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2021 Graeme Lay Short Story Competition Winners Announced

The 2021 Graeme Lay Short Story Competition winners have been announced by the NZSA Auckland Branch, with NZ Booklovers reviewer Chris Reed being one of the writers awarded! In announcing the winners for 2021, Graeme praised the high standard of writing from the top ten shortlisted stories, "I found it extremely difficult to select a winner, and only after several re-readings could I decide which story deserved first place," he said. First place has been awarded to Patricia Bell for her Story 'Dandelion Clocks'. "It was extremely hard to separate the first and second-placed stories. One was written in the first person, the other in the third person; one in the past tense, the other in the present. Both had credible elements of drama and conflict. I agonised over which one to declare the winner, and even contemplated making them first equal, but then decided that that would be a cop-out. So after several more re-readings, I made my final choice," said Graeme. As first place winner, Patricia receives $500 prize money. To celebrate, this week the three prize winners will be reading their stories on the Auckland Branch Facebook Page. Graeme will also be sharing his thoughts and findings in a video. We invite you all to follow the Auckland Branch page and enjoy the stories this week!

First Place: Patricia Bell for her story 'Dandelion Clocks'

Patricia Bell is a writer, editor, and proofreader. Her debut novel is set for release in March 2022, published by Cloud Ink Press. Her author website is

This story grew out of a loss experienced by Patricia: "Nine years ago I saw my precious cat Lucy run over and killed in front of me. 'Dandelion Clocks' is a fictional reimagining of that event. I consider how vulnerable and powerful a child might be in a moment of intense fragility, and how we humans can so easily - and often unwittingly - inflict pain or offer comfort with the simplest of words, and with tiny-but-enormous acts of cruelty or grace."

Second Place: Anissa Ljanta for her story 'Fifty New Things'

Anissa is a not-for-profit professional. A change agent on a good day. Queer and neurodivergent, she claimed the word outlier when she was eight. Writing is how she makes sense of the world. Towers of books live by her bed. Bookshelves line her hallways. Words are at the centre of her life.

Anissa says that 'Fifty New Things' is about allowing love to bleed into the spaces between our scars. “On a walk here in Karekare, I thought about a wonderful friend who is dying - and her beloved. Life is a privilege. I wrote this story to remind me of that.”

Third Place: Chris Reed for his story 'Come Together'

Chris Reed (Ngāti Porou) is a writer, copywriter, musician and teacher. He lives with his wife, Kirsty, and daughters Amelia and Penelope. A lot of his work looks at his own connection between Māori and Pākehā as well as ideas around parenthood and music.

Chris says that 'Come Together is "inspired by the beautiful small bays up the Tairāwhiti coast and the relationship between the land and the people."


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