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.
Read “Secure” by Mikey Delgado: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/mar/21/originalwriting.fiction
Read “Kid in a Well” by Willie Davis: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/jan/16/originalwriting.fiction3
And here’s the Guardian’s news report for Kid in a Well: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/jan/16/news
Zadie Smith was the judge for the first three years. Since then we’ve had Charles Lambert, David Means, Roddy Doyle, Maggie Gee, Richard Peabody and Rana Dasgupta.
It’s been interesting…