Former Alexandra woman Stefanie Seddon has continued her literary success, winning the prestigious international Bristol Short Story Prize competition for a story inspired by childhood memories of rural New Zealand.
Seddon (nee Dann), who lives in the United Kingdom, said she was “thrilled” to win the prize with her story Kakahu.
“Literary prizes like this are fantastic opportunities for emerging writers and it’s been really exciting to see my story in the Bristol Prize Anthology … I feel very lucky to be in the anthology alongside such a strong group of writers.”
It is the second international writing award for Seddon this year. In April she won the Europe/Canada regional award in the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for a rite-of-passage story called Eel.
The chairwoman of the judging panel for the Bristol Short Story Prize, Tania Hershman, said Seddon’s winning story Kakahu was a “poignant, magical story tackling trauma through a child’s eyes using the power of myth. Writing from a child’s point of view is a challenge, and Stefanie rises to it beautifully, unsentimentally. From the opening sentence we know we are held safely by a writer who knows exactly where she is going, and takes us there with grace and surety”.
Seddon attended Alexandra Primary School and Dunstan High School and gained a first-class bachelor of arts degree with honours in English literature from the University of Otago.
After graduating she spent 15 years working in finance in London before completing a master of arts in creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London.
She now lives near Tunbridge Wells, south of London.
Seddon said she had always wanted to write fiction but “it took me a long time to get started. I wrote my first piece when I applied for the MA in creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London, so I still feel very much like I’m new to this world”.
She said creative writing MA programmes “aren’t for everyone, but I loved learning about the technical aspects of writing and it gave me a structure and discipline that I’m not sure I could have achieved on my own. It’s also given me access to a really supportive writing community and introduced me to the concept of the writing workshop – when you share your story or chapter with a group and give feedback on each other’s work. These can be daunting at first, but I’ve found the workshop to be an incredibly useful part of my writing process”.
Seddon said she had now started working on her first novel.
“It’s set in Depression-era New Zealand, much of it in Central Otago, and although it’s at a very early stage, I’m really excited about where the story is going.”
Seddon is planning on returning to Central Otago for Christmas when she will do some research for the novel, “although I’ll be spending some of this time in a campervan with my young family, so I’m not sure how much writing will be achieved”.
“I’m also determined to keep writing short stories. I think it’s a great discipline because you really have to focus on the heart of your story, to strip it back to what really matters. I’ve always loved reading short stories; you can pick up a short story anthology or collection and find stories that you
really connect with. A good short story stays with you long after you’ve read it.”
- The Bristol Short Story Awards were founded in 2007 and are open to writers worldwide. This year, 2160 writers submitted work for the awards. The Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 9, featuring the top three prize winners plus the 17 other shortlisted stories, was launched at the awards ceremony this month and is now on general sale.