SA Writers' College | 2012 Short Story Competition



2012 Annual Short Story Award

For Emerging Writers in South Africa

The Winners


Congratulations to our three winners in the 2012 SA Writers' College Short Story Competition. As you will see from the results, there were only a few points separating the final positions. Judges' comments and ratings follow below, as well as our Honours' List and Honourable Mention List. Well done to you all.


First place: ‘Go’ – by Aname van Zyl  

Runner up: ‘Tune in Again Next Week’ – by Carla Lever 

Third place: ‘A Gambling Man’ – by B. L. Calder

Fourth place is awarded to Chelsea Haith for ‘The Worst of Either World', and fifth place goes to H.L Chewins for ‘Quietus’.

People's Choice Award Winner

 ‘Tune in Again Next Week’ – by Carla Lever

You can read the top five stories here


Honours Awards

The standard was particularly high this year, with attention to detail, good grammar and strong characterisation evident in many of the stories we received. These stories below are highly readable, as well as having good phrases and imagery. They narrowly missed being finalists:


‘Lessons in Being Nice’ – by Eleanor Talbot
‘Air Conductor’ – by Duncan Aird
‘Teddy Buoy’s Chance’ - by Matthew F. Child
‘The House Always Wins’ – by Sean Viljoen
‘Luigi’s Last Trip’ - by Helen Masterson


Honourable Mention

‘The Interview’ – by Peter Hood
‘Dicing with Fire’ – by Katherine Naiker
‘Luck’ – by Lee Padayachee
‘The Last Drag’ – by Zulile Ncayiyana
‘A Night with Friends’ – by Emma Atkinson
‘Smoke gets in your Eyes’ – by Nadia Kamies
‘Focus’ – by Stefan Kruger
‘To Die For’ – by Arushi Raina
‘In Limbo’ – by Varsha Lalla
‘Running for Her Life’ by Maria Phalime
‘A Lucky Man’ by Jessica Liebenberg
‘Beauty and Disaster’ by Nonjabulo Mlangeni
‘Sis Sinumbolelo’ – by Oliver Centurier-Harris
‘The Cat’ – by Raj Isaac
‘The Heart of the Matter’ – by Gideon Strydom


Top five stories: Judges' marks and comments


  Readability /5 Originality /5 Flow /5 Characterization /5 Imagery and language /5 Overall  response /5 Total /180
Ginny 3 4 4 4 5 3  
Lisa 3 4 3 3 4 3  
Henrietta 4 4.2 3.2 3.6 4 3.8  
Alex 3 4 4 4 4 3.5  
Karin S 3.5 4 3 3 4.5 4  
Karen J 5 5 4 5 5 5  
Judge totals> 21.5 25.2 21.2 22.6 26.5 22.3 139.3

Ginny Swart: Wonderful imagery, great use of language, but a difficult story to warm to. I found the endless folding of the cranes slowed it down, and in the end I wasn’t as captivated as I thought I would be. 

Alex Smith: Some fragile and exquisite images; original, dreamy and simultaneously quietly violent; it feels more like a chapter of a larger story. Poetic, sometimes overly artful to the detriment of story clarity, but it has a haunting quality that lingers. 

Lisa Lazarus: The story was interesting and the imagery of the origami was arresting. However, the constant shifting between the man's violence (perhaps a tad melodramatic) and the child's desire to distract herself with something beautiful and creative became a little distracting and overdone. I think this technique would have been more effective if it had been used more judiciously.

Henrietta Rose-Innes: Beautifully written, filled with evocative images. A very intriguing stage is set. However, I did get a bit confused. There were so many symbolic objects in the story (cranes, origami house, dice, go...) that it feels cluttered, at the expense of clarity.  (By the end, I still didn't really know why the paper cranes smelt SO bad ...)  I would have preferred more detail about some of the character dynamics. Also, I felt the "roll of the dice" was a bit clumsily incorporated into the story.

Karin Schimke: Highly original concept and activity used to convey a child's struggle to contain, control and beautify her world. Excellent sustained use of the imagery of origami. Wonderful use of haiku. Sometimes a little to hard to imagine the child's surroundings.

Karen Jeynes: Very effective way to tell the story. Feels very real, and I love the specificity.

Tune in again Next Week - RUNNER-UP

  Readability /5 Originality /5 Flow /5 Characterization /5 Imagery and language /5 Overall  response /5 Total /180
Ginny 4 4 3 4 4 3  
Lisa 4 5 4 4 4 4  
Henrietta 3.8 4 3.8 3.6 3.8 3.7  
Alex 4 4 4 4.5 3 3  
Karin S 3.5 4 3.5 4 3 3.5  
Karen J 4 4 4 4 3 4  
Judge totals> 23.3 25 22.3 24.1 20.8 21.2 136.7

Ginny Swart: A fast-paced read as we watch Stan become totally delusional before our eyes. Couldn’t help feeling sorry for the poor man but wondered why it wasn’t set in South Africa? We have radio here too. 

Alex Smith: Initially fascinating and very origInal, has a terrific opening set-up with loads of potential. Written with plain style and good clarity with some great specific details. The character is lovely, but the story is not as strong as it could be.

Lisa Lazarus: Quirky, amusing - the author manages to turn the protagonist into a real person.

Henrietta Rose-Innes: A lovely whimsical scenario for a story, building nicely to a climax. But again, I have to say I was a little confused by the ending. There's a big build-up to that final line, "I realise what it was that I’d forgotten", but it's unclear to me what the significance of this actually is ... he's going to miss his radio show? His delusions will be shattered?  I felt the set-up deserved a punchier, more conclusive resolution.

Karin Schimke: Original idea, well executed. Like the unreliable narrator (appears normal and sane, but gets lost in magical thinking he tries to rationalise). End puzzling.

Karen Jeynes: Enjoyable, but the rhythm and feel are very similar throughout.

A Gambling Man - THIRD PLACE

  Readability /5 Originality /5 Flow /5 Characterization /5 Imagery and language /5 Overall  response /5 Total /180
Ginny 5 5 4 4 3 5  
Lisa 4 3 4 2 3 3  
Henrietta 3.5 3 3.3 3.3 3.5 3.5  
Alex 4 4 4 3.5 3.5 4  
Karin S 3 2 3 3 3.5 2  
Karen J 3 3 3 4 4 4  
Judge totals> 22.5 20 21.3 19.8 20.5 21.5 125.6

Ginny Swart: A very clever story, with a well-described South African background and a great twist. Loved it!

Alex Smith: Has a good commercial fiction narrative style, easy-to-read, non-pretentious and the writing flows well. Some great local details - the syringa berries, the Loeries. Quite cunningly turns tired theme and storyline on its head - all along it seems slightly confusing, one isn't quite sure if Fiona is the body or possibly another girlfriend, but in the end the twist is clear (although somewhat contrived). 

Lisa Lazarus: Good building of tension with a fun twist in the tail. I would have liked Fiona to be a little less one-dimensional.  I think that this would have strengthened the story.

Henrietta Rose-Innes: Punchy and gripping, with good suspense and some wickedly dark humour. However, the story did feel a bit like a long build-up to a single "punchline" - I would've preferred more of a developed story. Again, the "roll of the dice" element felt a little artificially added in.

Karin Schimke: Setting and mood drawn well and the use of the go-away bird links all the bits together well.

Karen Jeynes: A good story, but it felt a little awkward at times, a little forced.

The Worst of Either World - FOURTH PLACE

  Readability /5 Originality /5 Flow /5 Characterization /5 Imagery and language /5 Overall  response /5 Total /180
Ginny 4 4 4 5 5 5  
Lisa 3 3 2 3 3 3  
Henrietta 3.4 3.1 3.2 3.2 3.2 3.3  
Alex 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3  
Karin S 3.5 3.5 4 4 3 3.5  
Karen J 3 3 4 3 4 3  
Judge totals> 20.4 19.6 20.7 21.7 21.7 20.8 124.9

Ginny Swart: A perceptive and original take on schizophrenia, with the two characters fighting for supremacy in her mind. Very well written with a terrific ending. (Just wished she hadn’t said “I die” as the last line because dead girls can’t write memoirs.)

Alex Smith: A compulsive, complex character, brooding atmosphere, achieves a fine obsessive focus with plain worded, down-to-earth writing style. Often plausible, psychological study of the character's state of mind, which draws the reader into that mind, and yet, as a short story, it falls short. As a character-driven story, perhaps it needs more character development; there is not much change or revelation from beginning to end.

Lisa Lazarus: I found the story a little confusing and jerky. I wasn't quite sure how it connected with the theme. However, I enjoyed some of the imagery - the comparison of a multiple personality to a geographical separation of land masses. 

Henrietta Rose-Innes: Good handling of two competing voices, generating a lot of tension and suspense. I felt the scenario was not an enormously original one, though, and I was also not sure how the story related to the theme of "roll of the dice".

Karin Schimke: Characterisation of two people inside narrator is well-managed through dialogue and thought. Ending felt weak, but links inside narrative are good.

Karen Jeynes: I feel as though I've read this story before, although it is well-written and sensitively handled.


  Readability /5 Originality /5 Flow /5 Characterization /5 Imagery and language /5 Overall  response /5 Total /180
Ginny 5 4 3 4 4 5  
Lisa 4 3 3 2 2 3  
Henrietta 4 3.2 3.2 3 3.2 3.4  
Alex 4 3.5 4 4 3 3.5  
Karin S 2 2 2 2 2 2  
Karen J 5 4 4 5 5 5  
Judge totals> 24 19.7 19.2 20 19.2 21.9 124

Ginny Swart: A chilling story with the approaching horror intensified by the use of first person. The tension throughout is terrific and I liked the way her thoughts of what is about to happen to her are interspersed with little things she remembers. Excellent last line

Alex Smith: Strong beginning - gripping and dark. Some images convoluted (e.g. sweat of my back against the wall). The story feels cut short rather than drawing to a powerful end. She's tied up for two hours, but the rolling of the dice is fairly quick, so the sense of time passing isn't clear or palpable. Although the third man seems to win, there is no mention of him rolling the dice. A fearsome set-up with potential for more tension and suspense. Would have liked, from beginning to end , more progression of story or character development for this Joburg-based thriller.

Lisa Lazarus: The story was shocking and perverse. However, I thought that the characterisation of the men could have been handled better, and more comprehensively (not just 'second man', 'third man' etc.). I would also have liked a clearer motivation for Brian's alarming behaviour.

Henrietta Rose-Innes: A gripping and suspenseful story. However, it read more like a single scene than a complete story. We are presented with a scenario and watch it play out in a fairly predictable manner. I felt a need for more twists in the plot, more surprise, more of a structured narrative.

Karin Schimke: This story did not move me at all. It did not elicit empathy or fear or any of the emotions one would expect a story like this to do. Writing is cliched and tired.

Karen Jeynes: Beautiful. You know what is coming, but it's still enthralling and traumatic.



Read the five winning entries.





This competition is to acknowledge excellence in creative writing in the Short Story genre. The contest is open to any emerging writer residing in South Africa who has had fewer than four stories/articles published in any format (print or digital).


PRIZES: by bennyyap

  • First Prize: R 5 000.00 plus entry into one of our short courses
  • Second Prize: R2 000.00
  • People's Choice Award R 1 000.00

Top two entries will be published on our college site and the top five winners will receive editorial comments on their submitted works.


THEME: Roll of the Dice



  • Entry is limited to South African residents only.
  • Entrants must submit a story of maximum word count: 2000 words. Any entries exceeding the word count by 50 words will not be considered.
  • We aim to support and acknowledge beginner writers, so we only accept stories from writers who have been published fewer than four times in any genre, in any publication (for payment or otherwise). This does not include articles for community or work newsletters where the circulation is under 1000.
  • 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.
  • All 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.
  • Make sure your story has been edited and polished according to tips and guidelines provided on our college site under “Writing Resources”.

Archives View our Archived Competition Entries Here



The top five entries will be assessed by a panel of six award-winning writers.  

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.

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.  

Alex Smith letterbox Alex Smith is the author of three novels, Algeria's Way and Drinking from the Dragon's Well, both published by Random House Umuzi. Drinking from the Dragon's Well was long-listed for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. Four Drunk Beauties, her third novel, was published by Umuzi in 2010.

Alex has had many short stories published in anthologies and journals. Her short story 'Buffalo Panting at the Moon’ was short-listed for the 2007 SA PEN Literary Awards. Most recently her writing appeared in Touch, along with other SA writers, including Henrietta Rose-Innes, Damon Galgut, Andre Brink, and Nadine Gordimer.

Alex was shortlisted for the 2009 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award. She won a silver award at the 2010 Sanlam Youth Literature Awards and has been nominated for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing. Most recently her latest novel, Four Drunk Beauties, won the Nielsen sponsored 2011 Bookseller's Choice Award.

LisaLazarus letterbox Lisa Lazarus is a freelance journalist for a variety of publications, including Men's Health, Femina, Psychologies, Shape, Cosmopolitan, Femina, Healthy Pregnancy and the Mail & Guardian. Her memoir The Book of Jacob, co-written with Greg Fried, has been published by Oshun. She has also published a novel When in Broad Daylight I Open My Eyes (Kwela, 2012) with Greg Fried, under the pen name Greg Lazarus. Lisa tutors both the Magazine Journalism Course and the Memoir Writing Course

Previously she worked as Principal of City Varsity for six years. She has a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology. In 2011 she completed her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town (cum laude).


CRITIQUES: We unfortunately do not have the time to supply a critique for each submission. If you wish to receive a professional one- to two-page report of your work, please state your requirement on your title page. We charge R120.00 per critique.



  • The competition is open to anyone living in South Africa over the age of 16.
  • The competition closes at midnight on 31 March 2012, and winners will be announced and displayed on our web site by 30 April 2012.
  • 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
Follow us on Facebook Join us on Twitter


Click here to pay with PayPal

Pay via Mastercard
Click here to pay with VISA


About Us

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.

Contact Us

Nichola Meyer or Koos Turenhout
Email: [email protected]

You can also leave a voice message on 021 813 9224 and we will phone you back within one working day.

9am to 5pm Monday to Friday

Work for Us

Vacancies at SAWC

Writing Services