First Paragraph: Writing Samples

End of the Day Shift

Just before dusk I stand in a sunken wooden hut. I've crossed a field, crunched along a camouflaged tunnel and emerged into what looks like a garden shed overlooking New Zealand's Otago shoreline. In front of me, scrubland slopes down to the beach.


I scan the sand as the light fades. I wait, getting cold and starting to feel stupid. But wanting to see a penguin makes me patient.

These wild penguins, the yellow eyed, don't inhabit zoos. They're far too shy and retiring for that. To see one, you must go where the Maoris call them hoihos instead of bringing them to you.

I'm about to give up when my guide's sharp intake of breath signals a tiny black and white speck shaking himself on the shore. For several minutes he stays there, resting after his long swim. I will him to climb the slope.

He waits on the beach until a second black and white speck emerges from the sea. That spurs him on, to reach his nest ahead of his rival.


He takes a few tentative steps forward. And slowly he shuffles across the sand dunes. A little hop up a step, a waddle through a puddle, round some bushes and he's almost there, right in front of me. He's elegant in the water but on land he's ungainly. I'm absorbed and bewitched.

His head is down but disgruntled determination keeps him going despite his obvious weariness.

Just in front of the hut he stops. Shiny white bib, glossy black head and a flash of yellow across the eye. He inspects the hut. Briefly I gaze straight into his beady eyes. Then he's off again. Hip hop over some stones, splish splosh through a stream. Time for home and bed.