Arbor Day Competition winners announced

Massey's Arbor Day Writing Competition asked entrants to wrie about a favourite tree.

Megan Stace-Davies and her cherry tree.

Trinity Tauaneai, Under-15 category winner.

A Palmerston North woman’s story of rescuing a cherry tree that was repeatedly attacked by vandals has won Massey University’s Arbor Day Writing Competition.  

Megan Stace-Davies, tutor in the School of English and Media Studies at Massey University, said she had never entered a writing competition before, but the tree theme resonated with her.

 "I have long felt an affinity with trees as protectors and life forces. My actual relationship with this cherry tree gained strength over time through trials. Eventually it came to symbolise for me strength growing out of the trials of life. I saved this tree and it has saved me."

The judging panel, comprising Dr Heather Kavan of the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing and Associate Professor Juliana Mansvelt from the School of People, Environment and Planning, said that Ms Stace-Davies’ entry won because of the “emotional power” of her story and the “crystal-clear way she expressed this”.

In the under 15-years category, eight-year-old Trinity Tauaneai won first place with her story of her fantasy tree that was her hero and soldier. There were also several highly commended stories, including one from a 10-year-old boy who immigrated to New Zealand and described his fascination with a lemon tree in the garden of his new home.   

The judges commented that they especially enjoyed reading the younger children’s entries because the writing was free from self-consciousness. “They were expressing their honest thoughts, rather than trying to impress the reader or win a prize,” Dr Kavan said. 

“Reading the children’s entries reminded me of the Russian novelist Tolstoy’s comment that the children at his local Yasnaya Polyana school wrote better stories than he did,” Dr Kavan said. 

The winners each received $100, and the children whose work was highly recommended received a copy of Dr Seuss’s book The Lorax

The judges said they would like to thank everyone who entered. “There were over 50 entries, and some were beautifully presented with photos and art work.”

“We encourage those who didn’t win to enter our story writing competition next year. Each year we will take a theme from the winners’ entries and make that our theme for the next year’s competition,” Dr Kavan say.

The theme of both winning entries this year was the tree as a hero that beat the odds.  Therefore the 2016 theme will be heroes and heroines.     

And what tips do the judges have for next year’s competition? “Make sure there is a strong story line with a clear resolution at the end.” 

My Special Tree – by Megan Stace-Davies

Most would think you an unremarkable tree – just a common flowering cherry. But to me you are very remarkable. You hold a special place in my heart.

You were planted by the birds in our garden and began to grow.

When you were a little sapling I carefully dug you out and planted you on our roadside berm – to replace the young city council tree destroyed by vandals. You accepted this new place and went on growing.

But one morning I found you flat to the ground. The vandals had struck again and run over you in the night. You were still very young and flexible, bent but not broken. I lifted you back up and tied you to a stake for support.

Again you grew, and became a sturdy little tree. Then more vandalism – someone ripped you from the ground and stuffed you headfirst into our letterbox, roots sticking out, exposed to wind and sun. You were dying.

I put you in water, steeped you in life-giving liquid and, amazingly, you revived. I planted you once more, in a safe spot special to me in our back garden, in my sacred little sanctuary. Here you thrived, unmolested, loved.

Now you are a tall young tree, straight and strong. You sing the seasons for me – of soft buds and blossoms, of fresh green leaves and shade, of glowing autumn colours, and of a time of quiet bare branches before you stir once again.

You are my tree of life, symbol of endurance, of survival, of holding fast, of beating the odds. My inspiration. My remarkable tree.



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