Shortlist announced for writing prize which honours UCLan lecturer

5 March 2020

UCLan students have drawn up the shortlist for the third Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction

Independent publisher Comma Press and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are delighted to announce the shortlist for the third annual Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction.

The shortlist of six stories, which was narrowed down from a record number of more than 200 entries by a talented group of UCLan students, includes a broad selection of writers, based across the country from Huddersfield to Swindon.

The writers selected are also at varying degrees of acknowledgement, with some having recently graduated and are as yet unpublished, and others having written award-winning works.

"I'm expecting the standard to be high, and picking a winner is sure to be a tough task for me and my fellow judges."

The shortlisted writers are:

  • AJ Reid (has e-published a novella, A Smaller Hell)
  • Helen French (her short stories have appeared in venues such as Flash Fiction Online, Shoreline of Infinity and Daily Science Fiction)
  • Jake Blandford (a screenwriter and filmmaker)
  • Jan Kaneen (her award-winning short stories and flash fictions have been published in Flash 500, Molotov Cocktail, Retreat West, Ink Tears and Scribble, and she has received nominations for Pushcart Prizes and Best on the Net)
  • JE Rowney (Charcoal, her first novel, was independently published in 2012 to wide critical acclaim. She has since published two further novels and two bestselling poetry collections)
  • Owen Townend (a MA Creative Writing graduate and writer, primarily of short speculative fiction)

The theme of this year’s Dinesh Prize was ‘Artificial Intelligence’, inspired by Dinesh’s short story ‘The Longhand Option’ from Comma’s Beta-Life anthology. Dinesh, who described himself as a jazz writer, lectured in creative writing at the University for eight years and was a long-term director of Comma Press before he passed away suddenly in 2015.

A couple of the authors have already been successful in other competitions and publications, such as Shoreline of Infinity, Ink Tears and Scribble and the Pushcart Prize.

Comma Press and UCLan set up the prize as an opportunity to showcase exciting new literary talent from across the UK, imposing no restrictions on entry such as a fee or a first-publication. They hope to further the careers of all the shortlisted authors, regardless of their experience in writing; the winner of the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2018, Lucas Stewart, is a contributing author to Comma Press’s latest History-into-Fiction anthology, Resist: Stories of Uprising, as well as another shortlistee from the same year, Kim Squirrell.

The shortlist of six stories have now been passed on to the esteemed judging panel which includes Martyn Bedford (prolific short story writer and lecturer in Creative Writing), Emma Yates-Badley (Literary Editor at Northern Soul), Robert Duggan (senior lecturer at UCLan) and Julie Fergusson (agent at The North Literary Agency).

This team will choose their winner and two runners up. The stories will remain anonymous to the judges until the winner announcement and prize giving ceremony on 30 May at the Northern Short Story Festival in Leeds. After the ceremony, the six shortlisted stories will all be published online as an eBook by Comma Press, and the winner will receive £500 from UCLan, as well as having their winning story published in Northern Soul.

Shortlistee AJ Reid says: “Having my story shortlisted for the Dinesh Prize is an honour and I thank all concerned for the opportunity. Aldous Huxley said that after decades of study and research, he was embarrassed that the best philosophy he could come up with was to promote kindness. It was with this in mind that I wrote this story, so I hope it warms a few hearts along the way.”

Shortlistee Jan Kaneen says: “I'm a big fan of Comma Press, both the books it publishes and the brilliant work it does developing, promoting and showcasing the short story, and so am proper delighted to be included on this year's shortlist for the Dinesh Prize. This short listing feels like real positive reinforcement that my therapeutic writing is resulting in good stories as well as good mental health.”

Judge Martyn Bedford says: “It's always exciting when a competition reaches the sharp end and I'm really looking forward to reading the six shortlisted stories. I'm expecting the standard to be high, and picking a winner is sure to be a tough task for me and my fellow judges.”

The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction will run again in 2021, with more details to be announced in due course.