SAWC 2011 Short Story Competition Results

The Winners


We are thrilled to announce the winners of our 2011 SA Writers’ College Short Story Competition.

  1. The overall winner is “The Tokoloshe” by Hannah Green
  2. The runner-up place is awarded to Shelley Blignaut for her story “Watching Sunsets We Never See”
  3. In third place is Jessica Liebenberg’s story “Final Disposition”

Anamé van Zyl’s “Notes on a Narrative of Becoming (Possibly Nitrogen)” was in fourth place and Venisa Chinnasamy’s “The Brick House” was fifth. Well done.


These writers receive an Honours Award. These stories stood out for being both enjoyable to read and well written.

Congratulations to...

  • Catherine Jarvis for ‘The Residents of Wendell Court
  • Gomotsegang Motswatswe for ‘Painted Sorrow’
  • Chelsea Haith for ‘The Colour White’
  • Janine Egan for ‘Stones in his Bed
  • Tom Szendri for ‘Migrants
  • Carla Lever for ‘A Part of It
  • Cullan Maclear for ‘Listen

Honourable Mention

These 18 writers receive an Honourable Mention.

  • Kirsti Bauer for ‘For Worse
  • Kim Ireland for ‘Thirteen Down
  • Sean Viljoen for ‘Law of Instrument
  • Rob Murray for ‘The Slow Abdication of Harold Willoughby’
  • Andrea van Tonder for ‘The Apathetic Dasher’s Catharsis
  • Rudi Benade for ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out
  • Ferial Carelse for ‘David and the Girl
  • Delene Chetty for ‘Snow
  • Veronica Williams for ‘Running on Empty
  • Greg Milward-Bridges for ‘Serendipity
  • Anne Watt for ‘Moving On’
  • Anneke Cronje for ‘Moving on Towards the Creamy Centre’
  • Daniel Berti for ‘Tommy the Tank-Engine’
  • Juanne-Pierre de Abreu for ‘Living Love
  • Masroefa Kassen for ‘A Pivotal Moment in the Life of Sarah May
  • Lumumba Mthembu for ‘I Fix SA
  • Fawa Conraide for ‘Firoza’s Wedding Dress
  • Yvonne Erasmus for ‘In Opposite Directions

The judges’ ratings and comments for the top 5 stories

First Place

Story:  The Tokoloshe by Hannah Greenread-the-winning-entry-here


Readability: Does it hold your attention?
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
Imagery and use of language
Overall gut response to story
TOTAL                                                                 108/150

Judges’ comments
  • I found this story predictable. There was no tension, and nothing terribly original about either its execution or its outcome. I found phrases like “swell with child” twee. KS
  • I think the story was beautifully constructed but ended far too abruptly. I felt the ending was a bit of a cop out. Also the character of the daughter wasn’t clear enough age or personality wise. KJ
  • A good idea. I think you could have built up the character of the father a little more ominously, so the reader is not certain if it is he who is abusing the daughter. HB
  • Horrifying! A deeply disturbing story, giving an intriguing local twist to the old horror standbys of haunted houses and succubi. The vision of the Tokoloshe is particularly vivid and original. HRI
  • This story felt pretty unique. A powerful story and the sledgehammer of the last line was terrific. This one is far and away my favourite story. GS
Second Place


Story: Watching Sunsets We Never See by Shelley Blignautread-the-runner-up-entry

Readability: Does it hold your attention?
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
Imagery and use of language
Overall gut response to story
TOTAL                                                                106/150
Judges’ comments
  • I like the title and how it plays into the themes. What’s original is the speaker’s ability to describe colours. Warm, lovely characters described more by their dialogue than description, which is not always easy to achieve.  I didn’t like the end. It felt a little too predictable. But the story has a warm heart. KS
  • I loved the honesty and gutsiness of this story, although it verged on cliché a few times. It had passion. KJ
  • Very smoothly written. I found the narrator’s voice a little too sophisticated for a young street child, and I didn’t quite understand why the child doesn’t tell the old man the truth about the world. It would have been stronger if this had been explored. HB
  • A very moving story. The relationship between the young narrator and the old blind man is sensitively and touchingly drawn, and the ending is a tragic surprise. HRI
  • Very readable and it definitely held my attention right to the end. Loved the way it was lightened with the humour of Sara changing amputated arms every day. This could have been sentimental but wasn’t. It’s very original in theme- I’ve never read something from the POV of a blind man’s assistant standing at the robot before. And the title is perfect. It manages to tell the reader everything we need to know without a hitch:  his background, his life on the street with his father, the people he sees. The boy is beautifully brought to life. He represents the spirit of uBuntu.  It’s never clear what age he is but I have him in my mind as about twelve? I loved this story, it really spoke to me. I had a problem with his dying in the first person ( he does die, doesn’t he?) but otherwise it was a very good read and a clear- eyed look at a South African situation that is played out at so many traffic lights across the country. GS


Third Place

Story: Final Disposition by Jessica Liebenberg

Readability: Does it hold your attention?
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
Imagery and use of language
Overall gut response to story
TOTAL                                                                103/150
Judges’ comments
  • Wonderful and intriguing premise. Very original and thought-provoking. Tighter line editing needed. Some very long paragraphs. Like the wry tone.  Loved the premise. Really highly original and interesting. KS
  •  This is a lovely concept, and a talented writer, but not a good “story” – nothing happens or progresses. KJ
  • This is an interesting concept, but because of the overloading of dialogue, it read a little like a play script. It would have been stronger if the writer had introduced more description and action, to alter the pace and to build and reduce tension. HB
  • Original, very well written and full of dark humour. This story might have had a little more plot complexity, though, to add suspense and substance. HRI
  • I had a faintly hysterical grin on my face the whole time I was reading this. Great concept, well executed.  One bizarre thought followed another... I can see this in a sci-fi anthology. But get it in quickly before it becomes our reality! Flows well... his memories fit in beautifully to inform the reader things work... “the default position!” I loved this.  Is this sci fi or a practical look at our future? The writer takes what is already on the horizon and embroiders the possibilities beautifully. Great last line: if there had been a time when one could die and be left to decompose in peace.GS


Fourth Place
Story: Notes on a Narrative of Becoming (Possibly Nitrogen) by Anamé van Zyl
Readability: Does it hold your attention?
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
Imagery and use of language
Overall gut response to story
TOTAL                                                                 102.5/150
Judges’ comments

Principal’s comment: This is the best short story I have read in years – by any author. Magnificent in every way. Pure genius. Thank you. Nichola Meyer
  • Absolutely gripped by the style and the tension. Tight, well-written, what’s left out is as carefully weighed as what’s put it in. There is a keen mind at work here. The story elements along with the narrative techniques employed by the writer are fully complementary. Wonderful meditation on coping, pattern-seeking and sense-making.  I found it jerky BUT the first difficulty in reading is precisely what is needed for the story. The writer’s challenge to the reader is laid down in the style. Long, ramble-y sentences may contribute to the difficulty, but – again – are perfect for the story. Spare use of imagery that adds to rather than detracts from the whole. I particularly liked the way he imagines the librarian looking at the book’s “tongue” – strong and memorable. Language is well controlled. Can’t remember when last I read a short story that so gripped and challenged and fulfilled. KS
  • Very well realised, three dimensional, alive. I wanted more – a beautiful concept, unique, well realised, a talented writer. Somehow it seemed to stay “safe”. KJ
  • It’s very hard to engage the reader using intellectual hooks only. This story would have been stronger if the narrator had divulged some of his emotional processes. I feel that the writer is trying to hide behind intellectualism to avoid exposing himself emotionally. HB
  • I loved this story! Clever, extremely original, complex, witty and accomplished. My only hesitation was that I thought the story might be trying to achieve too much – combining too many story elements – in too short a space. I’d love to see this expanded into something a little longer. HRI
  • No. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t crack this one. I read it several times and couldn’t get what the writer was trying to say. It felt very disconnected. I found it really hard work!  I found this impossible to read and just became impatient. Oh dear I hate to sound so negative. This writer is very assured. I think I might have liked a different one of his/her pieces. GS
Fifth Place

Story: The Brick House

Readability: Does it hold your attention?
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
Imagery and use of language
Overall gut response to story
TOTAL                                                                96/150
Judges’ comments
  • Editing – grammar and punctuation – interfered with my reading. I also felt much could be left out. Sanna’s thoughts were demonstrated through her actions and did not need to be repeated for the reader. I think Sanna is an important character – almost a blueprint for the downtrodden and abused, the dutiful and hardworking. I like her. I think she could have been more subtly painted through her actions and did not need to have her explained to me. Some lovely images. This one stuck out as particularly clear: His voice trailed behind her like pants of smoke. Needs editing to pack a quieter and more memorable punch, but the story has elements of success. KS
  • I feel like this story ended where it should have begun. There’s a difference between leaving an ending to the readers’ imagination, and just not ending. KJ
  • An interesting story, and I liked the way you established Sanna’s moral landscape. I was a little puzzled by her sudden turn from helpless person in the official’s office, to someone who was going to get justice at the end. The story would have been stronger if you’d built up her process with more internal dialogue, perhaps referencing to events in the past.  HB
  • Suspenseful and heartwarming, with a very sympathetic main character. HRI
  • This was written in a purposefully simple style which suited the theme of the story. It certainly held my attention. As I was reading this, I just thought, this is a real slice of township life. Great story. By the end we are holding our breath for asthmatic Sanna, who allows herself to be pushed along by the system, but only so far and no further. Although her confident expectation that the council tsotsi’s days were numbered shows just what an innocent she is! GS

Final Comments

This year was a bumper one for entries: we received 262 South African stories for our national short story writing competition. The theme was “moving on” and stories centred around forgiveness, death, grief and second chances.  Some of the stories moved us to tears!

Because of the quantity and quality of the entries, the selection process was exciting, but also more challenging than ever with so many excellent stories jostling for top spot.  Read the judges' comments and you will note that each judge seemed to have a favourite, with no winning story enjoying all the limelight. More than 80 of the stories were so outstanding, we just had to mention them on this page!

If you submitted a story – congratulations. The mere fact that you are writing and entering competitions takes courage. And most of the stories were so good, all of you in fact deserve a special mention.

A huge congratulations to all of you.
Best wishes
Nichola Meyer (Principal of SA Writers’ College); Contact Nichola
First prize
: An Apple iPad plus entry into one of our short courses
Second Prize: R2000
Top two entries will be published on our college site and the top five winners will receive individual editorial comments on their submitted works.
DEADLINE: 31 March 2011, via e-mail only to [email protected]
THEME: Moving On
More stories we loved, that deserve a special mention:

Ramona Raymond for ‘Blue Moon
Caitlin Stobie for ‘Cavalcade

Alice Masemola for ‘Stuck in the Past

Avril Cox Leaf for ‘Interchange

Fred Felton for ‘Off the Rails’

Steven Howley for ‘Paralysed
Fatima Asmal for ‘Flood of Realisations’

Nick Miles for ‘Hammerman
Seamus Allardice for ‘Badly Kept Secrets

Sohini Gowan for ‘Sanctum

Orry Messer for ‘Sweeping is just Moving Filth Around’

Sue Bartlett for ‘Dry
Wanda du Plooy for ‘A Day in Autumn

Lenoy Barkai for ‘Transience

Richard Simpson for ‘Sister Sacramento

Willemien Jansen for ‘Bittersweet’

Ian Sutherland for ‘Comeback
Siyasanga Tyali for “Hope at Shack Number 5

Norman Marapo for ‘The Prisoner

Paul Kilfoil for ‘Chance Encounter

Nqobile Ndlovu for ‘Pieces of Me

Adheesh Budree for ‘The Walk

Henda Scott for ‘Swallowed’

Carol Watts for ‘Going to the Market
Frik Harmse for ‘Turning the Bend

Donal Davern for ‘My White Bleeding Heart

Reitumetse Stevens Rapulan for ‘At the Train Station

Michelle Port for ‘Mirror Man

Queen Molekwa for ‘Decade of Refinery

Nonjabulo Mlangeni for ‘Waiting for your Life to Begin

Zinhle Buthelezi for ‘Unchained Melody

Tapiwa Beser for ‘Freedom From Within

Stephanie Quaqarelli for ‘Throughput

Randley Reddy for ‘Silence

Jonathan Hemmings for ‘Ink’
Janique Marshall for ‘Bev’s Choice

Zita Consani for ‘Run, Janet, Run

Nicola Sudan for ‘A Private Goodbye

Duncan Aird for ‘Things Change

Patricia Smith for ‘A Song in Her Heart

Eddy Delcher for ‘The Long Way Home

Angelique Michaels for ‘Moving On

Laura Casimiro for  ‘Impetus: A Ghost Story

Trevaux Banks for ‘Fuck Moving On

Bedelia Paulsen for ‘Of Wilted Leaves and Blooming Trees

Catt Mays for ‘Today is the Day

Chenel Pieterse-Boyle for ‘Call me Charles

Jade Taylor Cooke for ‘Onward Not Upward

Raymond Malatji for ‘Moving On

Sheritha Singh for ‘The Fortune Teller in Vaca

Jan Bowley for ‘Mrs Evans and Eternity

Christopher McArthur for ‘Release

A big thank you to our judges this year: Helen Brain, Karin Schimke, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Ginny Swart and Karen Jeynes.

Henrietta  Henrietta Rose-Innes has written two novels, Shark's Egg (Kwela, 2000) and The Rock Alphabet (Kwela, 2004), and has compiled a book of South African writing, Nice Times! A Book of South African Pleasures and Delights (Double Storey, 2006). A number of her short stories and essays have appeared in local and international publications.

Most recently, Henrietta's story "Poison" won the 2007 Southern African PEN / HSBC Writing Award. She won the 2008 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Ginny_Swart  Ginny Swart has sold over 400 short stories to women's magazines all over the world. On any day of every month she has at least 15 stories out there on editors' desks. Her more serious work has appeared in literary publications in America, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and on the Web. She is also the author of three romance novels (Ulverscroft Press UK) a book of short stories ( and a book for teenagers: Nosipho and the King of Bones (MacMillan Boleswa SA).

In 2003 Ginny won the esteemed UK The Real Writers' Prize from over 4000 entrants.

Karen_Jeynes  Karen Jeynes studied English and Drama at UCT. Her plays include "Laying Blame", "sky too big", "Backwards in High Heels" (co-authored with the cast), "Don't Mention Sex", "Kiss Kiss" and the multi award-winning "Everybody Else (is Fucking Perfect)". She has also directed "The Best Man", "Pillow Talk" and "Txt Me". Her adaptation of Thomas Rapakgadi's "The Purse is Mine" aired on Bush Radio last year, and she is busy writing a radio drama series for Safm with Nkuli Sibeko, tentatively entitled "Office Hours".

Her teenage novel, Jacques Attack (co-authored with Nkuli Sibeko) was published in 2004, and her new book, Flipside, co-authored with Eeshaam September, is due for release this year.

Helen_Brain_Creative_Writing_Tutor_lb.jpg Helen Brain is the author of over 30 books for children, and has contributed stories and plays to numerous school anthologies. Her teen novel, Tamara won an ATKV award. She has also published short stories for adults, and her highly acclaimed memoir, Here Be Lions was published by Oshun in 2006.

karin_schimke_lb.jpg Karin Schimke was a political writer for The Star and The Cape Times before turning to freelancing in 2000. She has written columns and feature articles for a variety of mainstream newspapers and magazines, and also publishes short stories and poetry. She reviews books for the Cape Times and has a regular column on

Karin has written two non-fiction books: Fabulously 40 and beyond (with Margie Orford), and Mother Country due for publication in 2011. Her children’s picture book Layla had a lovely dad was published in 2009. She also edited Open, a collection of literary erotic short stories by South African women writers.

Karin mentors and tutors young writers at a publishing house, and is currently working on a novel and a collection of her poems for possible publication. She hosts a regular weekly poetry happening called Off The Wall in Observatory, Cape Town. 


Read previous competition winners stories here:

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