THE BRISTOL SHORT STORY PRIZE – We’ve just had the award ceremony for the Bristol Short Story prize where the winning entrants were announced! The winner was Canadian writer, Brent vanStaalduinen for A Week on the Water, second place was J.R.McConvey, also from Canada, for a wonderful political satire, Between the Pickles. Australian writer, Magdalena McGuire won 3rd prize for her story Birthday Bones, which has a brilliant opening line: ‘It was the day before castration day.’ The Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 8, featuring the 3 winning stories, plus the 17 other shortlisted stories, is available to order here.
This was my second and final year judging and I’m sad not to have the excuse to meet up with my fellow judges, radio producer, Sara Davies, literary agent, Rowan Lawton, and writer, Nikesh Shukla, and chat about writing for hours! What was noticeable about the winning entries this year were how dark the stories were, yet, as Rowan pointed out, the writers used such, ‘a light touch, they were even more impactful.’
A Week on the Water is brilliant. As Sara said, ‘On the surface it’s about fishing, but as it unfolds in measured, controlled prose, its real, horribly dark subject emerges.’ Brent had not had any luck placing his story and was about to give up on it, when he asked a couple of writers for feedback. He rewrote it and thought he’d give it one last shot, before he ‘mothballed it.’ So never give up! After all, Marlon James, who’s just won the Booker Prize with ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings,’ received 78 rejections before his novel was published!
My other favourites for their wonderful, evocative prose are Magpie by Gina Challen and Flowers by Emma Timpany. Of course, being a zoologist, I also loved the references to the animal kingdom in Zoo by Jeremy Charles Yang.
And I made a cake to celebrate Joe Melia, director of the Bristol Short Story Prize, who is untiringly supportive of writers – with the front cover of the anthology in icing!!
If you’d like to enter next year, do have a look at my tips for writing short stories. There are also some You Tube clips of the judges and our brilliant speaker, Courttia Newland.