About the competition
Every dress has a story . . . we want to read yours!
Partly inspired by Erin McKean's 2011 novel, The Secret Lives of Dresses, this new national short story competition is open to all NZ-based writers.

Broadgreen Heritage House features a significant textile and period costume collection; including one of New Zealand’s oldest quilts made in Ireland in 1776; and some of Nelson’s early pioneer gowns and accessories.

Two dresses (1950s evening/ball gowns) have been selected as the inspiration for this competition, because they do no have any provenance (known history about their origin or record of ownership). You are invited to 'write their story'. View the dresses in more detail here.

Stories should be based on or inspired by one, or both of, the two dresses. We welcome both fictional stories and creative nonfiction (personal/memoir/historical) stories. Stories should be written in English and be no longer than 1,500 words.
More than $3,000 in prizes to be won
1st prize
2nd prize
3rd prize
Thanks to our Gold sponsors
Terms & Conditions
General guidelines
  • There are no fees to enter.
  • Entries are welcome from all writers currently residing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • The minimum age for entry is 16. There is no maximum age limit.
  • Deadline is midnight NZ time (GMT+12) on Saturday 30 April, 2022. Late submissions will not be accepted.
  • Nelson City Council employees and Write Across Media employees (and sub-contractors) are not eligible to enter. Broadgreen Historic House volunteers may enter as they are not in any way involved in the reviewing process.
  • First prize wins $1,000 in cash, Page & Blackmore book vouchers worth $250, a $150 Pyne & Eid Tailoring and Alterations voucher, and a ticket for two people to participate in Wilsons Abel Tasman's Awaroa Pioneer Trail with a private guide plus a copy of Awaroa Legacy (valued at $633). The one-day Pioneer Trail includes return Vista Cruise from Kaiteriteri to Awaroa (or in opposite direction), including guided tour of Awaroa and Meadowbank Homestead and optional two-hour walk to Tonga Quarry.
  • Second prize wins $400 in cash and Page & Blackmore book vouchers worth $150.
  • Third prize wins $200 in cash and Page & Blackmore book vouchers worth $100.
How to enter
  • Online submissions only. No email, postal or hand-delivered entries.
  • Entries must be submitted via the official Secret Lives Short Story Competition entry form.
  • Stories should be written in English.
  • Stories should be no longer than 1,500 words.
  • Stories should be based on or inspired by one, or both of, the two dresses.
  • We welcome both fictional stories and creative nonfiction (personal/memoir/historical) stories.
  • All work should be previously unpublished; this includes self-publication.
  • Entries must be original, written by an individual author.
  • Entries must not infringe upon anyone’s copyright.
  • Multiple entries are permitted.
  • Please use the title of your story as the document name e.g. ‘The Secret Life of Hinemoa’.
  • We want to judge your work on its own merits, so please do not include your name anywhere in the body or file name of your document.
  • All entries are final. No revisions are accepted prior to judging, although will be consider revisions prior to publication.
Judging process
  • Due to the large number of submissions we expect, Write Across Media assessors will take responsibility for the initial reviewing and rating, during which a shortlist of 10 stories will be selected. This shortlist will then be referred to the judges for reading and selection.
  • There will be prizes awarded to three finalists: first, second and third.
  • At their discretion, the judges may also nominate additional stories as ‘highly commended’ or ‘commended’ but there will be no prizes accompanying these awards.
  • The shortlist will be announced no later than 13 June 2022.
  • The winners will be announced at a prize-giving event in Nelson (and online) on 29 June 2022.
  • The judges’ decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into about the judgements or the judging process.
  • Only shortlisted entrants and the winner will be notified directly.
  • Feedback will only be given to finalists. No feedback will be given to unsuccessful entries.
  • Broadgreen Historic House and Nelson City Council reserve the right not to award a prize in a specific category if there are no suitable submissions.
Copyright and publication
  • Copyright remains with all entrants, including the winners.
  • We ask for first publication rights for the three finalists’ stories, which must be exercised within 12 months from the date the finalists are announced.
  • By entering the Secret Lives Short Story Competition, you agree to assign a non-exclusive license to Broadgreen Historic House and Nelson City Council to publish your work in all media in perpetuity. This may include but is not limited to: online, radio, news media, heritage panels, books, calendars etc.
Privacy statement
Write Across Media collects personal information from you, including information about your:
  • name
  • contact information
  • gender and ethnicity
We collect your personal information in order to identify competition entries.
Besides our staff, we share this information with Nelson City Council in order to verify the identity of prize winners.
If you choose not to enter the information requested in the entry form, we'll be unable to include them in the competition.
You have the right to ask for a copy of any personal information we hold about you, and to ask for it to be corrected if you think it is wrong. If you’d like to ask for a copy of your information, or to have it corrected, please contact us at subs@writeacrossmedia.com, or 0272059330, or PO Box 1239 Nelson 7040.