2016 SA Writers College Short Story Competition



2016 Annual Short Story Award


For Emerging Writers in South Africa




The annual SA Writers College Short Story Competition is held to acknowledge excellence in creative writing in the Short Story form.

The contest is open to any emerging writer residing in South Africa and who has had fewer than four stories/articles published in any format (print or digital).


The Winners

Congratulations to our top-placed winners in the 2016 SA Writers College Short Story Competition.
These stories stood out for their sophisticated, unique voice, as well as thought-provoking, captivating story-telling. Excellent job!



FIRST PLACE: ‘My Mother Takes One Look at Me and Gives Me Away' - by Bruce McKenzie

RUNNER-UP: ‘And the Meek’ - by Matthew Child

THIRD PLACE: 'The High Road Less Travelled' - by Les Hellmann


Fourth place is awarded to Tanya Michelle Neumann for ‘Pending’, and fifth place goes to ‘Machiavellian Silences’ by Odell Coetzee.


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



Highest Honours


Congratulations to our winners of the Highest Honours Award. These stories narrowly missed being winners. These stories were beautifully written, with a special sparkle.


‘Dance Once More’ – by Peter Clayton
‘Meeting Sam’ – by Nick de Pomeroy-Legg
‘Lunchbox’ – by Peter Hood
‘A Gift from the City’ – by Jean-Paul Willemse
‘The Gift’ – by Valda Bedford
‘Nigh-Eve’ – by Elizabeth Gaisford







These were well-written stories with great plotlines and solid characters. Well done.


‘Doll’s Eyes’ – by Kirsten Kargaard
‘Black Moon’ – by Megan Rainier
‘One Sunday Morning’ – by Kubayi Sekutupu Pretty
‘At the End of the Dead End’ – by Mohau Kotola
‘The Rainmaker’ – by Sifiso Mtshali
‘The Gift’ - by Michele Jacqueline Smith
‘The Gift to Kevin from a Homeless Person’ – by Graham Robertoux 
‘Sucker Punch’ – by Taki Scordis
‘The Hand’ – by Margaret Nyamushamba
‘The Gift’ – by Thato Ncube
‘The Piano’ – by Lara Katherine Stander
‘Old to Young, Young to Old’ – by Vishaka Baloo
‘Careful What You Wish For’ – by Kate Titmus
‘Physician Heal Thyself’ – by Evert Louw
‘Imperfect Proposal’ – by Tarein J Blues
‘Eating Crow’ – by Sharon Wayne
‘Nigh-Eve’ – by Elizabeth Gaisford
‘Self-portrait, September’ – by Kirti Ranchod





Honourable Mention

These stories held our attention and were enjoyable to read.


  • ‘A Gift of Love’ – by Reshma Kassie
  • ‘Cold Feet’ – by Zamadonda Thandokazi Thusini
  • ‘Diamond in the Rough’ - by Eurika Mogane
  • ‘Matter of the Heart’ – by Joanne Bolton
  • ‘First Impressions’ – by Mike Job
  • ‘Night Lights’ - by Candice Wedermann
  • ‘Fate’s Gift’ – by Dhivanya Naidoo
  • ‘Young Pain’ – by Jason N Moyo
  • ‘Changing Names’ – by Kirsti Natalya Bauer
  • ‘Daddy’s Girl’ – by Leanne Jade du Randt
  • ‘Dear Dad’ – by John Keith Anderson Holland
  • ‘Mr Bojangles’ - by Janine Milne
  • ‘The Candlestick Holder’ – by Sarika Roy
  • ‘The Mystery Box’ – by Nicole Moffat
  • ‘Man’s Best Friend’ – by Michael Abrahams
  • ‘The Gift’ – by Vamumusa Malusi Khumalo
  • ‘The Messenger’ – by Marisa van den Heever
  • ‘Skillets’ – by Sue Guthrie


      More Stories We Loved

Because we received over 670 entries this year, we thought it fair to publish a longer ‘More Stories We Loved’ list. This list acknowledges that the writing shows potential; great writing is about polished skills, and pushing boundaries with words, characters and structure. Next year we'd like to see these authors climbing up the results ladder.


‘Dream Bigger Than Two Room Shack’ – by Kagiso Ashley Keipopele; ‘From the Ashes of Captivity’ – by Roxane Templeman; ‘Present Perfect’ – by Kevin Somerville Weir; ‘Watching Her’ - by Siphumelele Mjamba; ‘Monsters of War’ – by  Linda Busuku; ‘Christian Louboutins’ - by Lyndall Cain; ‘Do You Like Me Maybe?’ – by Jeanette Naidoo; ‘Flush’ – by Bradley Baxter; ‘Oranges’ – by Micaela Blue Primmer; ‘Our Song of Colours’ – by Ayesha Hargey; ‘The Gift’ – by Bronwen Huddlestone; ‘The Gift of Cotton in Mud’ - by Jason van Breda; The Gift-Giver - by Donna Steel; ‘The Magic of my Profession’  - by Goretti Edeams; ‘The Gift’ - Londa Cele; ‘Naledi’ – by Theoline Maphutha; ‘Bibliomania’ – by Melissa Nefdt; ‘A Gift and Consequence in Not Minding Your Business’  - by Simeon du Toit; ‘The Come and Go Room’ – by Michael Payne; ‘The Greek Gift Paradox’ - Christopher Conrady; ‘Malgaju: The Meat Man’ – by Sihle Dlamini; ‘Ms Lone’s Apocalypse’ – by Lisa Weideman; ‘Ward’ - by Dante Ludolf; ‘The Gift’ – by Rina Bester; ‘A Friend Indeed’ – by R Kelly; ‘Amandla Amandla’ – by Laura Campbell; ‘Amity’ by Qhayiyakazi Dlamini; ‘A Head for Figures’ – by Kurt Wessels; ‘Alice’ by Ryan Boucher; ‘Fadiela’s Gift’ – by Carina Mare; ‘Present from the Passed’ – by Anthony Louis von Zeil; ‘The Lobster’ – by Olenka de Sas Kropiwinicki; ‘Two Mothers’ – by Dee Andrew.

Keep up the great writing! We look forward to hearing from you again next year for our SA Writers College competition closing 30 April 2017.

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, Karen Jeynes , Fiona Ingram and Maya Fowler.

First Place

'My Mother Takes One Look at Me... and Gives Me Away'

by Bruce McKenzieread-the-winning-entry-here

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 24/30
Originality 25/30
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 19/30
Characterization 25/30
Imagery and use of language 25/30
Overall gut response to story 23/30

TOTAL 141/180


Judges’ comments
  • Great title! Loved the granny and his relationship with her. There is a feeling of such humanity here. Lovely story. Ginny
  • A sheer delight, this memoir contains beautiful images, strong characterisation and some wonderful lines. And yet the structure is deeply flawed; for example in the 'prologue' the narrator says he is going to begin at conception and it is all hearsay because he  doesn't remember it, but then promptly doesn't begin at conception but begins in 1958 when he is 18! With some good editing this story would be a gem. [Consider cutting the 'prologue' and starting 'It is 1958'.]. Alex
  • An appealing wittiness that is sustained throughout the story. The flow of the story is hampered by jarring transitions forward and backward in time. Andrew
  • There are beautiful elements here, but you have too many stories within stories - just when we are engaging with one story, you take us in a different direction with another. Take time to tell each, in your lovely way. Karen
  • This piece had the wonderful 'antique' charm of a memoir and the effects of WW2 on life and families. I enjoyed the personal touch of the narrator and his 'shock horror' initial feelings of not being wanted. The writer has a deft touch with his characterization. Gran is too wonderful for words and jumped off the page in vivid reality. I felt very much that this is a true story and if so, would encourage more of it. Fiona
  • A wonderful start and a compelling read, but the ending lets the story down. The central character is compelling, as is the style. This is a very promising, highly readable story, and it is a pity that it loses steam towards the end, with no denouement or conclusion. The reason is largely the lack of confrontation with the mother or her actions, which is what the title leads the reader to expect. Maya
Runner Up

'And the Meek'

By Matthew Childread-the-runner-up-entry-

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 24/30
Originality 24/30
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 21/30
Characterization 24/30
Imagery and use of language 26/30
Overall gut response to story 21/30

TOTAL 140/180


Judges’ comments
  • Beautiful language and imagery but an awful lot of botanical detail,  and in the terms of “a good read” it  was too fanciful and didn’t work for me as a story. Ginny
  • Quirky, ephemeral romance, thoughtful and at times provocative but in the end does not culminate in a satisfying story. Alex
  • An intriguing premise of two disparate characters finding each other in a heartless world. The dialogue feels artificial and the story itself requires too much suspension of disbelief to buy into. Andrew
  • You have a really beautiful tone, and a wonderful mood throughout the piece. In moments, it feels as though you might be trying a little too hard to make it work. But for the most part it succeeds majestically and effectively. Karen
  • I found this story interesting in that the longing to escape what the world and society have become is increasing. In a way the writer taps straight into the almost pretentious means people conjure up for effecting this escape, all the while knowing that it has its own 'weakness' as a facade, almost as if the two participants are 'playing' at escaping. An intriguing concept all the same. A nice philosophy. Fiona
  • Captivating from the start and a pleasure to read. Original characters: "drop-outs" without the usual trappings. The story makes one ponder the meaning of success, as it is generally viewed in our society in terms of both material wealth and conventionality. Very accomplished writing. Maya
Third Place

'The High Road Less Travelled'

by Les HellmannRead-the-story-here-button

Readability: Does it hold your attention? 23/30
Originality 23/30
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?) 22/30
Characterization 24/30
Imagery and use of language 24/30
Overall gut response to story 23/30

TOTAL 139/180


Judges’ comments
  • Liked the South African-ness of this one. There's a bit too much "telling" when the differences between the two men are explained. I enjoyed the way Abram turns out to be more than he seems and has far better values than Bradley, the techno whizz. Ginny
  • An enjoyable yarn with a twist at its end. The country road scene is well created. The dialogue is good. The man who would have his hair cut online if he could is typical. Abram is a likeable character though aspects of him seem a bit far-fetched, like the PhD in Divinity (not sure if there is some insinuation that he is an angel?) He has a great knowledge of plants, including their scientific names, so perhaps he could have done a PhD in herbal and traditional healing? It is a proper story, with beginning, middle and satisfying end, though at times a little 'preachy'. Alex
  • The reader is easily immersed in the physical environment and the landscape inside Bradley's head. Characters are well written, despite being  highly stereotyped. Borders on coming across as a morality lesson, but has a pleasing surprise ending. Andrew
  • You manage parts of this story well, but it ends up becoming rather didactic - I feel you could make your point without so obviously making your point.  Try to convey the message without so clearly drawing our attention to it. You manage parts of this story well. Try to convey the message without so clearly drawing our attention to it. Karen
  • Although the story isn't perfect, I was really intrigued by how these two had met, and where it was going. Bradley is so typical of modern techno obsessed society. Abram is a perfect foil. And yet when all is revealed in the end, with a lovely twist, it shows people's choices and says much more than a longer tale might. Rather fable-like in its simplicity. Fiona
  • An effective juxtaposition of characters in the disconnected Brad and the very present Abram. Brad, who filters everything through technology, is so social media-connected and network-saturated that he is completely disconnected from the world at hand. The seemingly simple Abram, on the other hand, leads a plain life in which he is engaged with the physical world one moment at a time. A nice double surprise at the end, although the mode-of-transport twist is presented more effectively than the education twist. Abram's education is fully plausible, but the manner in which it is revealed is perhaps slightly artificial. Maya



PRIZES: Basiese Kreatiewe Skryfkursus

  • First Prize: R 10 000.00
  • Second Prize: R 5 000.00
  • Third Prize: R 2 000.00


  • 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 or non-fiction, in any publication (for payment or otherwise). Journalists, copywriters or web writers must please not apply. We make an exception for unpaid articles for community or work newsletters, or blogs, where the circulation is under 1000.
  • Entry is limited to South African residents only. anthology-400
  • 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. Stories that appear to be entirely unrelated to the theme will not be considered.
  • We strongly recommend that writers read through the competition archives or the past winning stories to see what kind of writing appeals to us at SA Writers College. We enjoy highly original writing that is authentic and thought-provoking.
  • Stories must not have been previously published. Entrants must own full copyright to the story submitted.
  • Only one story per entrant is allowed.
  • Only e-mail submissions are acceptable, with stories attached as Word Documents. Mark your entry clearly with the subject line: SAWC Annual Short Story Competition, and submit according to rules below.
  • If you have not received an acknowledgement of your submission within three days, please re-send your entry.
  • Queries and submissions must be sent to Nichola Meyer: [email protected]



  • Your first page of your Word document must include the story title, your name, email address and total number of words of the entry.
  • Do not include your name on any page of your story, except the title page. 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:

Archives View our Archived Competition Entries Here


Ginny Swart Short Story Tutor lb

Ginny Swart
has sold over 700 short stories all over the world. Read more about her here >

Alex Smith letterbox

Award winning Alex Smith has published five novels. See more about her here >
Karen Jeynes letterbox

Award winning playwright Karen Jeynes. More here >

Multi Award winner Fiona Ingram. See more about her here >

Andrew Salomon
has published several novels and has won the PEN/ Studzinski literary award. See more about him here >

Multi talented Maya Fowler joins us this year as a judge. Read more about her here >


  • The competition is open to anyone living in South Africa over the age of 16.
  • The competition closes at midnight on 30 April 2016. The shortlist is published on 16 May, and the winners will be announced and displayed on our website by 31 May 2016.
  • 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.
  • We only accept entries written in English.
  • Entrant must own full copyright of the piece.
  • Writers retain copyright, but give permission for their work to be displayed on our website.
  • The judges' decision is final; no disputes will be entered into.
  • If your entry has not been acknowledged within 72 hours, please contact us –your mail 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.

Photo credit: Benny Yap
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