So what’s all this malarkey then? You can read more about the history of the competition and the previous results here. Below is the judge’s report for the very first competition (2005-2006). Two winning stories, 2006 and 2007, were published by the Guardian Online. In the first year we didn’t have an official anthology, though we acquired a couple of the stories for another anthology that Pretend Genius Press was compiling at the time.
Judge’s report – Willesden short story prize 2006, when there were joint winners, Vanessa Gebbie and Mikey Delgado.
The author of “Dodie’s gift” cares about character. It is a beautiful piece about two people circling each other, wondering whether to make contact. The collision of kindness and malevolence that results is very well drawn. At the end of the story, when one party is damaged by the other, we find we have cared for her, and in such a short piece of work that is a real achievement.
“Secure” is a stylish, flinty piece of writing that makes the reader work and rewards the commitment. It is angry and passionate without ever sacrificing the precision of its pared-down, effective prose. Unlike many of the stories we read, it allows almost no space at all for cliche – and this marked it out from the first. It feels like the beginning of a longer piece of work and it should be.
Here’s Zadie’s verdict from 2007, when Willie Davis’s story won:
“Amongst many high concept competitors, ‘Kid in a Well’ stood out for me for its relative simplicity, neat characterisation, and laconic, relaxed structure. It’s a story genuinely interested in its characters rather than fascinated with its own form, and offers the reader humour over authorial hubris. I really enjoyed it. Congratulations, Willie, and enjoy your mug! I have one and I love it.” Zadie Smith
Note: They included Mikey Delgado and Willie Davis in their lists of short fiction by contemporary authors, where they were listed together with the likes of Arthur Miller, William Trevor etc – you name them, all the best ones, listed together on the same page. That was a good prize in itself, I think.
There were 381 entries and reducing them to ten wasn’t easy at all. Many brilliant stories had to be omitted. It was fascinating, as always, reading each and every submission. When you think of all the craftsmanship, thought and sheer imagination there is out there, it’s quite heartening.
Short List 2014
Piercings by Jo Barker Scott
Such is her Power by Joan Brennan
The Beekeeper’s Daughters by Gina Challen
Ward by Nick Holdstock
Rock Pools by CG Menon
Rip Rap by Dan Powell
Postman’s Knock by Angela Sherlock
Rash by Megan Taylor
The Stealing by Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson
Cotton-Fisted Scorpions by Medina Tenour Whiteman
Congratulations to the writers of the short-listed stories and thanks to all who entered. The first and runners-up prizes will be announced by the judge, Charles Lambert, on April 16 at a special event in BAR Gallery in Willesden. New Short Stories 8, the anthology containing all the stories above, will be launched at the same time.
About the Authors
Jo Barker Scott was born in London, but grew up mostly overseas, in Kenya, Pakistan and Iran. These days she lives in Winchester, writing fiction and loitering on social media. Her work has been variously ignored, long-listed, short-listed, prize-winning and published, and she is currently polishing a novel. Her dream is to become a good enough writer to do justice to her family’s story.
Joan Brennan lives in London and writes full-time. Her stories have been short-listed for the Bridport, Fish, V.S. Pritchett and Lightship. She was placed second in the final London Short Story Comp. She lived in America for 7 years which is the setting for her recently completed novel, ‘The Bean Farm’ – currently short-listed for the Exeter Novel prize. After gaining a degree in Art she went on to complete an MA in English Lit. and over the years has worked as an illustrator, education editor, F.E. tutor, and university librarian. Originally from Lancashire, Joan still hankers for the North
Gina Challen is originally from London but has lived in West Sussex for over 30 years. She left her job as an Insurance Broker in 2012 to complete a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. This she calls her mid-life crisis. Her short stories have been published in anthologies by Cinnamon Press and Rattle Tales, and her essays can be found on line at The Thresholds Short Story Forum. She is currently working on a collection of short stories linked by the life and landscape of the Sussex Downs.
Nick Holdstock is the author of The Tree That Bleeds, a non fiction book about life in China’s Xinjiang province. His stories and articles have appeared in the London Review of Books, n+1, The Independent, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. His first novel will be out from Thomas Dunne in Spring 2015. www.nickholdstock.com
CG Menon is Australian, but currently splits her time between London and Cambridge. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of venues including Litro Online and Stupefying Stories. She was short-listed for the first Words and Women competition and has a story forthcoming in the associated anthology.
Dan Powell grew up in the West Midlands and currently lives in Lincolnshire. His short stories have been published in Carve, Paraxis, Fleeting and The Best British Short Stories 2012. He is a prize winning author, receiving both the Yeovil Prize and an Esoteric Award for his short stories. His Scott Prize short-listed debut collection of short fiction, Looking Out Of Broken Windows, is published by Salt. When not writing, Dan teaches part time and takes care of his young family as a home-dad. He is currently working on his first novel and procrastinates at danpowellfiction.com and on Twitter as @danpowfiction.
Angela Sherlock has worked in engineering and in education but now lives in Devon where she writes full time. She has published reviews and articles but currently concentrates on fiction. Her first novel, The Apple Castle, (as yet unpublished) was long-listed for the Virginia Prize and short-listed for the Hookline Novel Writing Competition. She has published some short stories and is currently working on a novel that draws on the history of Plymouth. Postman’s Knock, her third story to be short-listed by Willesden Herald is from her collection, Exports, which explores the Irish Diaspora.
Megan Taylor is the author of three novels, ‘How We Were Lost’ (Flame Books, 2007), ‘The Dawning’ (Weathervane Press, 2010) and ‘The Lives of Ghosts’ (Weathervane Press, 2012), but for the last year and a half, she has been concentrating on her short stories. In 2013, she was highly commended in the Manchester Fiction Prize and had a story published in an anthology, ‘Weird Love’ (Pandril Press). She was also recently awarded runner-up in Tin House’s Shirley Jackson competition and in Synaesthesia Magazine’s short story competition. She lives in Nottingham with her two children.
Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson worked in fashion for 25 years, but more recently spends her days writing – mainly short stories and poetry – and has been published in various literary magazines, both online and print. She is working on her first full length poetry collection titled DressCode and a novel length collection of linked short stories. She is an associate editor for The Word Factory and blogs at www.poemstorydreamreality.com.
Medina Tenour Whiteman is a writer, singer, musician, translator, small-time farmer and mother of two children who writes at a frenetic rate in the rare opportunities she has to do it. Born in Andalusia in 1982 to American-English Sufi Muslim converts, she is currently based in the Granada province, where she is co-writing a travel guide to Muslim Spain and trying to find time to finish a novel.
UPDATE 7 Feb. 2014: Shortlisted stories on their way to the judge this week. There were a lot of contenders and now it will not be an easy decision, picking prizewinners. Thanks to all who entered. Stand by for more news.
The 2013/14 short story competition closed at the end of December and the reading is progressing slowly but steadily towards a short list. Details will be posted here as soon as there is more news.
Friends of New Short Stories and the Willesden short story competition continue to delight and amaze with new publications. Here are two that have come to our attention this month.
Geraldine Mills third short story collection “Hellkite” has been launched in Dublin. It includes her Willesden prizewinning story “Frost Heave”. For more information and updates please visit Geraldine’s blog.
Morowa Yejidé’s Time of the Locust, which was a 2012 finalist for the national PEN/Bellwether Prize and received First Honorable mention in the national 2011 Dana Awards is to be published in June 2014 through Atria Books an imprint of Simon & Schuster. More
There are a total of 381 in the list, not counting test ones. Two or three have since been withdrawn but that’s the count of entries received. I am looking forward to reading them all. I’ve been very bad and only read about 100 so far. My only anxiety is not to miss anything good. Thank you all so much. What a wonderful vision it is that returns, of dedicated artists in language, honing new stories and working alone at the zenith of humanity.
Thanks to everyone who has supported the competition, retweeted, sponsored and generally been what we can only call angels.
The last email-shot went out this morning and you can read it online here. That’s the end of the spam.
Merry mid-winter everyone (where it is even possible). Already had some South African hot cider made by someone who knows what he’s doing. It’s like a mulled wine. Cheers to Mr Mandela, wherever he is now. Good luck to all.
More info has come our way about the mysterious Writing Retreats in the Welsh Borders which form part of this year’s short story competition prize. LitCamp, who some of you may remember, is putting on a spate of retreats in the New Year. “If you plan to get real with writing a book in the new year, check it out. You can even drop Xmas hints about this to your nearest and dearest as EarlyBird tickets rates run until 24 December – you heard it here first. Or, Plan B, win the short story comp!”