New fiction from Tracie Lark

1 –

Short Story: Carousel

Mindfood, February 20
“She used to wear reading glasses and floral printed skirts. Now she indulges in weekend flings with no-cling gentlemen and wears pantyhose and bras with wire that make her tits hug her chin.”


2 –

Whangarei: The fantails came

A Crochety Kiwi Writer Groans Through Lockdownland



By Michael Botur


It’s a Sunday in April in the heart of the lockdown and I’ve made another enemy. Damn.

When I say enemy, I mean I’ve exchanged testy words with a person, and when you’re a writer, every word is imbued with massive importance. I have an ego the size of Jupiter so the deal is if I talk to you, you’re probably someone important, and if you and I clash on Facebook, it’s a literary feud of Vidal-ian proportions.

Right now, there are a plenty of things to clash over. This State of Emergency imposed on New Zealand five weeks ago? It’s turned political, baby.

Here’s what I’ve learned in Lockdownland:

  • My friends with chronic health problems don’t want me to remark that if everyone was as fit and healthy and active as Ol’ Mountaineering Mike, they wouldn’t be at risk of coronavirus
  • My scientist friends don’t want me to point out that some scientists are capitalising on fear right now
  • My ex-wife doesn’t want to hear that the bank has lost all confidence and they can’t give me that loan I need to split the house and conclude our separation


All in all, everyone thinks I’m a dick right now – but what’s new? All the great writers in history were assholes in person, but we get our words written regardless of war or recession or pangolin-plague.

Here’s some of the stuff I’ve been writing from confinement:

  • March 25 – Sent random Twitter message to Australian journalist/reformed Mongols biker gang member asking him to collaborate on a story (he said yes)
  • April 1- Made a plan to email myself an instruction from an imaginary editor, thinking I may need it if I get desperate enough to cross a police cordon to see a woman 100 miles away
  • April 2 – Found a cynical comedian friend on Facebook who hates the lockdown to be my ally
  • April 10 – Wrote website content for an obscure Chinese manufacturer of hand sanitiser. Hey, work is work.


As a genius literary artist, no one knows how to perform self-serving cognitive distortions like I do, so when New Zealand’s po-faced prime minister said the country was going into a State of Emergency after March 23, I thought: nah. Can’t be real. There was to be a way I can control this by criticising it. That’s how I get through life. The writer is in control of emotions, situations, characters, moral judgement. People ought to stop catastrophising, I said. Sure I forced everyone on my birthday to watch Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion movie, but that was just a fiction, and if I have the power to influence fiction, surely… can’t I… but-but-but –

March 25, we went into lockdown. All events got cancelled – concerts, church, work. Even the Christchurch mosque massacre memorial was called off. Everyone started copying the things I’ve been doing for years before they became cool – hoarding alcohol, downloading torrented movies from Pirate Bay, walking silent streets at odd hours. Posting rants online. Making art at home.

While I groan and complain, I’ve adapted okay. I’m studying web development while I publish stories about frustrated people and home school my children. I even make them do a speech/presentation about pandemics. At lunchtime, my daughter destroys the rotary washing line. All playgrounds nationwide have closed; she has to swing off something.


From parliament to the opinion pieces in the papers, people have been trying to find a silver lining, and it’s fucking annoying.  My hippy friend praises the unpolluted air, the family time, the respite for Mother Nature. The Prime Minister announces children can send her pictures of coloured-in Easter eggs.  

#Be Kind, the message goes.

I dunno, man. Too much saccharine is bad for you.

 I balance the beatniks with input from conspiracy theorists. An upbeat over-the-fence yarn with my widower neighbour turns into an alarming report. 21 million Chinese may have been quietly disposed of, he tells me. My stoner flatmate agrees. He’s been listening to his police scanner. The authorities are planning crackdowns, apparently.  


Here’s what’s up: The job of the artist is to disturb the peace, as James Baldwin put it.

What he meant is that an artist with an original vision can’t feel at home in the centre of a herd of complacent sheep.  

You tell an artist they should stay at home? They’re gonna want to go outside.

You tell an artist that the lockdown is a good time to re-invigorate bonds with your family, as Auckland Council told us? The artist probably offends their family on a daily basis.

You tell an artist now’s a good time to learn how to yodel?


Being kept away from work isn’t fun if it’s legal. Nothing legal is fun.  

I’m already used to retreating from gatherings to meditate on long-forgotten feelings and express them in literary art. This is why I wrote nine books in nine years.

People have been telling me that things are turning out “Like a Michael Botur story.” Kids are apparently getting together and swapping viruses to build immunity like in my story Bugchaser. People are having holidays inside their heads like my story Staycation. The city’s gone silent and deserted like Summer School.  

Want a real-life Michael Botur story? Here’s one:

I began the year launching the novel Crimechurch, written on long lonely weekends on self-imposed lockdown. Its first review – in a major magazine – was glowing, I’m told – except the magazine’s editor tells me mid-lockdown unfortunately the review has been pushed back a month.

Oh wait, update – it’s not going to run at all, sorry. The mag has been canned. The publisher has shut down.  

I close my laptop. Time to drive down to the only place with beer and people – the supermarket.  

The gonzo writer groans on.


Michael Botur’s new short story collection Hell of a Thing is published by The Sager Group. Crimechurch is available from Rangitawa Publishing.

Flash Fiction Competition – Whangarei 2020 – Enter today!

The annual Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction Competition is back

Cash prizes

Local judges

Publish your stories on the Whangarei Libraries website

Free entry; Entries close June 8. Why not get some feedback on your story then enter today?

Wednesday 22 April 2020 – Monday 8 June 2020
Cost: Free entry
Contact: Whangarei District Libraries +64 430 4206 or email

Write a complete and compelling story in 300 words or less

Competition information

  • Competition closes midnight, Monday 8 June 2020.
  • Open to all Northlanders over 18 years
  • Open competition; no theme or prompt
  • Word limit: 300 excluding the title
  • Free entry
  • Entries limited to 2 per person
  • All entries to be the original work of the entrant
  • Only previously unpublished work will be considered (works appearing in personal blogs or online writing workshops are acceptable)
  • Each person may enter up to two stories but no-one can receive more than one prize.
  • Prize winning stories will be displayed on this website, so language must be acceptable for publication for general public.
  • Stories will be judged anonymously; therefore, no personal identification details may appear on entries. Any entry bearing a name or any other form of identification will be disqualified.


  • 1st: $150
  • 2nd: $100
  • 3rd: $50

Entry form

All entries must be accompanied by the entry form.

2020 Flash Fiction Competition entry form [50kb]

Submit entries

Email Only: As attachments, not in the body of the email; in one of the following formats:
Word .doc, .docx or pdf.

Include Flash Fiction Competition in the Subject line. In the body of the email type your name, contact details and flash fiction title or titles.

Send to:

Winners announcement

The winners will be declared on Wednesday 23 June 2020.


Nyree Sherlock. Nyree Sherlock

Nyree Sherlock enjoys her role as a librarian within the Outreach Team at Whangarei District Libraries.
Nyree, who has a BA in English Literature and Screen & Media through The University of Waikato, is an artist and a review writer, but her greatest passion is to support adult education opportunities that encourage life-long learning across all communities.


Martin Porter. Martin Porter

Martin Porter writes both flash fiction and poetry. He is twice winner of the Whangarei District Libraries Flash Fiction competition. He has had flash fiction and poetry published in print and online in the UK, USA and New Zealand.
Martin believes flash fiction is ideal for exploring different approaches to the craft of writing, taking risks in creating innovative prose and for delivering a message with potency and elegance.


Hey, Northland Writers – Submit your short story to the Sargeson Prize

Sargeson Prize

Short story competition


First offered in 2019, the Sargeson Prize is New Zealand’s richest short story prize, sponsored by the University of Waikato. Named for celebrated New Zealand writer Frank Sargeson, the Prize was conceived by writer Catherine Chidgey, who also lectures in Writing Studies at the University. Entries open on 1 April for the 2020 Sargeson Prize and close at 11.59pm (NZST) on 30 June 2020. There is no entry fee, and entries are limited to one per writer, per division.

If you have any questions that aren’t answered on this page or in the terms and conditions, please follow us on Facebook or Twitter or email

Image of Frank Sargeson by Robin Morrison, 1978. Used with permission of copyright holder.

Open Division

The Open Division is open to New Zealand permanent residents aged 16 and over, who are writing in English. Published and unpublished writers are welcome to enter. Entries must be a single story of no more than 5000 words. It must an original, unpublished piece of work.

  • First Prize: $5000
  • Second Prize: $1000
  • Third Prize: $500

The winning story will be published in Landfall. The second and third placing stories will be published in Mayhem.

Enter now

Secondary Schools Division

The Secondary Schools Division is open to students enrolled at a New Zealand secondary school and aged between 16 and 18 years on the date that competition entries close. Entries must be a single story of no more than 3000 words. It must be an original, unpublished piece of work.

  • First Prize: $500
  • Second Prize: $200
  • Third Prize: $100

The winning story will be published in Mayhem.

The winner of the Secondary Schools Division will also be offered a one-week summer residency at the University of Waikato, to be taken up in January or February of the following year. The residency will include accommodation and meals at one of the University of Waikato Halls of Residence, a writing space in the School of Arts, and mentoring from postgraduate students and/or academic staff in the Writing Studies programme. If the winner is under 18 years of age, parental consent will be required.

Enter now

Read previous winning stories


Each year we will invite a successful New Zealand writer to judge the Sargeson Prize. In 2020 our Chief Judge will be renowned short story writer and novelist Owen Marshall. Owen has received numerous honours, awards and fellowships for his work. In 2000, he became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to literature and in 2012 became a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM). In 2013 he was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.

Judging will be conducted “blind” – i.e. without the writer’s name attached to their submission. Entries will be subject to a pre-judging screening process by a panel overseen and moderated by the Chief Judge.

How to enter

Entries must be typed and 1.5-spaced in a standard legible font (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Palatino Linotype). The story title and page number must appear on each page of the manuscript (as a header or footer). Writers will be asked to provide a word count on the entry form.

The author’s name must not appear anywhere on the manuscript, including headers and footers, any title page and the file name. Entries may be submitted online or by post. Online is the preferred entry method.

Entries that do not follow the formatting requirements may be disqualified.

To enter online, complete the official online entry form for either the Open Division or the Secondary Schools Division and attach your manuscript. Accepted file types are Word or PDF (.doc, .docx, or .pdf). Entry forms will be available from 1 April 2020.

To enter by post, download and complete the official postal entry form for either the Open Division or the Secondary Schools Division and send it with your story manuscript to Sargeson Prize, ℅ English Programme, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240. Manuscripts must be printed single-sided on A4 paper. Entry forms will be available from 1 April 2020.

Entrants are responsible for ensuring that their entry, whether by post or online, reaches us by the deadline.

General Terms

Read the full terms and conditions.

There is no entry fee. Only one entry per writer is permitted. A writer may submit in either the Open or Secondary Schools Divisions, but not both. Copyright remains with the author.

To remain eligible, entries must not be submitted to other publications, prizes or anthologies for the duration of the Sargeson Prize entry and judging period. Winners and place-getters will be contacted by 15 September 2020.

Previously published, prize-winning, or broadcast stories will not be accepted. Appearance online on a blog or in an anthology constitutes prior publication.

Horror stories – free to read on Wattpad this week

It’s a scary time.
Read a scary story.

Keeping you chilled and thrilled with a blanket pulled up to your chin, author Michael Botur brings you daily doses of terror with seven new horror tales – free to read.

Click through for a brand new exclusive horror story every day this week.

Monday 20/4  – The Day I Skipped School
Tuesday 21/4 – You Dream of Jail
Wednesday 22/4 – The Devil Took Her
Thursday 23/4 – The Strange Paper
Friday 24/4 – Fake ID
Saturday 25/4 – The Writing on the Rat
Sunday 26/4 – This Generation Needs A War

Stay safe, and stay scared.
Mike B

ps – New short story collection, check it out, yo


Breaking Free – Lifestyle coaching blog with coach Christine Zeschniok

Breaking Free – Lifestyle coaching blog

Whangarei’s Christine Zeschniok has been sharing blog advice about mindfulness and self-improvement during the COVID-19 State of Emergency – surely the most stressful emergency the majority of New Zealanders have ever experienced. 

Her words and advice can be found at

A sample of Christine’s recent communications…

Monday April 20- Where to from here?

In the past three weeks we have all had the time and opportunity to reflect on our current way of living. A lot of us have been in a situation where they have not been able to run from their thoughts, as we humans tend to do when things get uncomfortable. This has made the past three weeks of lockdown even harder for some of us.

It’s not ‘just’ being at home instead of the safe escape of the work desk, or being unable to see friends and family, missing general social interaction and connection, trying to engage the kids; it’s the uncertainty of ‘What next?’ and ‘When?’

But we have all been, more or less (thanks to Netflix!), ‘forced’ to reflect upon the way we live.

Two things I have witnessed and experienced during this time:

People are either running from or embracing any form of change: People are running from their truth, their desires, upcoming questions, feelings of failure, self-criticism, and doubt. They get frustrated and annoyed with themselves and the world. While at the same time, feeling helpless and not in control of their situation.


Other people seem to be embracing what is: They are action-takers, solution-finders, actively setting new standards and priorities for themselves, establishing new routines, valuing self-care, focusing on what is good, and as a result becoming creative in their approach to deal with this time of lockdown.


Isolation seems to point the spotlight on how we perceive ourselves, resulting in a magnified response to the current changes and challenges: We are seeing around us, either accelerated or stalling personal growth.

People seem to either: Overeat – Prioritise self-care

                                           Drink more alcohol – Focus on health

                                           Get lost in boredom – Be busier than ever

                                           Lose joy – Get creative

                                           Get frustrated – Find new solutions

                                           Watch Netflix – Value quality social time

                                           Lose their spirit – Redefine their spirit

There seems to be a theme dividing us, which is letting things happen to us versus making things happen for ourselves.

Choose carefully which side you want to be on. After all, it is a choice.

This choice can be made easier by asking yourself: What are my overall goals in life?

Where do I see myself in ten years from now?

And which path that I can take now, is most likely to get me there.

Remember the steps to create more awareness and open your mind to new ways of thinking.

What we must do, in order to tap into our unique power and discover who we really are:

Pause: Acknowledge and hold space for the stillness around you. Be kind to yourself and accept your feelings without judgement.

Reflect: Ask yourself these two questions: What do I want to let go of as a result of this situation? What part of my life do I want to go back to where it was before lockdown?

Reframe: Look for new opportunities in the things you would like to change in your life. How could the current situation be interpreted or put into perspective differently?


Change your mindset, change your life.


Stay safe, stay sane!


Have a great week and chat soon,


Christine Z


VOTE FOR THE TALE OF PRINCE! – support Bianca Staines to get a movie made

12 March – 14 March 2020



Hello everyone,

My name is Bianca Staines and I am the author of The Tale of Prince, an award-winning book for children and young adults.

This week, starting at 6am on Thursday 12th March 2020, The Tale of Prince, will be entered into a contest called TaleFlick Discovery.

TaleFlick is a US curation company looking for the next big story success to turn into a movie or series, and the TaleFlick Discovery contest allows the public to vote on which stories they would like to see adapted to film. The winner of the competition will be pitched to producers and potentially score a movie deal!

I would like to ask your help to achieve my dream.

Please visit and vote for The Tale of Prince by Bianca Staines.

bianca QR code

To find out more about my books, reviews, awards and who I am, please go to

The competition closes at 12pm on Saturday 14th March 2020.

Thank you for your support!

bianca prince picture illustration

Bianca Staines taleflick landscape

‘Edging Towards Darkness’ by John Lazenby – essential cricket reading

John Lazenby is a writer who has settled in Whangarei and has written for Scene magazine and Northland Inc. 

He’s known for a career in journalism and for publishing three books about cricket, including most recently Edging Towards Darkness: The Story of the Last Timeless Test, published by Bloomsbury in 2017. 


‘Cricket matches didn’t always top out at five days, regardless of a result or not – they used to be ‘timeless’, with play continuing until one team won, no matter how many days that took.

The last of these – which took place in Durban in 1939, in a series pitched against the backdrop of impending war – is now universally acknowledged as ‘the timeless Test’. Weighing in at a prodigious ten days – the match stretched from 3-14 March 1939, and allowed for two rest days, while one day’s play (the eighth) was lost entirely to rain – it is quite simply the longest Test ever played. A litany of records also perished in its wake and ‘whole pages of Wisden were ruthlessly made obsolete’. If that was not enough, one player, the fastidious South African batsman Ken Viljoen, felt the need to have his hair cut twice during the game. Only the matches between Australia and England at Melbourne in 1929, which lasted eight playing days, and West Indies and England at Sabina Park, Jamaica, a year later (seven days), come remotely close in terms of their duration.

In Edging Towards Darkness, John Lazenby tells the story of that Test for the first time. Set firmly in its historical and social setting, the story balances this game against the threat of encroaching world war in Europe – unfolding at terrifying speed – before bringing these two disparate strands together in an evocative and vibrant denouement.’


Self-publishing course from Kaipara author Steff Green – special subscriber price

Writers Up North wholeheartedly endorses the following course from Kaipara writing legend Steff Green…



How to Rock Self-Publishing: The Course – now open for registration.


Do you have a story you’re bursting to tell the world?

Are you sick of being rejected by the publishing establishment?

Do you want to inject a little punk rock, DIY ethos into your indie author career?

Yesterday, I introduced you to my brand new book, How to Rock Self-Publishing.

In this book, I show you how to tell your story, find your readers, and build a badass author brand. 

I also promised there’d be more. 

So much more.

On 20th March, 2020, I start my first ever online course, also called (you guessed it) How to Rock Self-Publishing: The Course. This course is the book on steriods.

Think hours of video, tons of bonus content and deep diving into topics, worksheets, checklist and my personal favourite part – 10+ hours of interviews with successful self-published authors across all different genres about how they are rocking their writing careers.

The course normally costs $497, but I know you’ve been following me for ages and I feel like you’re part of my crew. I’m doing a special subscriber only price of $147 – get it here

You’ve got until March 19th to sign up, but there are only 50 places and they’re already starting to fill up. 

If 2020 is the year you hold your book in your hands and smash your writing goals, then I hope you’ll join us!



Northland writers’ news – January 2020 roundup

January 2020 roundup of Northland writers’ news


Got some new creative writing you’d love published? Send it to Mike the admin man –