'New Chapters' winning entries

Author Becky Manawatu handed out awards and told a gathering of prisoners this week that she felt...
Author Becky Manawatu handed out awards and told a gathering of prisoners this week that she felt privileged to have judged the writing competition. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O’CONNOR
Otago Corrections Facility prisoners have spent the past three months sharpening their skills and honing their entries for this year’s New Chapters creative writing competition.

Prizes were awarded this week. Some winners were uncharacteristically lost for words when discovering the good news . . .

Short story


Once upon a time in a place you’ve never been but always wanted to go, lived a man you’ve never seen but always never not known, who possessed that one thing you have always desired, with which just one word you could surely acquire.

Tiro was always curious about her father. She knew from her mother that he was a strong and powerful man. But beyond that her mother would only answer questions in riddles.

‘‘I’m wish mum was normal,’’ Tiro thought to herself. ‘‘Just once give me a straight answer.’’ Tiro could never understand her mother. She wasn’t what she would call normal.

Every night Tiro’s mum would come into her room, check that Tiro was okay and then leave for the night. Tiro had asked her mum where she went at night. But her mother would always answer her questions with riddles.

‘‘Behind the veil of night are the shadows of light dancing in the moonlight of absolute delight.’’

‘‘Crazy old hag,’’ Tiro would think to herself.

Every time her mother would walk to the end of Old Taupo Road where the street ended and the bush started, enter the bush, and from there she would disappear. Tiro could not figure out how her mother evaded her. Did she now she was being followed? Whether she did or not, the fact remained that Tiro had no idea why her mother would go to the bush every night, or what she did while she was there.

But tonight was going to be different. Tonight Tiro had a plan. After her mum had checked in on her for the night, then left, Tiro got up grabbed her night-vision goggles she had just bought off Ebay and hurried out the door. She then jumped her back fence which backed into the high school, ran from one end of the school to the other in order to get in front of her mother, so she could get into her hiding place she had prepared earlier, put her night-vision goggles on and wait for her mother to enter the bush.

Tiro had only just got herself organised when her mother came into view. She was amazed at how well her night-vision goggles worked. The bush came alive in an ambient green glow and Tiro could see a joyful almost youthful expression on her mother’s face as she entered the bush.

‘‘Crazy old lady. What are you up to in the middle of the night in the middle of the bush? I bet she’s growing weed,’’ Tiro thought to herself. Instead of turning right and following the well-beaten track that led deeper into the bush, Tiro’s mum walked straight ahead and placed her hand against the face of the cliff wall and started chanting: ‘‘Tau mai ra. Tau mai ra.’’ It sounded very old very sacred. A karakia from a bygone era. Tiro thought she had heard all her mother’s waiata, moteatea, karakia. But this karakia had a different sound, different words even a different feel. And then all of a sudden a part of the cliff face disappeared, like a doorway into Mount Ngongotaha. Tiro was gobsmacked. She could not believe what her eyes were seeing. She took off and put on her goggles at least four or five times trying to comprehend what had just happened.

And then a voice as smooth as Saturn against her skin caressed her ears: ‘‘Nau mai haere mai te tamahine a Hinenui-te-po.’’ Almost in a trancelike state Tiro was unable to resist the summoning of the thin, enchanting voice. Drawn from her hiding place Tiro didn’t care whether her mother knew she was there and as she came shoulder to shoulder with her mother, her mother put her arms around her shoulders, and with a smile full of knowing and joy walked through the doorway into the mountain together.



You are stunning and powerful more than you know

Your weakness is your strength, and your strength only grows

A rock in a river, a light in the dark

Never conformed to uniformity stayed true to your heart

Hold tight to your morals, you know who you are

Draw a line in the sand and it will take you far

Didn’t let people diminish the mana you earned

Kept your head held high and let your fire burn

You are amazing and beautiful in so many ways

If you trust in yourself I promise it will pay

The world can be cruel and life seem unfair

But you can make it through anything that’s why your still here

Your strength is so awesome and attractive to the world

You are worth more than money or diamonds or pearls

You shine so bright like a diamond in the sky

A guiding light people need to get by

You have a heart of a warrior and the strength of a god

And you have never been afraid to back the under dog

You’re completely and utterly amazingly cool

Smarter than your average, but still able to be fooled

Willing to give anything a go, not afraid to live life

Even took on the devil and got a high five

Creative and articulate too smart for your own good

Had the ability to do what no one else could

So this is a letter I wrote to my younger self

Cause when I was younger, I was told something else


And it was time to do this

(So) now you are here

Standing on the maunga

Waiting for dawn

You’re (glad) it’s going

To be a clear day

She tells you the stories of this land

Her moko at her side

Listening and learning every word

(You) zip up your jacket

In the cool air

It is time

You look east

To where the sky meets the ocean

The sun emerges slowly

The ocean glistens

The land glows

You (are) among the first people to see this dawn

To watch this new sunrise

And now she is (sharing) a karakia

As you greet (this) new day

Ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea. It is dawn

This is the (moment)


I was taken off my mother when I was 10 years old

Placed in a home sitting in a dark corner crying and cold

Stuck in deep thought not knowing what I had done

I wanted to leave and run back home to my mum

But every time I tried they sent me straight back

Fifteen years later I’m still on the wrong track

At age 14 I joined a gang — smoking week, fighting and speaking slang

Committing petty crimes and trying to spit rhymes

As a young street kid I was tagging on people’s fences

Twenty-five now and serving time for driving and weapon-related offences

I just wanna be free, like a flock of high soaring birds

And this writing course has taught me how to control my emotions with the use of poetry and words


Lithe tendrils of mist receding in the glory of the morning sunlight, revealing this fawn hill.

Swathes of feelings brought forth as eyes stroke the rolling features of this fawn fill.

Tumultuous spaces, life laid bare, powerful elements strip the ground naked across this fawn hill.

Thoughts of loved ones on blazon summer nights and in saturnine winter lights, rib-tickling from the windswept peak of this fawn hill.

Choices and vagaries give life to lurid tales, ascending with the steep ridges, snaking their way towards the sky about this fawn hill.

New opportunities slowly unfolding while Lupercalian forces produce green teeth of foliage along this fawn hill.

Freedom beckons just out of reach, calling like the bawdy evening birdsong rising off this fawn hill.

Anxious faces, relieved embraces, the end has finally arrived. Enduring in its place. Waking in the shadow of this fawn hill.


Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter