Topic: 2011 Memoir and Local History Competition

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Susan Brocker

An award-winning author of books for young children and adults, Susan bases her stories such as Dreams of Warriors and Brave Bess on real-life historical events and is known for the thorough research she undertakes before she commences writing. The Wolf in the Wardrobe is now available in bookshops and libraries.

Tommy Kapai Wilson

Tommy has published over 30 titles, mainly for children, and with New Zealand and Maori themes. He is a firm believer in ‘backyard books.’ He is presently compiling  recollections of an iconic landmark of the Bay of Plenty. Mauao: Caught by the Morning Light is to be published by Taramea Publishing, Coromandel.


Overall we had a good response to this competition, with 94 entries in total in our inaugural year, which has decided us to consider running it again as an annual or biennial contest. Our judges read all the entries between them, and Susan Brocker set out the criteria upon which stories were judged, based on the competition rules: 

  Best writing on a place or person (past or present) that deserves to be better known.

   Focus on New Zealand-Aotearoa, with a special meaning for the author.

  A true story about a real person or persons, place or event as either memoir (a personal memory, or remembrance of some other individual) or local history linked to any New Zealand locale.

  The memoir could be based on the author’s own life or any incident or event they wanted to write about.

  Local history either from personal knowledge or based on research.

She adds, “While some wonderful stories were submitted the prize stories I chose those with a distinctive New Zealand flavour (rather than generic stories that could be told anywhere in the world). For example, I thought The Best Bookshop in New Plymouth and At Siloam: Moana Pools were well written, but not specifically New Zealand stories.

Susan discusses and comments on her choices below:

1st  Prize. Labels by Karen Peterson Butterworth

A tightly-written, perceptive look back at a hard-working Kiwi family struggling up in Otago in the Forties and early Fifties. It includes some evocative images of Kiwi life then – pee pots emptied in orchards, scorch marks on dunny seats - and some poignant, amusing and intimate snapshots of family life.

2nd Prize : Light from the Sea by Jane Carswell

A well-written and engaging account of a walk around contemporary Oamaru, a sleepy New Zealand town in transition. The walk takes us on a journey through Oamaru’s past and offers a glimpse into its heart and soul. The sea, as it is for so many of New Zealand’s special places, is a constant backdrop.

3rd Prize : Positive Pitfalls by Bronwyn Elsmore

A positively potted history of the Hawkes Bay town of Wairoa and the close-knit family growing up here during the 1950s. Some delightful commentary on small town rural New Zealand family, community and school life, especially the shared heritage between Maori and Pakeha and links to the physical environment. 

Fellow-judge Tommy Kapai Wilson had this to say: “As an author looking for every opportunity to educate and ‘edutain’, I found the entries in this year’s Memoir & Local History competition of a very high and edu-taining standard. The stories told of back yard yarns took me on a hikoi I had not prepared myself for, and this was a pleasant side salad to the main course of the story itself.

“The other entree served up with this year’s entries was those from Young Writers (13-18.) The entry by Samantha White, 'The Old Rusty David Brown', was, in my opinion, as good a yarn as any told in all of the entries. Unfortunately we only had nine entries in this category, and so we have decided to send all of them a $20 book token rather than pick a winner from so few.

“My main course winner for the Bay of Plenty Special Prize was ‘Moko and Koro’ by Gun Caundle, which I chose for many reasons. One prime reason was the bravery of this non-Maori writer in taking on the challenge of writing a culturally sensitive story. For me, that is a clear indication that we as authors and we as a country are growing up and embracing a culture that is all of New Zealand’s to share and write about. 

In addition to the main prize winners, the judges picked 10 Highly Commended entries:  

  • From Humble Beginnings by Addy Coles.
  • The Price of a Beer and a Bath by Judith M. Lofley.
  • The Ghosts of Remembrance, Hill Farm, Kerikeri by John McTavish.
  • The Best Bookshop in New Plymouth by Tony Beyer.
  • The Hanging Tree by Gwyneth Jones
  • Auckland: City of Style by Gwyneth Jones
  • At Siloam: Moana Pools, Dunedin by Hayden Williams
  • When School was Closed All Summer by Leonie Couper.
  • Aunty Rora by Kristina Jensen
  • A Memory of the Old National Women’s Hospital, Auckland by Kath O’Sullivan.

Competition Secretary Jenny Argante also read all the entries, and says, “There was not one story without its interest, and one or two were sobering and thoughtful; some were high-quality historical nonfiction, and many of them warmly humorous and engaging in the best Kiwi style. All these writers deserve praise and to be eagerly read online.”

Stories from contributors were collected for upload on to the NZSA BOP section of Tauranga Memories website. NZSA BOP would like to thank all of you who made the effort to send in your entries, and for the very real pleasure we have had in reading them all.

We would also like to say a special thank you to our two judges, Susan Brocker and Tommy Kapai Wilson, both experts in their own chosen fields of writing. Their presence added immeasurably to the special occasion on which we announced the prizewinners. We would also like to thank Tauranga Writers, New Zealand’s longest-running self-help group for writers, who generously sponsored our two special prizes for Young Writers (13-18) and for a Bay of Plenty Story.  The New Zealand Society of Authors is always open for full and associate membership. NZSA is a professional organisation assisting and supporting writers throughout New Zealand. Go to the website full details of regions and branches, and to see what is on offer for practising writers of all kind, and as general information readily available to all. 

 President Tony Simpson , NZSA


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