North & South magazine reviews ‘Lowlife: short stories’ by Michael Botur


Review by Paul Little

North & South magazine, Feb 2018

Low Life: short stories

Michael Botur



In this collection of tales, Botur ambles around territory previously occupied by Bukowski, Wells, Tower and other chroniclers of the louche life and finds himself right at home. The first sentence gives the flavour of much febrile prose (and low-rent subject matter) to come: “Bipan, that dickhead from Nepal who regulates the adhesive levels on each glue gun in the factory, he keeps changing the radio station to R&B and after 20 minutes of R. Kelly you have him against the wall with the nozzle of an air gun in his face and you’re telling the dude, Dude: you mess with Skynyrd one more time, you’re goin home in a ambulance.”

Botur wields this demotic vocabulary, and these agitated rhythms, combined in collages of invective and obscenity, with much skill. It’s a neat trick that’s easy to stuff up, but he consistently gets it right. In the story quoted above, the protagonist quits his job because the songs on the radio tell him to. But once out there, he discovers the world is a harsh place and rock ‘n roll dreams really don’t come true.

Although a lot of the people in these stories are in and out of jail, and freedom of any kind is not something they take for granted, not all the characters are at the bottom of the heap. The “you” at the centre of ‘InsAngel’ is someone who buys fountains and ride-on mowers – so why wouldn’t he become obsessed with a performance/con artist who bludges fags from tourists while pretending to run a half marathon?

“Granny Frankenstein” offers an update on the criminally inclined seniors of Arsenic and Old Lace in a screwball comedy about a little old lady who turns out to have a knack for selling P. It’s a small, comic masterpiece and the perfect conclusion to a remarkably satisfying collection.


Submit Your MS to the NZ Book Festival Manuscript Competition for Writers

NZ Book Festival Manuscript Competition for Writers

BigWords-Books is proud to sponsor the 2017-18 NZ Book Festival Manuscript Competition for Writers.This is a new writing competition for NZ authors who are writing a book and wish to publish it independently to a professional level. BigWords-Books-Logo.png

As core sponsor for the competition BigWords-Books will run the competition and deliver the publishing prize pack using our trusted service providers in editing, design and print, and support the winning author throughout the self-publishing process.

A long-time supporter of the NZ Book Festival, BigWords-Books owner Fiona Cole sees the competition as a way to give emerging indie authors the chance to get their dream of becoming a published author off to a great start, and showcase the level of professionalism available through the independent publishing route in New Zealand.

The NZ Book Festival is the ideal platform for achieving this, whilst at the same time supporting what has become an important literary event for writers and readers.  More about the NZ Book Festival.

Who can enter?

The competition is open to New Zealand residents, including those currently living overseas, who have not had a book published previously by a mainstream Publishing House, and/or are not currently contracted to a publisher.

Previously self-published authors may enter provided the manuscript is not part of a series with titles already published.

Competition prize pool

The winner of the NZ Book Festival Manuscript Competition will be selected from 10 shortlisted entries.

First prize consists of a $3,500 self-publishing package with BigWords-Books, which includes the professional editing, proofreading, formatting and cover design as well as 200 printed copies. The winning author will also have BigWords-Books assistance through the edit, design and promote stages of their book, to the approximate value of $500+GST.

Manuscript submissions need to be from works that are either fully completed or advanced enough to be completed by 31 March 2018 to allow for the completed publication to be launched at the 2018 NZ Book Festival in November.

Shortlisted entries will receive a consolation prize, the final contents of which is to be confirmed.

What genres are accepted?

The manuscript competition is open to most fiction genres, as well as creative non-fiction, biographical or autobiographical slice of life or travel stories. Essentially, works that are suited to an A5 Portrait paperback format.

For more information and a full list of exclusions, see the Competition Terms and Conditions

How to enter

Entries cost NZ$40.00 (including GST)

Electronic entries only will be accepted, in open document or Word document format. The author’s name must not appear in the synopsis or the manuscript, only in the entry form.

The competition closes at midnight on 28 February 2018

All submitted entries must comprise:

  1. a story synopsis – maximum 500 words
  2. the first two chapters
  3. two additional non-sequential chapters

Filling out the entry form below requires you to upload your synopsis and manuscript sample chapters. Please ensure you have these ready. When you submit your entry you will be redirected to a secure payment gateway for electronic payment of the $40 entry fee.





WANTED: Reviewer for Karen Phillips’ ‘A Question of Blood’ Short Fiction Collection

Ahipara author Karen Phillips won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Competition Novice Award in 2009. This is NZ’s premier short story writing award. Less than ten years later, publisher Steele Roberts has put out Karen’s first collection of scintillating short fiction. a question of blood.jpg

Today, Karen continues upholding the proud tradition of great NZ short stories, publishing short fiction in New Zealand literary magazines.


Would you like to be the first in the country to review this collection? Comment below this story with your name and contact details and reviewing experience and we’ll wing the book your way.  We’re hoping your review can be published in one of Northland’s newspapers or magazines to give some more exposure to Karen’s work. 



A fourth-generation farmer with no one to inherit his farm; a daughter concerned about her aged father going to Antarctica; college kids pumping gas; a clash of cultures in Turkey; an office cleaner who discovers something unethical in a file … These situations, and others the characters in Karen Phillips’ stories find themselves in, are familiar to us all. The ways they come to terms with them are explored with empathy and an understanding of human nature.

Everything else you need to know:


Book giveaway – ‘Emory: the Oak Tree Lane Anthology’

Clare Matravers, Kamala Jackson, Teresa Herleth, Anna Williams, Derin Attwood, Alison Davie and Rob Burt have published an anthology put together from their Pen-Ultimate Writers Group. emory cover.jpg

Emory is a collection of stories set in the 1980s and exploring the lives of residents of Oak Tree Lane.

The book has been printed by WordlyPress, Ashhurst, and can be bought through

A great news story about Whangarei’s Pen-Ultimate Writers Group can be enjoyed via this link.



We have one copy of the ‘Emory’ anthology to give away. 

Simply comment below this story with “Pick me for Emory book giveaway please” and give your name and email address and we’ll pick a winner in ten days time. 



Attention All Writers! Apply now to be mentored by an established writer, poet, playwright or graphic novelist.

The NZ Society of Authors Mentor Programme 2018 seeks applications from writers and comic/graphic novelists looking for professional development and a safe space to discuss and develop their writing; and work within an intellectual community with role models in a framework of accountability and substantive feedback.

The writers and creators who gained mentorships in 2017 polished and refined their skills under talented mentors such as award-winning writer Mandy Hager, freelance publishing consultant, editor and manuscript assessor Geoff Walker and NZ comic creator Michel Mulipola.

The NZSA Mentor Programme has an impressive group of writing and comic / graphic novel mentors listed for 2018.

This year, as part of our commitment to Creative New Zealand, we have again tagged 3 mentorships for emerging writers identifying as Maori, Pasifika, and Asian. There are 18 mentorships available in 2018 in total.

The NZSA Mentor Programme is open for applications from 1 December 2017 until  4pm, 1 February 2018. Click here to find out terms and conditions and how to apply.

The NZSA Mentorship Programme is made possible thanks to funding from Creative New Zealand

Northland Author Urges Switch To Digital As Novel Launched

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Whangarei author Michael Botur is urging authors nationwide to become more digitally savvy – especially short story writers.

Botur launched his first novel ‘Moneyland’ this week (free downloads available for one week at ). The novel is a dystopian sci-fi aimed at readers 15-25, and follows the decay of a community of high schoolers as they undertake a biodome experiment on a suburb where, without supermarkets, there is virtually nothing to eat. $3000 was raised to pay for the novel’s editing, cover design, formatting, proofreading and printing thanks to a campaign.

Before the online campaign, Botur said he put his published short fiction in an online gallery at He is urging other short fiction writers to do the same, so there is less reliance on literary journals and printed copies of books in libraries.

“Of the top 10 or 20 best-known NZ short fiction writers, virtually none offer their writing to read online,” Botur said. “I’m urging writers, once their material is of publishable quality, to host it online to make it easier for your audience to access your work.”

Botur, 33, began publishing short fiction in literary journals in 2005 and is today author of four collections of short stories and has won or placed in the top three of the Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction competition, the Miles Hughes Award, the NZSA Short Story Competition, the Kiwi Short Story Competition, Her magazine Short Story Competition and others.

Botur said in early 2017 he became fed up with the slow process of getting stories published in literary magazines – which can take over 12 months, even online, often without payment – and now encourages writers of short stories or novels to prepare each publication as a PDF, epub, Mobi and Word document and on websites so the story can be read on any internet-capable device.

Botur said the 20th century culture of depending on publishers for all promotion of literature doesn’t work in the year 2017. A number of digitally-savvy authors he has met while coordinating the Writers Up North collective have convinced him of the advantages of publishing online. Unfortunately, this leaves old-fashioned writers behind.

“I feel unfortunately there is a widening gulf between tech-savvy authors and people who are glued to the process of publishing on paper – which is slow, wasteful and severely limits the audience who will read each work. You’re slightly better off as a novelist, but short story writers are really left behind – unless they go online.”

“There are virtually no places online in NZ where short stories are published, and none that publish weekly or monthly. This hurts the craft of Kiwi short story writing. We need to reinvigorate support for the art of the short story by making short fiction more accessible online. That means hosting both brand new material and legacy material which is decades old.

“Name any respected NZ short story writer – I can almost guarantee you won’t be able to read their work online, and that doesn’t do Kiwi literature any favours. That’s why I set up – to protect, preserve and proudly publish, especially since our largest publishers put out virtually zero short story collections.”

Michael said Dargaville author J B Reynolds, Kaipara author Stephanie Green, Whangaparaoa/Auckland author J L Pawley and Whangarei author Peri Hoskins have each shown a knack for using electronic direct mailouts, BookFunnel, Mailchimp, Facebook, Amazon Prime and Wattpad to reach large, international audiences and to publish their work quickly – and that is something Michael urges every author to do.

Head to to see a good example of how NZ short fiction can be presented online, easily enjoyed, shared and downloaded.

Order and read young adult sci-fi dystopian novel ‘Moneyland’ at .