Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust of New Zealand | Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki o Aotearoa

Storylines Joy Cowley Award

Award Background

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 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 $1,500 from Scholastic New Zealand, and an offer of publication.

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. Two of the most successful titles to date is Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! by Kyle Mewburn, published in New Zealand, Australia, the USA and South Korea (translated into Korean) and Elaine Bickell's The Little Ghost who Lost her Boo!, published in New Zealand, Australia and the USA.

Scholastic has produced a poster celebrating previous Storylines Joy Cowley Award winners.


Judging and deadlines

In line with international best practice, the award is judged ‘blind’ – that is, the identities of the authors are unknown to the judging panel. Authors must therefore ensure that their name does not appear on any page of the submission; any manuscript with the name visible will be deemed ineligible.

The entry forms, which do not go to the judging panels, should be completed with the author’s correct details. Nom de plumes are not acceptable.

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 at the Storylines Margaret Mahy National Awards Day 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 no award was made.

If you are intending to submit a picture book text for the 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

  • 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.


Entries for the next award close: 31 October each year
Award Entry Fee: $40 (non-member)
/ $20 (member)

Recipients of the Storylines Joy Cowley Award:

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