Smart Alex Competition Details

Get creative! The 2020 Competition is on once again. Entry is open to anyone currently attending a secondary school in New Zealand or in the Pacific Islands. There are two age-group categories for entries: Years 9-10, and Years 11-13.

Get your completed entry in by 5 pm on Sunday 19 July 2020. We will announce the winning results on Monday 14 September 2020. This date, 14 September, was Alex Turnbull’s birthday (152 years ago) so we’re glad to be celebrating his birthday in this way.

This year’s Smart Alex creative writing competition is once again sponsored by The Friends of the Turnbull Library Ngā Hoa o te Whare Pukapuka Turnbull and organised in conjunction with Services to Schools, National Library of New Zealand.

We are inviting a personal response from you to an item in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library. Your response (or interpretation) can be a piece of creative writing, a poem, flash fiction, a cartoon strip, an illustrated graphic story, or the written lyrics for a song or waiata.

Here is a selection of images to get you started:  click here

And if you’d like to explore on your own, go to and look for pictures from the Alexander Turnbull Library.

The official entry form on our website MUST be used to send in your entry. This means you need to find the “reference number” for the image you have chosen. Click on the image, and choose “view the item on their site”. The reference number will be in the second line below the image.

Example: Photograph of girl with skipping rope (1940s)

Reference number: 1/4-068133-F





Enquiries to



In 2019, entries closed for completed responses to at 5pm on Sunday 21 July 2019.

Results were announced on Monday 23 September 2019.