Futuristic worlds, disillusioned housewives and racoon eyed grandmothers catch judges’ attention

13 Apr, 2010
AUT Creative Writing Competition

A futuristic world where people choose their appearance, a disillusioned Ponsonby housewife, and an ode to a grandmother were what caught the judges’ attention in the first AUT Creative Writing Competition.

The competition which looked at short stories as well as song lyrics was open to unpublished writers.

The short story section was broken down into two age categories. The winners, judged by New Zealand author Tessa Duder, received a new Sony Vaio laptop (recommended retail $1699) and five hours mentoring with leading New Zealand author Carl Nixon.

Aucklander Rosemary Cullen won the 25+ age category of the short story section with her portrayal of a futuristic dystopia in WYSIWYG.

The story explores the idea that personal image in an e-world has been branded into a product and can be bought and changed at will according to fashion or mood.

Cullen, an Occupational Therapist, mother of three, and soon to be grandmother, has been writing sci-fi fan fiction and her own original sci-fi for around 15 years, but it has only been in the last few years since her children have left home that she has really had a chance to hone her craft.

“You need to be quite self involved and interior when you’re writing. For me I couldn’t be both a mother and a writer. So I did a bit of writing when the children were teenagers, and now that they are all living their own lives I can be selfish enough to write more.”

Twenty-two year old Kate Duggan was the winner for the 15-24 age category of the short story section of the competition with her portrait of a passive and unfulfilled Ponsonby housewife.

Duder described Duggan’s writing as being “especially notable for the accumulation of authentic, beautifully chosen and telling detail,” and called her a “genuinely talented author who knows how to create character, tension and yearning with… the deftest touches.”

Duggan, who is now in her 5th year of medical school, hadn’t picked up a pen to write more than an essay since high school, but after the success of her winning entry Smarts and Follies she intends to keep up her writing.

As the judge of the short story section, Duder says competitions like this for unpublished writers are incredibly important for aspiring writers.

“It’s crucial that unpublished writers be given every possible opportunity to practise their craft. Entering a short story competition takes commitment, to understanding the rules and the genre, sitting down and writing a draft, polishing it, working on the presentation, and finally sending if off before the deadline. These are all skills needed by anyone submitting a manuscript to a publisher. So competitions provide invaluable practise, with the chance of success,” Duder says.

The song lyric competition was judged by bFM representatives Mikey Havoc, Charlotte Ryan and Paul Cowling. The winner received a new Sony Vaio laptop, and the chance to hear their song performed live by a band on bFM Breakfast. The same band will perform the song at a Fancy New Band night which the winner will attend.

Song lyric winner, Murray Williams, works at a high performance door company Albany Door Systems NZ by day, but by night he produces songs about his wife Simone, family, death and all the things in between.

The father of three, and grandfather of two who hails from Onewhero, has been working on his own songs for over ten years but says he never expected it would lead to anything.

“I’m one of those closet home people. I’m sure there are a million of us out there, who just sit at home with the guitar. I’ve got limited ability on the guitar, and limited ability with my vocals, and you just never think you’re going to go any further than your lounge,” Williams says.

His winning song “Racoon Eyes” is about his grandmother who he never met. When he wrote the song he planned it as an alternative rock track, but he says he is excited to hear how it is interpreted by the band.

“It’s going to be great hearing someone else’s interpretation. I really hope it’s completely different to my version, I’m very curious to hear how it turns out.”

The winners will be presented with their prizes at the launch of AUT’s Centre of Creative Writing. Speakers will include AUT representatives, and judges Tessa Duder and bFM host Charlotte Ryan.

Centre for Creative Writing Launch and Creative Writing Competition presentation
Wednesday 5 May, 6pm
Centre for Creative Writing, AUT University, Level 4 Duthie Whyte Building (WY), Cnr Wakefield St and Mayoral Drive

To read finalists stories in the AUT NZ Creative Writing Competition 2009-2010 visit

Centre for Creative Writing

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