‘Malwande, My Brother’ – by Zakkiyah Hajat
‘Fearless’ – by Thiana Pretorius

Keep up the writing! We look forward to hearing from you again for our 2021 SA Writers College Short Story Competition.


The judges’ ratings and comments for the top three stories

A huge thank you to our judges this year: Ginny Swart, Alexandra Smith, Andrew Salomon and Karen Jeynes.


First Place


'The Moot Mulatto'

by Taki Scordis

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 16/20
Originality 16/20
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 15/20
Characterization 17/20
Imagery and use of language 18/20
Overall gut response to story 17/20

TOTAL 99/120


Judges’ comments
  • A desolate story of a character who struggles with the miserable, messy, black side of his life and sees everything through the lens of white privilege. Now he’s doing his duty for the last time and leaving. Interesting take on this situation. Ginny
  • This is no fairytale; it is a harsh story with characters who are hardened by life and convincingly drawn. Both the son and his mother are not especially likeable: she because it seems all she wants from her child is money and he because he doesn't want the bother of this unfortunate blood-tie. He wants to be shot of these people. He doesn't care about them and they don't care about him. It is a loveless tale of ungenerous liberation. Alex
  • Excellent, pared-down dialogue and confident use of language make this brutally honest story deeply moving. Andrew
  • An unrelenting story that doesn't sugar coat things. Surprising and original, excellently structured, very evocative. Karen





by Stephen Harrison

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 17/20
Originality 16/20
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 15/20
Characterization 14/20
Imagery and use of language 17/20
Overall gut response to story 16/20

TOTAL 95/120


Judges’ comments
  • Brilliant, well-told window into the mind of a man who is dying in quicksand. A compulsive, gut-wrenching read. Ginny
  • The descriptions of place in this story are vivid. The character is intriguing and the sinking sand is an interesting device. There is a double drama that unfolds: the drama of the sinking sand and then as the character is slowly swallowed up, the drama of his life replaying as he dies. Overall it is a little melodramatic. Alex
  • A visceral and believable tale of loss, trauma and guilt, told with admirable poignancy. Andrew
  • There's a great rawness to this; it's not overwritten. A good emotional piece that is thought-provoking and unexpected. Karen

Third Place



'Unfinished Business'

by Jessica Spyker


Readability: Does it hold your attention? 14/20
Originality 14/20
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 14/20
Characterization 18/20
Imagery and use of language 18/20
Overall gut response to story 15/20

TOTAL 93/120


Judges’ comments
  • Two well-drawn interesting characters. A good picture of their life together and their easy relationship, so the murder at the end came as a real shock. Ginny
  • Very compelling, enjoyable pair of characters, original and well-created. The place and space they live in is memorably described too. The flow of the action is not entirely convincing or clear: the day begins with the two flatmates bantering about a play one of them is working on; then it transpires that the writer is meant to be doing something specific on this day. This thing he is putting off doing is because his friend kissed his girlfriend, but there is an added complication because in fact he is in love with the friend who kissed his girlfriend. Alex
  • Fine descriptive writing and an unexpected twist make this story memorable. Andrew
  • It's tricky writing about writing, but once you get going there's a lot of interesting play here. An intriguing story, with a nice twist that's well-placed to catch your readers. Karen




  • First Prize: R10 000.00 and publication in an anthology of winning stories
  • Second Prize: R 5 000.00 and publication in an anthology of winning stories
  • Third Prize: R 2 500.00
The top three winners will receive editorial comments on their submitted works.


"You're up to your neck in it."

Now closed for entries
Friday 22 May 2020
Friday 12 June 2020

Have a look at our Literary Short and Flash Fiction course here
  • We aim to support beginner writers. We only accept stories from writers who have never been published, or who have been published fewer than four times in any genre. This includes fiction and non-fiction, in any publication (for payment or otherwise). Journalists, copywriters or web writers must please not apply. People who made a living from writing at any point in their life (e.g. decades earlier) are also not eligible for entry. We make an exception for unpaid articles for community or work newsletters, or blogs, where the circulation is under 1000.
  • The competition is open to anyone living in South Africa over the age of 16. The top 20 entrants may be asked to provide a photo of their ID or passport.
  • Entrants must submit a story of maximum word count: 2000 words. Any entries exceeding the word count by 50 words will not be considered.
  • Writers can interpret and represent the theme in any way they choose. Each story must include the phrase ‘You’re up to your neck in it’ somewhere in the story. Writers must produce their own title.
  • Stories that appear to be unrelated to the theme will not be considered.
  • Only one story per entrant is allowed.
  • The first-place winner of any previous year is not allowed to re-enter the competition.
  • We only accept entries written in English.
  • The competition closes at midnight on 30 April 2020. The longlist will be published by 22 May, and the winners announced and displayed on our website on Friday 12 June.
  • Prizewinners will be notified via email as well as on our web site; please ensure you supply a valid email address with your entry.
  • Prize money will be paid via electronic transfer.
  • Stories must not have been previously published. Entrants must own full copyright to the story submitted.
  • Writers retain copyright, but give permission for their work to be displayed on our website.
  • Winning entrants give permission to be published in an anthology. This is a not-for-profit venture and 100% of proceeds will be added to the competition prize money for subsequent annual contests.
  • The judges' decision is final; no disputes will be entered into.
  • All submissions and enquiries can be sent to Nichola Meyer: [email protected]
  • If your entry has not been acknowledged within three working days, please contact us as your email may have got lost in transit.
  • SA Writers College reserves the right to extend the competition deadline, or cancel the competition should the entries not be of publishable quality or up to the required standard.

  • Only e-mail submissions are acceptable, with stories attached as Word Documents.
  • Mark your entry clearly with the email subject line: SAWC Annual Short Story Competition.
  • In your email, please include the following declaration: ''I declare that I am a beginner writer, and a resident of South Africa. I declare that I have been published in a mainstream print or online publication fewer than four times.''
  • Each story must have a unique title. Do not use the theme as your title.
  • Your email must state the story title and your name. E.g. 'Once Upon a Time' - by Tumi Solomon
  • Do not include your name on any page of your story. All entries will be judged blind.
  • Use a font such as Arial or Times New Roman, size 12 or more. Use 1.5 or double spacing between lines. We prefer a clear line between paragraphs rather than indenting.
  • Make sure your story has been edited and polished according to tips and guidelines provided on our college site under “Writing Resources”, or on our webzine. Read these:


View the details of our fiction writing foundation course


Read past winners stories for some inspiration


Ginny Swart Short Story Tutor Ginny Swart has sold over 700 short stories all over the world. Read more about her award-winning writing here >

Alex Smith Award-winning author Alex Smith has published five novels. Read more about her here >

Karen Jeynes Award-winning playwright Karen Jeynes has written several plays and TV series. Read more here > Andrew-Salomon Andrew Salomon has published several novels and has won the PEN/ Studzinski literary award. Find out more about him here >


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