Selected from 144 entries
Judges' Report

"Reading the stories for this award – which all focus on the symbol of dresses in the Broadgreen Historic House collection – was a privilege and a joy. Many shortlisted story have fine literary qualities, and each story weaves a narrative around one or both of the dresses, which is no small feat.

"We were intrigued and entertained by the range of ideas in these stories, to do with character, plot, setting and voice. We read romance, stream of consciousness, heist thriller, speculative fiction and everything in between. It was so interesting to see what could be inspired by using vintage dresses as prompts. An unexpected number of stories challenged gender norms; not all of them were set in the era the dresses were made.

"In the end, the winning stories stood out in certain ways. They kept our attention in terms of narrative: what will happen?! They showed originality of telling. And they had something to say about how we live, how we are moved emotionally in our lives."

Anne Kennedy & Rachael King
Find out more about the judges

We are pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Secret Lives Short Story Competition:

FIRST PLACE: "Perfect Modesty" by Anne Moir (Otago)

SECOND PLACE: "Two Beautiful Fish" by Shelley Burne-Field (Hawkes Bay)

THIRD PLACE: "A Lavender Fascination" by AJ Fitzwater (Canterbury)

HIGHLY COMMENDED: "Silence is a Dress" by Clara van Wel (Wellington)


The ten stories in contention for the top three prizes were

(in alphabetical order by author's surname):

"Two Beautiful Fish" by Shelley Burne-Field (Hawkes Bay)

"Double Take" by Leah Carter (Bay of Plenty)

"A Lavender Fascination" by AJ Fitzwater (Canterbury)

"One Hundred" by Scott Menzies (Canterbury)

"Perfect Modesty" by Anne Moir (Otago)

"Dances at an Ungathering" by Liesl Nunns (Wellington)

"Needles and Threads" by Julie Orr-Wilson (Otago)

"Sheer Time" by Tina Shaw (Waikato)

"Charity Auction at the World Museum" by Kate Shaw (Nelson/Tasman)

"Silence is a Dress" by Clara van Wel (Wellington)

Anne Kennedy
Photo by Robert Cross
Anne Kennedy is an award-winning fiction writer, poet, screenplay editor and teacher. In 2021 she was honoured with the 2021 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement in Poetry.

Rachael King
Photo by Matt Bialostocki
Rachael King is an award-winning author with three novels under her belt and was programme director of WORD Christchurch for eight years. She is currently writing a novel for children and a work of non-fiction.