Jenna Heller


Behind the bar, she washes mugs while outside the sky churns.

Clouds tumble and wrestle and a long woolly spindle rolls like a wave then turns on point, reaches down and plucks the roof right off a grocery store. Two smaller spindles embrace like lovers clasped together for one urgent night, sucking and pulling at hundred-year-old trees, ripping at glass and paper. All of it takes flight, circling, spinning, a murmuring of debris, swirling in freeform. Then large stones of ice empty from the heavens. The sky a chaotic blur.

People spill off the streets, slip through the doors, seek refuge and hope in the comfort of strangers and walls of timber. Children whimper while their parents stand in fearful silence. Some drink like they’d never drink again – shot after shot followed by beer after beer. To keep warm, they say. Settle the nerves, they add.

And then it all stops. The clouds relax and thin and sun pours from a hole in the sky. The children return to smiles before everyone leaves just as quickly as they arrived, rushing back through the doors like a dam tripped opened.

She stays behind, invents a drink, a swirling tonic to calm the nerves. Calls it a tornado, but no one wants that. Not now. Not today.

Jenna Heller completed the Hagley Writers’ Institute in 2010. Her writing can be found in Takahē, Popshot, *82 Review, and Headland. She is currently completing a final edit on a novel that got its start during her time at Hagley.

Sue Kingham

The Scholar – 1976

Mam’s envelope rustles in my pocket as I walk.

Why does she write to the butcher every week instead of giving me money for meat? Is she checking I remember to say thank you?

There’re three streets between home and the butcher’s shop on the corner of Warwick Road and Wood Terrace. I make my first turn at the monkey puzzle tree; it’s so big I can’t see into the house crouching behind it. My second turn is at the bungalow with the torn net curtain that flops like a slice of pizza. I know what pizza looks like, although I’ve never had one. Mam says they’re too expensive, but we did have fish ‘n’ chips last month ‘cause it was my eighth birthday.

I have to be polite to the butcher, but I don’t like him. His hands are pink and he has pork sausage fingers. When he gives me mince, wrapped in white paper, he smells of blood and his long nose hairs curl into his black moustache.

The message in my pocket makes me feel uncomfortable. I sit on the low brick wall in front of the ‘pizza slice’ house pull out the envelope and hold it up to the sun. Then I slip my little finger under the flap and wiggle it along. It opens. Checking no one’s watching, I take out the note.

same time this week

It’s written in pencil. Mam hasn’t signed it, used punctuation or done any of the things Miss Robinson told us we had to do in a letter. I’ll tell her how to write one properly when I get home.

Sue Kingham writes short stories, poetry, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Her writing can be found in Flash Frontier and in Takahē. A 2014 graduate of the Hagley Writers’ Institute, when not writing she enjoys the visual arts and reading.


This year, the Quick Brown Fox has the honour of celebrating the Hagley Writers’ Institute’s tenth anniversary. This is a huge milestone for the little course that could, a place that has regularly turned out writers more than capable of meeting the world of New Zealand literature head on.

It was the brainchild of the Hagley principal Mike Fowler, well before he was principal. It has found its greatest champion in Morrin Rout, who has been an unflagging mainstay on the programme. Patronised by the iconic Margaret Mahy and then the wonderful Bernadette Hall, the course has selected and honed talent in Canterbury.

This year’s editors are a diverse group of readers. We each have a speciality and we all have strong opinions. The pieces from this edition have been agonised over in complicated spreadsheets, argued about in late night Skype sessions, and loved enough for us to eagerly present them to you.

We never really considered theming this edition. As the work began to roll in, it quickly became apparent that we would publish what we loved. And we have. What we have done is ensured that there is a selection of authors represented from across the years that the Hagley Writers’ School has operated. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed selecting them.

-Laura Borrowdale, Gail Ingram and Sam Averis

Laura Borrowdale is a Dunedin based writer and educator. She was in the founding class of the Hagley Writers’ Institute in 2008, and has gone on to become the editor of Aotearotica and a member of the Ink Pot Collective. She can be contacted through
Gail Ingram is a poet, writer, editor and creative-writing teacher. Her fiction and poetry is widely published. She is the current editor of NZ Poetry Society Anthology and Associate Editor at Flash Frontier. You can find her work at
Sam lives in Christchurch with his wife and daughters. His stories have appeared in Takahe, Geometry, and Flash Frontier among others. In 2016 two of his stories were highly commended in the NZ National Flash Fiction Day competition and in 2017 he was nominated for the best of the net awards. He is the website editor for Flash Frontier. Find him on his website and twitter @samaveris.

Phoebe Wright

See us

See us roll down the burnt hill, a thousand bright balls like an ad for microbead skin cleanser, coming at you in a tsunami of fruit-burst colour. The circus freaks will emerge from their disguised truck when we reach the action, with their stilts, their pogo sticks, their flaming juggling clubs. The contortionists have been told not to contort. It may be interpreted as demonic. We zorbers are the unskilled, non-agile masses. The late-teen enthusiasts, the burnt-out activists with a death wish, the aging hippies chanting their mantras. I brace against the pink plastic sides of the inner ball and I am somersaulting – sky! Rubble! Sky! Rubble! Sky! – as the AK47s chatter closer and closer.

Of course, there was a girl. A girl with piercings in her nose and fire in her eyes, who sat at the front of the Political Science lecture on humanitarian intervention, who said, Of course it’s problematic if you use violence. What if you didn’t use violence? Who said, What if some people cared enough to get killed? A girl who dabbled in circo-arts, and could hula on stilts. There was the internet rallying cry, the pledges and waivers, the tearful parents. But always, up ahead with a backpack, chatting to a muscled contortionist or a bespectacled and passionate law student, there was the girl. Who may or may not have been right. Who may or may not look up from her hoops at the cascade of zorbs, and wonder which is mine.

I’m no circus freak, no human rights lawyer, no soldier, just a drop-out in a plastic ball, which may be pierced by bullets as I reincarnate from man to statistic. But in this moment, in our tumbling fluorescent hope, before we see their faces and their guns, see us.

Phoebe Wright is a writer and English teacher based alternately in Christchurch and in Gulu, Northern Uganda. She has enjoyed taking part in the Hagley Writers’ Course this year, working on both poetry and a novel.

Sam Averis

Emmy wrote an algorithm

The next morning I got out of the shower, and Emmy was changing the sheets already. I winced, the sun on the clean white linen did my headache no favours. I asked if I’d see her again, and she paused for a few seconds to think, while her fingers tapped at the ghost of a number-pad on her thigh.

“It’s somewhat likely,” she said. One corner of her mouth was turned up into a smirk, and her eyebrows were just barely furrowed. I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to be in on the joke. I gawked while she tapped away for a few more seconds, and silently moved her lips. “I’d say about thirty-seven percent.”

The look was the same one she’d given the bouncer at the club, the one that got him riled and my arm twisted a little higher up my back.

“This isn’t a huge city, we’re a similar age. thirty-seven seems correct.” She was wearing my t-shirt, ironically printed with a photo of a puppy. “If you write down your number before you leave it might be more like… sixty-three or sixty-four.”

I zipped my jacket up over my bare chest. The shirt was hers now, and so was I.

She was in big data, and had a government contract, security clearance and a baggy of cocaine that looked small, but seemed to go on forever. She sat cross-legged on the floor in the dark and watched glowing green characters, raw units of information, play across the black screen. I rubbed her back.

At some point she stabbed the enter key with her middle finger, and a spiralling rainbow matrix of dots, lines and bars filled the screen. I gasped, overcome by the colours and the drugs and by the smell of her sweat. Her shirt was damp, and I could make out the bra-strap through the sheer white cotton that clung to her back.

She spun the wheel of her mouse, zooming in, and the graph exploded. It outgrew the confines of the screen, and seemed to fill the room. I was inside it as it grew wider and denser. It slowed while she put her head down to suck up the line of white powder she’d tapped out onto the trackpad of her laptop. I could see the colours from the screen reflected in her hair, impossibly black and glossy like an oil slick.

When she looked up she sniffed, urgently, as if surfacing for air. She started zooming again, faster, and the pixels blurred. The data moved so quickly that it was hard to be sure it was still expanding, like when the wheels of a car seem to spin backwards. She continued strumming the mouse wheel while she spoke to me between clusters of shallow breaths.

“What time is it?”

The numbers on my watch swam, but the light seeping in around the edges of the curtains told me it was morning. She gestured at me with the baggy, but I shook my head.

“Thursday,” I said, looking into Emmy’s eyes. They sat deep in their sockets, wild and fizzing. “I’m worried about you. About that.”

“It’s only this project. Just a means to an end.” She took her fingers off the mouse and enmeshed them in mine, and the expansion slowed. We had zoomed in far enough that the colours were coalescing into recognizable shapes. First flags, corporate logos, stock symbols. then cities, suburbs, products. I looked back as she lead me to the bedroom. The screen had stopped on a photo of my face, just a few months old and encircled by thousands of coloured threads connecting it to a thousand other points of data. It leered at me, a version of myself scraped from a fibre-optic cable and fed, grinning, to Emmy’s algorithm.

Emmy came home from the gym and went to bed. At the end of her contract they’d hired her on permanently, and she’d traded the sledgehammer efficiency of seventy hour coding binges for long-haul output optimization: flu-shots, daily stretches, green vegetables. All that, long hours, and nothing else. She had a new set of needs that served the same end.

In the morning I tried to fight with her. She just watched the TV weather-lady, smirking at the perky blonde’s fifty percent chance of rain. Her coat stayed on the hook when she left for work.

When she got home she was late and dry. Her presence barely registered. She perched on the edge of the couch and opened her laptop. Even the squab she sat on was untroubled by her weight. She was still and hygienic, like the signal from the wi-fi. I wanted her to cut me down, to look at me with the same playful contempt she had for the weather-lady. She stayed silent.

She was so grey, but I could feel the coloured thread that wove us together, the one from her computer program, as strong and vibrant as ever. It was digital, the numeral one stretched to gossamer and tangled around our tongues, stitched into our hearts, and binding our ankles together like convicts on a chain gang.

I wanted to break it, but I couldn’t talk. I squeezed the side of my tongue between my molars, harder and harder. Blood flowed into my mouth, hot and ulcerative, and salty like the tears I assumed came next. I closed my eyes for the grand unravelling, but there was something else holding me together. It was as calcified and organic as coral, analogue and immeasurable as hope. I felt a draft from the air-con, and it picked up a strand of her hair which blew free like a piece of snapped fishing line. I went to the spare room to make up the bed.

Sam Averis lives in Christchurch with his wife and daughters. His stories have appeared in Takahe, Geometry, and Flash Frontier among others. In 2016 two of his stories were highly commended in the NZ National Flash Fiction Day competition. Find him on his website and on twitter @samaveris.

Kerrin P Sharpe

just like heaven

the horse in a hammock
held by steel wheels and hooks
seems to orbit
the operating room

ropes share the force and distance
of his fractured cannon bone

the horse with no
medical history
has such faith in the surgeon

the anaesthetist
can hardly breathe himself

when he returns
to the racecourse the horse
cannot stop winning

the sick and the dying
stroke the horse they walk
in his hooves they climb

back in their saddles

at Rapaki they’re blessing

at Rapaki they’re blessing
the new waka with water
made holy by Tangaroa
only He knows
what will happen

the godwits reverse
their feather boats and fly home
the sea-horse in the rock -pool
rides to the surface
the kina surges and slides
the chitin closes her door

deep under the streets
concrete drainage pipes
porcelain sewers
already crack the darkness
in all the vermin

elsewhere a poet has
just written a blessing
when the cliff crushes
the old man picking
strawberries to decorate
his grand-daughter’s birthday cake

while on the 5th now ground floor
of a building a painter
now surgeon slips his new Swiss
army knife into a femur
and saves a young boy

then the statue of Mary
in the Cathedral
of the Blessed Sacrament
turns from the broken marble
altar and faces Otautahi
like a blessing

Kerrin P. Sharpe completed Bill Manhire’s Original Composition class at University of Wellington in 1976. She was a tutor at the Hagley Writers’ Institute for 7 years and now supervises students. She has been published widely, including in Best New Zealand Poems 08,09 and 2010, Turbine 07, 09 and 10, Snorkel, Bravado, Takahe, NZ Listener, Poetry NZ, Junctures, Sport and The Press. In 2008, she was awarded the New Zealand Post Creative Writing Teacher’s Award by the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her first collection of poems Three Days in a Wishing Well was published by Victoria University Press in September, 2012 followed by There’s a Medical Name for This and Rabbit, Rabbit. Kerrin has had poems in the Best of the Best NZ Poems and was selected for Oxford Poets 2013: An Anthology.

Christina Stachurski

Extract from Love Babe

Church bells begin ringing out the three-quarters of an hour sound. Lights up stage right (SR), indicating midday on a street in Verona, Italy. JULIET HULME enters (13 years old in 1952), wearing a frock and sunglasses, and carrying a camera, guidebook and little rucksack. She stops, looks around, consults a map in her guidebook, walks SR in front of the SR table, does a 90 degree turn and heads downstage, checks the map again, walks across the front of the stage – as the lighting comes up there, turns and fixes on the SL table and runs towards it.

JULIET H Oh, this is it!

JULIET H strikes a dramatic pose

JULIET H “O Romeo, Romeo!

JULIET CAPULET – as the ghost of herself with a horribly pale face and lots of blood from her fatal stab wound staining the front of her nightdress – glides on to her balcony) behind JULIET H.

JULIET H carrying straight on    – wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse / thy name …”
JULIET C Forswear! I get so sick of hearing that paltry crap

JULIET H jumps and looks around. She is gob-smacked to see JULIET C and waves her hand in front of her eyes, as if to brush the illusion away, but it won’t go. JULIET C is surprised that JULIET H can see her, and pulls a face to check the reaction. JULIET H takes a few steps back before her curiosity moves her forward again.

JULIET H Are you …are you Juliet?

JULIET C rolls her eyes.

JULIET H I’m Juliet too, Juliet Hulme.
JULIET C Really? You won’t believe how many silly little Juliets turn up here, wanting to have their photo taken under my balcony.

JULIET H hides her camera behind her back.

JULIET C Then there’s the busloads after busloads of tourists and hundreds of thousands of lovers. As for the shrieks of joy from women who’ve just been proposed to – I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep for 564 years.
JULIET H Don’t you get tired?
JULIET C I’m supposed to be tired and miserable.
JULIET H But you’re Juliet, the famous, greatest girl lover. Everyone wants to be you.
JULIET C There wasn’t much being about it.
JULIET H I beg your pardon?
JULIET C Romeo and I died almost before we began. Should never have listened to the Friar – God won’t forgive me for killing myself in the name of Love instead of trusting Him. That’s why he stuck me on this Hell of a balcony with non-stop bloody tourists forever. I’d throw myself over the edge, if I wasn’t dead already.

A couple of beats

JULIET H Would you like some chocolate? It always cheers Mummy up when she’s down in the dumps.
JULIET C Chock – ?

JULIET H gets the chocolate out of her rucksack and shows JULIET C.

JULIET C Oh I know – the tourists stuff their faces with it while the guides drone on. No one’s ever offered me any before. Mind you, no one’s ever seen me before. Why you?
JULIET H Shrugs    Shall I bring it up?
JULIET C If you desire –    indicating   there’s a staircase behind.

JULIET H steps up on the table via a chair. She sits down on the edge of the table to take the wrapper off and break up the chocolate. JULIET C sits next to her. They eat chocolate during the next bit – JULIET C scoffing lots – talking with their mouths full.

JULIET C You’re English – what are you doing in Verona?
JULIET H We’re on holiday on the way to live in New Zealand.
JULIET C New Ze – ?
JULIET H Zealand. Daddy’s got a new job at a university there.
JULIET C Oh. About the chocolate You’re right – I feel better already.
JULIET H That’s something. It must be ghastly having no hope. Are you really doomed forever?
JULIET C Yes. Well … oh, God gave me one chance for redemption, but that’s impossible.
JULIET H A chance?
JULIET C God said that I can go back to life and try again for a place in heaven if … Tch    She waves her hand in dismissal
JULIET C If I can save one human life. And how am I going to do that – a ghost on a balcony. No-one’s even been up here since I died – except for you. Sigh You don’t want to end up like me. Very seriously Juliet, even if you’re really really desperate, promise that you’ll think things through.
JULIET C Urgently    Promise?
JULIET H Absently    Promise.
JULIET C Very urgently    Really?
JULIET H Seriously    Cross my heart and hope to die.

The church bell rings twice, ie two o’clock. JULIET C jumps up.

JULIET C The caretaker‘ll be back from siesta any minute – better leave or you’ll be in trouble.

JULIET H scrambles to her feet, kisses JULIET C, runs down the steps and out into the courtyard. They wave. JULIET H walks away, back the way she came.

JULIET C Calling    Oh, Juliet.
JULIET C Would you bring me more chocolate before you leave town?

JULIET H nods.

JULIET C Lots and lots.    To herself    – enough for eternity.

JULIET H nods, waves, walks away, and exits as the lights fade to blackout.

An award winning playwright and theatre director, Christina has been involved in theatre from an early age, also as an actor, stage manager and designer, and producer of outdoor Shakespeare for the Christchurch City Council’s SummerTimes (1993/4). Her M.A. is in New Zealand drama and her doctorate in New Zealand fiction focuses upon issues of ethnic identity. She has been a visiting lecturer at the Christchurch College of Education, and taught creative writing for Continuing Education, the School for Young Writers and the Books & Beyond Festival. Christina has also acted a guest poetry editor for Takahe, one-act play festival adjudicator and judge of the secondary schools’ Peter Smart Poetry Competition. She very much enjoyed her time as Writer in Residence at Hagley College in 2006. At present, she teaches Modern Drama and Creative Writing at the University of Canterbury. She has been a tutor and supervisor at the Hagley Writers’ Institute since 2009.