2020 Annual Short Story Award


For Emerging Writers in South Africa



Scroll down for entry details

The Longlist


Our 13th annual short story competition has yielded the most submissions ever – a total of 750. It’s heartwarming to see so many writers challenge themselves despite the difficulties we currently face in lockdown.

South Africans know how to tell a good yarn, but an outstanding story relies on expert writing skills to bring words to life. We are impressed by the vast improvements in writing proficiency over time. After 13 years, we can see that close attention to grammar and self-editing has lifted the standard of writing.

There were hundreds of good entries this year, so we had to be very strict in our selection. If your story didn't make the longlist, please check back here on 12 June. We will publish the top 100 entries to give you a sense of your placement in the competition.

It is a privilege to support writers through our annual competition and witness the ongoing development of local talent. Well done, everyone.


Congratulations to the writers of our top 26 entries.

(In no particular order)


'Unfinished Business' - by Jessica Spyker
'Lockdown' - by Seshadari Jesse Moodley
'I L--- Y--: A Game of Guesswork & Gravity' - by Cebo Hadebe
'The Detective and the Murder Suspect' – by Daniela Beley
'Haunt' - by Dimpho Mogakabe
'Surprise' - by Diana Hansen
'Memoirs of a Cape Flats Woman' - by Wesley Van Wyngaardt
'The Moot Mullato' – by Taki Scordis
'Rain dancer' – by Nastassia Da Silva
'Monsters of the Cape Flats' – by Christina Nieuwoudt
'Verdun' - by Cal Harding
'To Float' - by Celeste Bouwer
'The Mushroom Incident' - by Mary-ann Thomson
'He Touched Me – by Ogugua Patricia Ajayi
'How We Made the Pavement' – by Alboricah Rathupetsane
'I've Got You Covid' – by John Keith Anderson Holland
'Misstep' – by Stephen Harrison
'Possession' – by Dominic Davimes
'Mothers and Daughters' - by L. Tladi
'What To Expect When Your Grandmother Dies: A Numbered Guide' – by Ness Rajah
'Yellow' - by Lynique Krüger
'un/Clean' - by Dexter Padayachee
'Kwik' - by Angus Paul
'Nomhoyi' - by Franciscus Crouse
'Santa's Last Christmas' - by Barry Ger
‘The Chair’ – by Javi Reddy


The Winners, Highest Honours, Honours, Honourable Mention and ‘More Stories We Loved’ lists will be published on 12 June.



  • 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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We offer specialised, online writing courses tutored by award-winning writers in South Africa. Get the writing tools you need, expert insider advice and hours and hours of writing practice.


Study from anywhere in South Africa: Cape Town, Western Cape; Johannesburg and Pretoria, Gauteng; Durban and Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal; Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape; Bloemfontein, Free State; Nelspruit, Mpumalanga; Kimberley, Northern Cape and Polokwane, Limpopo.

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Email: [email protected]

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