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Writer 2024: The University’s annual creative writing competition for staff, students and alumni

Do you love to write? Here’s a competition for you.

With six categories – student poetry, student fiction, staff poetry, staff fiction, alumni poetry and alumni fiction – this is an opportunity for ALL keen writers across ALL of the University’s campuses and alumni all over the world to have a go.

The competition was created in 2019 as part of the University’s 150th celebrations – and we are thrilled to be offering it once again this year.

This year’s theme/writing prompt is “A place of many firsts” – inspired by the University’s new branding. Entrants are encouraged to let this theme guide them to unexpected angles, beyond the obvious and mundane.

“Writer” welcomes entries in English and te reo Māori (though we do ask for an English translation for judging purposes).

Otago psychology research has shown that creativity is hugely beneficial for mental health, and this competition is one way of supporting creativity among our University community and alumni.

University of Otago research on creativity

Last year’s winning entries

Important dates

Opens: Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Closes: Wednesday, 11 September 2024

Winners announced: Thursday, 10 October 2024


Guest judge: 2024 Robert Burns Fellow Mikaela Nyman

Plus a small panel which will include Otago Publications Editor Lisa Dick and English and Linguistics Programme Senior Teaching Fellow Nicola Cummins


With six categories, there will be six winners:

  1. Student poetry
  2. Student fiction
  3. Staff poetry
  4. Staff fiction
  5. Alumni poetry
  6. Alumni fiction

Each winner will receive a prize pack including gifts from our sponsors: Otago University Press, University Book Shop, and Dunedin City of Literature.


In addition, winning poems and stories will be published in the media and online, and winners will have the opportunity to read their winning entries on Otago Access Radio.

Important points about the competition

  • The competition is open to University of Otago students and staff at all of the University’s campuses and all Otago alumni.
  • Stories and poems must be original and previously unpublished (entries will be run through the University’s plagiarism checking system Turntin)
  • Limit of one entry per person
  • All entries must be relatable in some way to this year’s competition prompt: A place of many firsts
  • Stories must be supplied as a Word document
  • Entries will be judged anonymously – so no names on headers or footers
  • By entering your story or poem, you are bound by the terms and conditions of this competition
  • Any story or poem entered in the competition may be featured on the University's website, University of Otago publications and social media channels, and other media channels.
  • Winning stories will be published in the media and read by the author on Otago Access Radio

How to enter your work in the writing competition

  • Send a Word document of your story or poem to attached to an email with your full name, phone contact, email contact and full residential address
  • Include the category you are entering – for example student poetry; staff fiction
  • Students must supply their current student ID number
  • University of Otago staff must use their staff email address
  • University of Otago alumni must provide the University of Otago qualification that they received and year of graduation with their entry

Terms and conditions

By submitting your work you agree to be bound by the following terms and conditions and affirm that your entry complies with all of the terms and conditions of the competition.

What are we looking for?

Any story or poem which uses “A place of many firsts” as its theme.

Stories to be no more than 2,500 words (but this is an absolute word count, not an aim, and shorter stories are absolutely fine)

Who may enter

The competition is open to all current University of Otago students and staff, and all University of Otago alumni.

Members of the organising team and their immediate families are not eligible to enter the competition.


The University of Otago reserves the right to disqualify any entry which does not comply with these terms and conditions.

Cancellations or amendments

The University of Otago reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition or rules at any time without prior notice.

Your rights

You own the copyright and ownership for your work under a Creative Commons Attribution ( CCA ) licence. See the Publication and Licensing section for more information.

Your responsibilities

You will not submit anything that shows illegal or irresponsible behaviour, or anything that is otherwise likely to bring the University into disrepute.

If your story or poem wins the University may also use it on University of Otago websites, Facebook, and other websites, media and publications promoting the University; and

You are responsible for ensuring that your story or poem does not infringe any copyright. We will also run all entries through the University’s plagiarism tool Turntin.

You must have written the story or poem yourself.

Limitation of liability

By entering this competition you agree to release, discharge, and hold harmless The University of Otago and University employees from any claims, losses, and damages arising out of your participation in this competition or any competition-related activities.


  • The University of Otago reserves the right to refuse to award any prize to an entrant who the University decides at its sole discretion has violated these terms and conditions or acted in an unfair way
  • Decisions of the judge is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into
  • The winners will be announced on Thursday 10 October 2024.

Publication and licensing

  • The winning entries may be made publicly available on the University of Otago websites and publications, and other media.
  • The entries will be published under the Creative Commons Attributions licence (New Zealand).
  • You understand that the CCA license means that you grant anyone, including the University of Otago, the non-exclusive right to share (to copy, distribute and transmit) the work, to remix (adapt) it or make commercial use of it without further permission from you, provided you are attributed as the creator of the work;
  • You waive any claims to royalty, right or remuneration for such use that the University of Otago may make of your work.

Winners’ list

Winners’ names will be published on University of Otago web and social media sites.


The University of Otago collects, stores, uses and discloses your personal information in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act 1993. Your personal details will only be used for the purposes of the competition.

Any questions?

If you have any questions, please contact us:


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