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Storylines Joy Cowley Award

Storylines Joy Cowley Award shortlist 2020 announced


The short listed manuscripts for the Storylines Joy Cowley Award for a picture book manuscript are:

  • Blue canoe and a cockatoo by Melanie Koster from Christchurch
  • The brilliant plan that Stan had by Melanie Koster from Christchurch
  • Grandpa versus swing by Tania Sickling from Snells Beach
  • Lollicops and slobbers by Melanie Woolford from Henderson
  • Scamper, scarper, flee by Juliette MacIver from Porirua

The wwinner will be announced at the 2020 Storylines National Awards Day on 5 April . Register before 31 March to attend.



The Storylines Joy Cowley Award for an original picture book text, in partnership with Scholastic NZ, is open to all New Zealand writers who meet the eligibility criteria as stated on the entry form and is made annually, when merited.

There is a monetary prize of $1500 from Scholastic New Zealand, and an offer of publication.

Scholastic has produced a poster celebrating previous Storylines Joy Cowley Award winners.
Find the entry form and guidelines here.
JCA Poster 2018-511

About the Award

Joy Cowley 2018-699

The Storylines Joy Cowley Award  was established in 2002 when Storylines contacted Scholastic New Zealand, one of Joy's publishers, asking them to join with Storylines in creating an award that would recognise the exceptional contribution Joy Cowley has made to children’s literature and literacy in New Zealand and internationally.

The aim of the award is to foster the publication of excellent picture books by writers permanently resident in New Zealand.

The award is open to all New Zealand writers who meet the eligibility criteria as stated on the entry form..

Winning this award has launched the careers of some of New Zealand’s best-loved authors, including Kyle Mewburn and Lucy Davey. The most successful title to date is Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! by Kyle Mewburn, which has been published in New Zealand, Australia, the USA and South Korea (translated into Korean).

A full list of winners can be seen here.
The judging panel is made up of representatives from Storylines and Scholastic New Zealand. All the judges read every manuscript carefully and make comments on the strongest. They then meet and debate their preferences. The judges usually end up reading the stories out loud to each other, as this helps understanding of the story, and highlights any failings in the structure.

Award entries close on 31 October each year. The award winner is announced in April and the published book launched the following year.

Some notes on judging and tips for new writers

Storylines and Scholastic are committed to ensuring the quality and success of the award-winning manuscript on publication, and there have been two occasions when an award was not made.
If you are intending submitting a picture book text for the 2020 Storylines Joy Cowley Award, Storylines strongly advises that you write it in prose, and put aside ambitions to write in rhymed verse.
“Rhyme is difficult,” Joy Cowley says in her how-to book Writing from the Heart, ”and must be done well. It needs natural language and rhythm, and must scan."
Many of the texts submitted for the award in recent years have been in rhyming verse, but have not met Joy’s criteria. Each year the judges report their disappointment that good ideas are spoiled by imperfect, hard-to-read verse, rather than simple, clear prose.
You can read further advice from Joy on this topic here.

Award-winning author Melinda Szymanik,  a successful picture book writer and a previous judge of the Storylines Joy Cowley Award, has compiled a useful set of tips for new writers. Read these here.


  • The award is open to all New Zealand writers who meet the eligibility criteria as stated on the entry form.
  • Previous winners are not eligible.
  • The manuscript submitted must not have been published in either digital or print format for trade (i.e. sold through physical or online bookstores) or for educational purposes (such as school readers), or be in the process of publication in any format.

Making a Submission:

  • Manuscripts, with accompanying form (which you can find here) and fee payment should be sent to Tina Collins, Storylines Awards administrator (refer to the entry form for instructions), and must be postmarked no later than 31 October each year.
  • The manuscript, of no more than 1000 words, must be for a picture book for children two to seven years, suitable for publication in book format.
  • Do not include illustrations. If you feel illustrations are essential in order to convey your story then include a brief description of the image content, sufficient to achieve the level of understanding you believe is needed.

Entry form and checklist:

2019 Storylines Joy Cowley Award Winner

Janelle Wilkey’s manuscript, titled ‘Mrs Brook’s Chook’, was the winner of the 2019 Joy Cowley Award. Joy Cowley was unfortunately unable to attend the Storylines Margaret Mahy Day to present the award as planned, due to family commitments. In her absence Lynette Evans, publisher at Scholastic NZ, presented the award to Janelle. An experienced nurse, Janelle worked for 20 years in remote indigenous communities in Australia. She moved with her husband and son to Fiji in 2015 where they enjoyed relaxed days on the beach, fishing, gardening and spending time with family. Janelle’s first love is art and writing and the time in Fiji without the distractions of modern life meant that she could explore this more. ‘Mrs Brook’s Chook’ was written in Fiji to entertain her son and his cousins and is about a real hen who delighted in laying in problematic places. Two years ago, Janelle moved with her family to Blenheim, where she continues to write and paint and work as a community nurse.

Janelle is already working with Joy Cowley on final editing of the story, and it is expected the book will be launched at next year’s Storylines Margaret Mahy National Awards Day.

Janelle Wilkey and Scholastic NZ senior editor Penny Scown

Storylines Joy Cowley award winner Janelle Wilkey with Penny Scown from Scholastic NZ IMG 3754-448-549-717

2019 Storylines Joy Cowley Award shortlist

Shortlisted for the Storylines Joy Cowley Award in 2019 were
  • 'Cauldron Stew' by Kate Galinski (Wellington)
  • 'Celia Seagull and the plastic sea' by Nicole Miller (Bethlehem, Tauranga)
  • 'Goo man and Squish' by Melanie Woolford (Auckland )
  • 'A leopard in the factory' by Paul Mason (Waiheke Island)
  • 'Mrs Brook's Chook' by Janelle Wilkey (Blenheim)
Kate, Nicole Melanie and Janelle were presented with their certificates by Lynette Evans, publisher, and  Penny Scown, senior editor, from Scholastic NZ, sponsor of the award.
Storylines Joy Cowley Award finalists with publisher Lynette Evans Kate Galinski Melanie Woolford Nicole Miller Janelle Wilkey Penny Scown IMG 3730-295

2018 Storylines Joy Cowley Award winner


The winner of the 2018 Joy Cowley Award for an original picture book text by a previously unpublished author was

  • Elaine Bickell (Wellington) for “The little ghost who lost his Boo”.
Speaking after receiving her award, Elaine said that being short-listed (for another manuscript) in 2017 only fuelled her determination to follow her passion to write picture books. She noted that she read and re-read Joy Cowley's Writing from the Heart and attended several writing classes as she crafted her latest manuscript.

Two other works from the 140 entries were shortlisted:
  • Samantha Montgomerie (Dunedin) for “Skipper and Scout”
  • Angela Walker (Auckland) for “The journey we take together”.
IMG 6206 Elaine Bickell-388-678-815

2017 Commendations

There was no winner of the Joy Cowley award in 2017, but four commendation certificates were awarded to:
  • Christine Ashton, Southland, My Friend Fred - Highly Commended
  • Lottie Holt, Auckland, The Princess and the Pirate - Highly Commended
  • Elaine Bickell, Wellington, The Enormous Feet - Commended
  • Belinda O’Keefe, Christchurch, The Truly Magnificent Stick  - Commended
Two authors highly commended for the Storylines Joy Cowley Award, Lottie Holt and Elaine Bickell with Scholastic’s Penny Scown and Storylines Trustee Libby Limbrick. (Photo: Crissi Blair)
JCA Shortlist w LL and Penny Scown Scholastic MM Day 2017 -188
Full list of recipients of the Storylines Joy Cowley Award:
  • 2003: Julie Leibrich; manuscript published as The Biggest Number in the Universe
  • 2004: Jean Prior; manuscript published as The Waka
  • 2005: Kyle Mewburn; manuscript published as Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!
  • 2006: Moira Wairama; manuscript published as The Puppet Box
  • 2007: No award
  • 2008: Michelle Osment; manuscript published as Tiny Miss Dott and Her Dotty Umbrella
  • 2009: June Peka; manuscript published as Magpie Mischief
  • 2010: Lucy Davey; manuscript published as Out of Bed, Fred! August 2011
  • 2011: Sarah Johnson; manuscript published as Wooden Arms
  • 2012: Isaac Drought; manuscript published as Alphabet Squabble
  • 2013: Aimee McNaughton; manuscript published as I Can’t Imagine How That Happened
  • 2014: Emma Vere-Jones, manuscript published as Stan the Van Man
  • 2015: Joy H. Davidson, manuscript titled Witch's Cat Wanted, Apply Within
  • 2016: Sarah Grundy, manuscript titled The rare and endangered Archew, to be published as The Curious Ar-chew
  • 2017: No award
  • 2018: Elaine Bickell, manuscript entitled The little ghost who lost his boo
  • 2019: Janelle Wilkey, manuscript entitled Mrs Brook''s Chook



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