400 Words - The Judges

Our finalists have now been chosen for “400 Words". Judges (listed below) will now have the difficult task picking a winner from each category, finalists stories have all been read by one of our kiwi celebrity story tellers. You listen to their stories read aloud by someone famous!


Oscar KightleyOscar Kightley

Oscar Kightley, MNZM, is an award winning writer, actor, presenter, and director.

Oscar acted in and co-wrote the successful films Sione's Wedding and Sione's 2- Unfinished Business. He also wrote The Naked Samoans plays that inspired the hit comedy series bro’Town.

In 2013 Kightley played the title character in the police drama Harry, which he also co-wrote.

He followed up the popular drama by directing Madeleine Sami's comedy show Super City.

Kightley’s short film ‘Tom’s Dairy’ screened at this years NZ International Film Festival and will play at the Encounters 2013 Film Festival in Bristol.

Stephen SinclairStephen Sinclair

Stephen has been writing and directing for the stage and screen for over 30 years. Several of his plays have been shown internationally, notably the smash hit Ladies Night, co-written with Anthony McCarten, which continues to be performed throughout the world, including Russia, France, Germany and Canada. In 2001 the French version won the prestigious Moliere Award for stage comedy of the year.

Stephen has had a long screenwriting partnership with Academy Award winners Peter Jackson and Frances Walsh, notably on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.  Earlier collaborations with Peter and Fran include the feature film Meet the Feebles, and in 1991, Braindead, which won Best Screenplay at the 1993 New Zealand Film and Television Awards. He is currently working on the screenplay of an animated feature for Wingnut Films.

Stephen has directed several short films, and the feature Russian Snark, which in 2010 was nominated for 6 NZ Film Awards including Best Director, and won the Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 2011 it won Best International Film at the Garden State Film Festival, and the Grand Jury Prize at the Brussels Independent Film Festival.

Melinda SzymanikMelinda Szymanik

Melinda Szymanik began writing stories as a child but kept her ambition of becoming an author a secret until she had children of her own.  Her picture books include The Were-Nana, winner of Children’s Choice at the 2009 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards, The House That Went to Sea and Made with Love. Two new titles are due out later this year and July 2014. Numerous short stories appear in School Journals and collections such as Dare and Double Dare, Pick ‘n’ Mix Volumes 1 & 2, and Great Mates. Her first junior novel Jack the Viking came out in 2008, her teen thriller The Half Life of Ryan Davis in 2011, and junior novel Sally Bangle: Unexpected Detective was published as an e-book in 2012. Her latest title, A Winter's Day in 1939, is a junior novel based on her father's experiences as a boy in wartime Eastern Europe.

Twice shortlisted for the Joy Cowley Award (2003 and 2006) and a finalist for the Sakura Medal in 2010, Melinda runs creative writing workshops for both children and adults and is a visiting author in schools. She has three children, a dog and a cat, runs a business with her husband, and writes whenever she can.

www.melindaszymanik.com & www.melindaszymanik.blogspot.com

Maria GillMaria Gill

Author Maria Gill has written over 30 children’s books for New Zealand and overseas. Her books include New Zealand Hall of Fame: 50 Remarkable Kiwis, which won the Children’s Choice in the non-fiction category at the 2012 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards; The Call of the Kokako shortlisted for two LIANZA awards and a Storylines Notable; Rangitoto shortlisted for the 2010 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, and this year converted into the first children’s non-fiction enhanced e-book (now called The rock standing in the ocean) with pixelbook.co. Her second enhanced e-book Operation Nest Egg Chick about how kiwi are being saved in New Zealand was recently launched at Auckland Zoo. Her two latest printed books include Eruption! Discovering New Zealand Volcanoes shortlisted for the 2013 LIANZA awards, as well as a Storylines Notable Book; and Running the Country – all you ever wanted to know about our election and government system - both published by New Holland Publishers. Maria is looking forward to her first picture book The Last of the Maui coming out in printed and enhanced e-book format in March 2014. Maria once taught at Primary and Intermediate level and now writes full time from her life-style property. After completing a Grad Diploma in Journalism Studies in 2011 she also writes articles for the educational and book industry, as well as giving author talks and creative writing workshops in schools and at conferences. www.mariagill.co.nz

Kiwi Write4Kidz

Melinda Szymanik and Maria Gill also run Kiwi Write4Kidz – a nationwide group for adults who write children’s stories. Three critique groups from Kiwi Write4Kidz will also help select the final 20 entries. Thanks to: Clare Scott, Christine Hurst, Leonie Agnew, Vanessa Hatley-Owen, Sher Foley, Elena de Roo, Elise de Silva, Katie Furze, Sue Copsey, Karen Lane, Lorraine Orman, Joan Braddock, Andy Rissman.

Melinda SzymanikDuck Creek Press

We’d like to thank David Ling Publishing for their assistance with The Breeze “400 Words” short story competition. Under their Duck Creek Press imprint they publish an exciting range of children’s picture books. Check out their catalogue: www.davidling.co.nz