Flash Frontier

NFFD 2024: Judges’ writing

Interviews and Features

In this special feature, we share work from our NFFD 2024 judges from Aotearoa: Lynn Jenner and Rachel O’Neill, who judged the NFFD adult competition; James Norcliffe, who co-judged the Micro Madness competition; and Ya-Wen Ho, who judged the NFFD youth competition.


Rachel O’Neill: The Sorrow Box

Collage by Rachel O'Neill

Collage by Rachel O’Neill

After entering the home, the sorrow is placed in the sorrow box. As the family returns, the sorrow box fills, though there is capacity for more. For example, when the two guests arrive there is no overflow. This is not because the sorrows weigh each other down. Rather each sorrow possesses a box of its own. Thus gravity is not gravity in the sorrow box. There are other more powerful forces at play in the container of blows and pyrophoric grief. There is a strange snow that loses consciousness but can not faint. And petals do not drift through the air but tick left and right, keeping time with all the arrested tears. Some say the sorrow box is full of vacillating executions of light. Still, a family without a sorrow box once had a stone thrown through their window. They built a sorrow box for show only. Someone told me the family continued to shed sadness in every room, and from room to room the drifts of wretchedness, heart-ache and regret lay about for any passerby to see.     

Published in Stasis, 2020 and Requiem for a Fruit (Tender Press, 2021)

RachelO'NeillRachel O’Neill is a filmmaker, writer and artist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa. The author of One Human in Height (Hue & Cry Press, 2013) and Requiem for a Fruit (We are Babies/Tender Press, 2021), Rachel has received a range of development grants, commissions and residencies including the 2023 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writing Fellowship. In their practice they strive to seek out fresh ways to see and understand the human condition and to unearth the humour and strangeness that underlie experience. For more, visit their website.


Lynn Jenner: Tōtara trees

A man called Leo makes white porcelain no thicker than an eggshell. You find yourself lifting a cup and when you hold it up to the light, you see your own hand. One day he says he thinks the things a man can make are more beautiful than nature, and I say no, that cannot be. Then Leo says books are more profound than nature. I am shocked. Of course. But now this crazy comparison is in my mind. On the one hand, a single book. On the other, a stand of tōtara trees, each as tall as a church. In the end, every book tells you that life is made up of pain and uncertainty and relentless work, Leo says. Trees only tell you that light can be green, and that a hundred years is both a short and a long time. I tell Leo that trees tell me to breathe more deeply. Yes, he says. You should read more Russians.

Published in Landfall 246, 2023

Lynn JennerLynn Jenner is a Northland-based writer and teacher of poetry, essays and creative non-fiction. Lynn has a particular interest in genre-bending writing. In 2023 Lynn’s poetry appeared in Landfall 246, Turbine Kapohau and The Spinoff. All three of Lynn’s published books use fragments and juxtaposition to create a narrative. Dear Sweet Harry (AUP 2010) won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry prize. Lost and Gone Away (AUP 2015) was a Metro Best Books (2015) selection and finalist in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards (2016). Peat (OUP 2109) combined the story of a road built against the wishes of a community with an exploration of the politics and aesthetics of Charles Brasch, founding editor of Landfall.



James Norcliffe: Three times upon a time

Three times upon a time she told me that she loved me.

The first time upon a time was in a lilac hedge under stars sprinkled like talcum. Embraced by leaves we embraced each other and in that embrace she murmured the words.

The second time upon a time was frolicking in a field where wrapped around with grass we wrapped around each other and in that wrapping she whispered the words.

The third time upon a time was in the ocean. As white horses crashed around us and gripped by an undertow we gripped each other and although the salt and surf all but drowned her words I understood clearly what she was attempting to say.

And did we live happily ever after?

We planted a lilac hedge and monthly clipped the heart-shaped leaves.

We grew a lawn and mowed it weekly.

We never visited the ocean.

Published in Deadpan (OUP 2021)

James NorcliffeJames Norcliffe is an award-winning poet, novelist and short story writer with work appearing in journals world-wide and translated into several languages. He has published ten collections of poetry, most recently Deadpan (Otago University Press, 2018) and Letter to ‘Oumuamua (Otago University Press, 2023), more than a dozen novels for young people  and a novel, The Frog Prince (Penguin Random House, 2022). His flash fictions have been included in Flash Fiction International (W. W. Norton, 2015) and Breach of All Size (The Cuba Press, 2022). He was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry in 2022. 



Ya-Wen Ho: a fable, a legend

chuán shuō (n.) a fable, a legend

Once, my Mandarin-speaking therapist told me that filial piety is one of the most damaging aspects of Chinese culture. Horrors have been committed in its name, she said. I think about the story of the Taoist boy-god Nézhā (), who vivisected himself to pay his parents what was due — 拆骨還父, 割肉還母 chāi guˇ huán fù, gē ròu huán muˇ, to his father went his bones, to his mother, his flesh — and how much that must have hurt. I think about my younger self watching Nezha and the Dragon King (1979) thinking oh a cool animation about a boy battling dragons without a second thought to the suicide–resurrection arc. I think about how I have thought all the second thoughts now. My therapists are legends.

Published in A Kind of Shelter Whakaruru-taha (MUP, 2023)

Ya-Wen Ho, photo credit Dennis ThorpeYa-Wen Ho is a letterpress printmaker, graphic designer, and poet living in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. A Taipei-born New Zealander, she works bilingually between Mandarin and English, merging the two languages in performance. Her first book of poetry last edited [insert time here] was published by Tinfish Press (Hawaii, 2012). Literary awards include a Horoeka/Lancewood Reading Grant (2015) and the Ema Saiko Poetry Fellowship at New Zealand Pacific Studio (2016).


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