Wellington mum scoops top writing prize

00:44, May 22 2012
Emma Martin
CREATIVE MIND: Emma Martin has won the pacific section of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition.

A Wellington mum has won an international short story competition with a cross-cultural tale of two girlfriends in London.

Emma Martin won the pacific section of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, and is one of five finalists in the overall competition from more than 2200 entries.

A part-time senior government advisor and mother to Eli, 8, and Bessie, 6, Martin originally penned Two Girls in a Boat while completing her Masters in Creative Writing at Victoria University in 2010.

A couple of years and a few re-writes later, and she submitted the story to the Commonwealth competition this year.

She never expected to be judged the best entrant from the South Pacific, and was excited enough just to see her name among the finalists, she said.

"A few other writers on the shortlist were established writers with books to their name, so I felt like a new kid on the block really. I felt excited just to be on the list.


"I've had stories published in a few different journals, but this feels like a huge step up for me. It's hugely encouraging."

Her story tells the tale of a young Kiwi woman who lives in London with her girlfriend. The pair receive a letter in the mail that is not addressed to them, but open it to find it's an invitation to a prestigious art event. Pretending to be the invitee, they inveigle their way into the London arts scene then have to deal with the fallout when their lies are exposed.

The narrative also addresses the difficulties of living between two different worlds - in this case, New Zealand and the United Kingdom - and the identity crisis it can cause.

Martin's story will be published in Granta magazine online next week, alongside the winning stories from Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, and the Carribean.

The overall winner will be announced on June 8.

Commonwealth Short Story Prize chair Bernardine Evaristo said choosing the winners elicited "vigorous debate" among the judges.

"We discussed not only the quality of the storytelling but the context of their respective literary cultures...our final choices encompass range, depth, beauty, unpredictability and re-readability. These short stories will take you on a journey that spans cultures, eras, generations, and diverse ways of being and seeing. To read them is to inhabit other worlds."

Commonwealth Writers is a new cultural programme within the Commonwealth Foundation which aims to develops, connects and inspire writers. 

The Dominion Post