What sorcery was this?
Timaru magician and writer Russell Hendry has not only won the Ivy Preston Short Story Competition, but his two other entries placed second and third.
According to competition organiser Neville Guthrie, it is the first time in the Writers South Canterbury competition’s nearly 20-year history that such a thing has happened.
In the annual competition Writers SC members are invited to submit short stories of up to 3000 words to vie for the silver salver, donated by Timaru romance writer the late Ivy Preston, who was a member of the group (then the South Canterbury Writers’ Guild) and one of South Canterbury’s best-known authors in the 1960s and ’70s.
The 12 entries in the competition were all judged blind by former Timaru Boys’ High School English teacher Gordon Prowse, and Mr Hendry emerged as man of the moment when his three entries were awarded the top three placings.
His name is now on the salver along with published South Canterbury authors such as Bernie Joyce and Mr Guthrie.
“Most of us, we are only people who like writing short stories, and maybe one day we think we will write the novel,” he said.
Mr Hendry joined Writers SC after retiring from the ACC nine years ago.
“Neville [Guthrie] saw a story in the paper that I was retiring, and talking about doing some writing, so he rang me and said, ‘Would you like to come to our club?’
“We get together once a month and have an assignment from the previous meeting, so you’re writing a short story to fit the assignment. We read them out and vote on whose is the best.
“We also have discussions on publishing, organising your book, and have held workshops. Most of us just quite enjoy coming along and talking about writing.”
Mr Hendry has also qualified as a proofreader and editor, and has worked on numerous manuscripts and novels.
His trifecta in the competition came as quite a surprise.
“It was a big surprise when I won, and not only that, to get second and third. That’s some kind of magic trick!”
He entered three quite different stories in the competition.
The winning story – Pushing His Luck – was about boys at a religious high school beginning to challenge the teachings.
Second-placed The Birds was about flocks of birds visiting an elderly woman in her garden, and what happened when she went into a rest-home and eventually died; and the third, Up To His Neck, was about a young man doing voluntary work in Thailand, and an unfortunate situation involving a blocked toilet and a visiting local dignitary.
“I’ve written a lot of short stories, and try to have an interesting twist in the end, rather than just a bland story.”
As a boy, he loved detective stories and novels and was now a fan of Jeffrey Archer’s work.
“There’s one of his, a collection called A Twist in the Tale, all short stories with twists at the end that you wouldn’t see coming, and I quite like that sort of thing.
“One of the reasons I feel I have achieved something in writing is that I’m an avid reader, I read lots of stuff, even as a little kid I used to read all sorts of things.”