Flash Frontier

2020 NFFD competition judges’ notes

Interviews and Features

This year’s judges for the adult competition were Sandra Arnold and Helen Heath. Thank you for sharing comments on the winning stories!

From the judges

It was a great pleasure to read all the stories for this competition and difficult to decide which ones went on the long list and short list. The variety of stories, both in terms of subject and style, was wide-ranging, from those with a distinct narrative arc to those that were close to prose poems. The writers on the commended, highly commended and winners lists are to be congratulated for the way they pushed the boundaries of the form.

The winning story, ‘Best friends’ by Jenna Heller, is a superb evocation of the betrayal of friendship. Without a single wasted word, it cuts straight to the heart.

Second place, ‘The gulls or maybe the rats’ by Mary Francis, is a childhood memory of the seemingly simple task of shelling mussels with an elderly aunt, but it contains a deeper message with a warning.

Third place, ‘Last call’ by Tim Saunders, has two siblings trying to remember the voice of their deceased father by imitating and recording it. The language is searing and poignant.

These three stories attest to the power of flash fiction to penetrate the reader’s imagination and create whole worlds.


Sandra Arnold lives in rural Canterbury. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia, and is the author of five books. Her most recent are a novel, The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell (Mākaro Press, NZ, 2019), which was a finalist in the 2019 New Zealand Heritage Book Awards, and a flash fiction collection, Soul Etchings (Retreat West Books, UK, 2019). Her short fiction has been widely published in New Zealand and internationally. sandraarnold.co.nz
Helen Heath is a poet and essayist from the Kapiti Coast. Her debut collection of poetry, Graft, won the Best First Book of Poetry award and was the first book of fiction or poetry to be shortlisted for the Royal Society of NZ Science Book Prize. Helen thinks poetry can be a way of engaging people with big ideas and trying them on for size – a public conversation about what we want the future to be like. Her latest collection, which won the 2019 Ockham Book Awards, is called Are Friends Electric? and is about people, animals and technology. helenheath.com
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