The William Taylor Memorial Heartland Short Story Competition

The Heartland Short Story Competition started in 2004. It has since been renamed The William Taylor Memorial (Heartland) Short Story Competition in memory of William (Bill) Taylor, who gave freely of his time and advice to help establish Taumarunui Writers’ Group and this competition.


We are pleased to advise that we will be holding the competition again in 2018.

There will be a first prize of $300, a second prize of $75 and a third prize of $50.  There will also be a prize for the local winner from the Ruapehu Region

Entries should be fiction in any genre and be up to 1,000 words in length.

Entries cost only $10 per story and close on 30 September 2018

This year we are pleased to announce that the competition is supported by sponsorship by Paper Plus Taumarunui which has helped with costs and allowed us to increase the prize money – please support them.

Paper Plus Taumarunui


For more information see the HEARTLAND SHORT STORY COMPETITION 2018 conditions

Entries may be emailed or posted as you prefer.  Download the entry form in your preferred format being:

 Heartland 2018 entry form in pdf format

Heartland 2018 entry form in rtf format

Quick check:

  1. Have you attached or included your entry form and story or stories?
  2. If payment of your entry is from an account not in your name have you stated the name of the account

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to Helen Reynolds 07 896 6096 or email us using the simple form below 

We look forward to receiving your entry.

Happy writing!

The 2017 Competition

The William Taylor Heartland Memorial Short Story Competition 2017 competition attracted 109 entries from  various parts of New Zealand.

The judge assessed the entries “blind” without knowing their names or where they came from.

Judge’s Report

This year there were 109 entries, all of which were worthy pieces of writing in their own right. I have read all the stories once, then about 60 again, and finally my top 20 a third time. At this point I consulted fellow writer, friend and past winner, Antony Millen. He agreed with me that there were 4-5 stories that stood out above the rest on my short-list, however the order of merit for those top few varied slightly.

I took notes identifying the good and the bad in every story, but those which were put aside after just one reading I did so usually because the narratives, while often brilliantly written, did not seem appropriate for either the short story genre, or for a short story competition. Poems, parables, laments, confessions and essays all fell into this category. What I was looking for was ‘literary merit’, a sometimes elusive thing, but usually found in more experienced writers, or those who are generally well-read. Certainly there were many entries that ‘told a good story’, yet there were a dozen or more that I would consider as ‘Literature’ in that they shared the qualities of other great short story writers such as Steinbeck, Forster, Ihimaera or Sargeson.

Here are the notes I made for those 20 stories I read and re-read three times. They are all ‘highly commended’, and show the potential that should encourage those authors to continue writing.

#6. For the love of feet. This is a lovely, quirky story, which had me chuckling throughout. There’s plenty of self-effacing wit, and also a humorous sense of what life is like living with a fetish or phobia. The originality of the idea impressed me too.

#34. A Suitable Occasion. There’s a terrific structure to this story. We read it initially with the sense the couple are going to a reunion or something, an event requiring a suit and tie. But a rendezvous with naked aliens certainly provides an entertaining twist. To pull this off without any lapse into the clichés of sci-fi or dystopian literature shows a writer of real tact. One does get the impression, however, that the author had the last line in mind first, and built their story around it.

#49. Out of the Closet. Glenda Burkett Mananui. A cleverly written ‘Coming Out’ story. Of course I read it waiting for the angst-fuelled ‘I’m Gay’ confession, but no! She is coming out ‘grey’, accepting that grey is the new gold, and being proud of her hair in its natural state. Stylistically the story reminded me of some of Stephanie Johnson’s polished prose. A fine piece.

#18. The Telegram. There is a certain conciseness about this story which lends it power. Often a narrative about a letter delivered during war-time informing a family of a lost relative would be painful reading. But in this case the author has not overdone emotion. This restraint lends dignity to the characters, and leaves the reader satisfied that this is how such a story should be told. Love the telegram boy’s perspective, and the ride up the hill to the old house at the beginning.

#89. Buried Memories. This story about a brooch that might have come from four different periods of history, is commendable. There’s a lot packed into such a short narrative, and I think the writer is to be applauded for the scope of their interest and research. All four ‘memories’ are fascinating, with perhaps the last ‘true history’ being the least satisfactory. I certainly felt like I’d learnt something of the social history of New Zealand by the end of it.

#98. Desi’s Song. Mary Elsmore-Neilson OhakuneThis is an excellent piece of realism. The story emphasises the importance of working conditions and camaraderie in the work-place. Desi’s song is the song of one of the good guys; hard-working, empathetic and loyal, whose life is undermined and ultimately ended by the impersonal, cold-hearted nature of big corporations. It’s a compelling and relevant theme, narrated with compassion, and has a touching finale.

#90. Charlie’s Dad. This story has an absolutely smoking start: “The morning I found out Charlie was not my son, I ran him over.” The rest is a sincere account of what it means to be a father, and what parents do for their children, even if they aren’t ‘biologically’ our own. As a father who has run over his 2-year old’s leg I could empathise with this narrative all the way.

#67. Out to Lunch. A seemingly impromptu lunch with at Robert and Claudia’s turns into a comedy of surprises, complete with the coming and going of a tribe of kids, quirks of Latin hospitality and lots of smacking kisses. It’s truly an entertaining read, but I did seem to lose the context in the end. Who are these people? Why are we there? What are the kids doing all this time? Perhaps the context doesn’t matter after all, it’s a fun read all the same.

#68. Legacy. This is definitely what you’d call ‘a classic Kiwi yarn’, much in the mould of Ihimaera’s “The Makutu on Mrs Jones”. There’s a nice touch of typical New Zealand understatement too, and the role of the rural postal service completes the country-life setting. The end reminded me of the end of the movie ‘Castaway’ as well, where the delivery of a parcel/letter triggers a new chapter to the story.

#109. Smoking Racehorses. Helen Reynolds Taumarunui. Love the title, and it turned out to be a really well-told story. The interaction between a local cop and a well-known old crook makes for delightful dialogue which the author carries out with aplomb. It’s a sad story too, we sympathise with the old criminal because clearly the outside world poses more problems for him than his life behind bars. He practically begs to be locked up again. Heaps of potential here.

#103. In the Home Paddock. One of several stories entered that has a rural vet as the narrator. However this one was a class above the rest because of the hidden narrative of a lost son, the eldest of a farming family. Judging by the tear in the old farmer’s eye the sick cow is more than just a pet, and the way the story builds on this early observation demonstrates wonderful structure and poise.

#45. Bulli Point and the Lollipop Man. There’s a real sense of a pleasant daytime reverie in this story. I know the spot too, have dived off the cliff, and remember when the truck went over the edge. The narrative meanders over memories drawing the reader in, so that when a horn “peeps” we too are reminded that we’re stuck in a traffic queue, and are rudely rushed back to the urgency of the present. A bit of a slow start, but the story gets better as it goes.

#75. You Are Not Alone. The search for a pair of Laughing Owls in the streets of Wellington is one of the most interesting premises for a story I’ve come across in a long time. It’s a brilliant idea and the story is superbly constructed, scene by scene. My only reservation is that it needs a conclusion to the missing owl saga, in fact it demands one. Like several other stories in my top 20, this one would make a fine short novel.

#94. Grandma’s Attic. This is a polished piece of prose writing which captures the thrill a girl experiences when she finds her beloved Grandma’s diary in the attic. The setting is the story’s most charming aspect: the dust fairies, the heavy wooden furniture and overstuffed armchair. The reader is transported into the girl’s world, her memories, her imagination, her grief and her love for Grandma.

#37. Lacto Beans. Lacto Beans is the work of a very clever writer, who has transferred the ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ fable into a modern day farming scenario. There are so many puns, innuendo, tongue-in-cheek digs at big corporations (Atlas), that I found myself shaking my head and smiling at the sheer wittiness of it all. Throughout Ma, Jack, Ferdinand the bull, and Sugar Tits the cow keep the reader entertained with their talk and antics. It’s a great piece of prose, and probably unlucky not to feature in the top three.

#5. A Strong Woman. This is a beautifully-told narrative with a really neat twist at the end. Ngaire’s new house-bus neighbour, Mitch, seems to be going out of his way to impress her, but she, understandably, is very cautious of his overtures. Bit by bit though Mitch shows what a catch he’d be: loves her little dog, drinks Lemon, Lime and Bitters like her, fixes buses, and even has “hazelnut brown” skin. Ngaire expresses her growing fancy with the phrase “lemon meringue pie”. A lovely expression. But just when we think Ngaire might have found her Mr. Perfect, he mentions ‘Clinton’, his partner of ten years. No more ‘lemon meringue pie’ for Ngaire. The author clearly has a good grasp on how to pace a story, and for this reason is only just outside being placed in the top three.


3rd Place #55. My Magnificent Cloak. Hannah Davison, Culvenden. There’s a real element of mystique and magic in this beautifully told tale. The language is rich, poetic, musical even. It’s an enigmatic story full of symbolism and metaphor, very like a parable, fable or myth passed on through generations. I don’t get all of it, I don’t think you need to, that is part of the mystical quality of the prose. What is important is that the reader is transported into this mythical world, a world where a magnificent cloak is the centre of the universe, and the girl who wears it is part goddess, part innocent child, part heroine, part scapegoat. A wonderful piece of writing.

2nd Place #78. Last Tango in Piriaka.  Jeff Taylor, Hamilton. I really liked this story for its honesty and matter-of-fact style of writing. There are only two characters, but they are superbly portrayed: the lovely-legged lawyer and the dancing lollipop man. There’s a healthy dose of self-effacing humour, which every man who has tried to woo a woman can appreciate. Despite the pauper and the princess fairytale theme, I think the author has shown genuine originality in the way they have written it. The prose is precise, the dialogue so realistic we are convinced that this road-worker is dreaming if he thinks he’s got a chance with the high-flying beauty in her green Jaguar. So when he turns up at her house and she pulls him into a tight embrace, well I was as flummoxed as he was. It’s a smashing end to a perfectly told story, but I wonder if the hug was a bit too much. The story might have been better served if he really did do that last tango, not with his stop/go sign, but with her.

1st Place #28. Business. Kayla Mackenzie-Kopp, Waiheke Island. How do you make a dollar when you are a couple of kids living in Apia? It’s a simple idea brilliantly executed in this lovely short story. The language is concise and clear, the narrative moves forward at a gentle pace, the setting is drowsy and warm. The effect is we get the feeling we’ve been on the island for a long time, so much has happened in so few words. These qualities suggest a fine writer who is in complete control of their story-telling craft. ‘Business’ is really about kids being kids, but Alisi and Lome are really likeable kids too. Through them the author has superbly evoked the wonder of childhood; hunting for nests, using a pocket-knife, haggling with adults and throwing eggs at dogs. I love the names: “Alisi of the long eye lashes”, “Lome the Nonchalant”, “Alisi the Intrepid”; reminiscent of Kipling’s names in the novel “Kim”. In the end the boys make a couple of dollars and get to take an egg home each. It had been a great day, and as the last line says, it was quite simply “Good business”.

Congratulations to all those writers whose stories have been highly commended. Thank-you to everyone who entered stories into the competition, I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of them. I feel as though I’ve met a hundred new people, been to dozens of unfamiliar and exotic places, and learnt so much about life in general, just by reading those stories. I also have no doubt my own writing will be enriched by reading what other aspiring writers have done. All the best to everyone in your future writing projects, read heaps and keep refining your story-telling voices.

With regards, A.D.Thomas.

To read the winning entries (when loaded) see here

Our warmest congratulations to these winners

We would like to take the opportunity to thank all participants for their entries. It is their participation which makes this competition a success.