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Inaugural University creative writing competition launched

Monday 8 July 2019 10:38am

Have a go ... a creative writing competition for Otago students and staff opens today - with the theme "Daring to be Wise".

A creative writing competition for staff and students opens today, as part of the University of Otago’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

“Writer” offers four categories, staff fiction, staff poetry, student fiction and student poetry, and is aimed at all keen writers at all of the University’s campuses.

One of the competition’s organisers, English and Linguistics Programme Teaching Fellow Nicola Cummins, says she is really excited about the competition’s launch – and hopes that anyone with an interest in writing has a go.

“One of the inspirational moments for inaugurating this competition was an Otago Bulletin Board story about Dr Dawn Coates who won a new microscope for Dentistry with a poem in a writing competition run by a scientific instruments manufacturer. Reading that story was a timely reminder that literary talent and enthusiasm is not limited to any one area of the University.”

"We are so grateful to have such a multi-facetted and experienced writer as our judge. Fiona has published stories, poems, novels, plays, and non-fiction."

This year – to tie in with the 150th celebrations the competition’s theme, or writing prompt, is “Daring to be Wise” and all poems and short stories must relate in some way to this theme.

The competition has been supported by the University’s 150th team, University Book Shop, Otago University Press and the English and Linguistics Programme – and offers generous prizes for each of the category winners.

Winners will also have their work published in the Otago Daily Times and have the opportunity to read their entry aloud on Otago Access Radio.

Co-organiser Otago Bulletin Board Editor Lisa Dick says she and Ms Cummins have been blown away by the support the idea has received – which includes securing guest judge leading New Zealand writer, Fiona Farrell.

“Fiona was wonderfully supprtive and kind when we mentioned the idea of a University-wide writing competition,” Mrs Dick says. “We are so grateful to have such a multi-facetted and experienced writer as our judge. Fiona has published stories, poems, novels, plays, and non-fiction. Fiona has also had plenty of experience as a winner of literary competitions herself.”

Mrs Dick says it is hoped to run the competition annually, in the second semester, to complement the Otago Bulletin Board Photo Competition which runs in the first semester.

Further information can be found here and below.

Here’s what you need to know to enter:

Who can enter?
The competition is open to all staff and students of the University of Otago.

What’s the deadline?
Entries are due on or before Friday 6 September.

How do I submit a story or poem?
Email your entry to attached as a word doc.

Can I submit any story or poem?
Short stories and poems must relate in some way to the competition’s writing prompt: “Daring to be Wise”.

What is the word limit?
Poems can be of any length (within reason), stories must be no more than 2,500 words (though we stress this is an absolute maximum not an aim, any length up to 2,500 will be accepted).

How many entries can I submit?
Just one entry per person across poetry or prose, student or staff categories. You must choose which of the four categories suits you best.
Stories and poems must be original and previously unpublished (entries will be run through the University’s plagiarism checking system Turnitin).

Can my entry be in te reo Māori?
Yes. However to assist the judge it would be helpful if you included a translation into English.

Who is the judge?
New Zealand novelist and poet Fiona Farrell backed up by a small support team which will include Otago Bulletin Board Editor Lisa Dick and English and Linguistics Programme Teaching Fellow Nicola Cummins.

Are you happy for us to print and use your poem or story?
By entering, you grant permission for us to post your writing to the University website and Facebook page and other social media, and for your writing to be printed in the Otago Daily Times and on posters around campus if selected as a winner in this year’s competition.

Still have questions?
Please contact the competition team, Email:

Good luck!