Winner to be named in May
A team of talented students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have used their literary talents to select 10 writers as finalists of the first annual Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction.
Shortlisting from nearly 200 entries, the nine second-year students, studying on UCLan’s BA (Hons) English Literature and Creative Writing on a module called Live Literature, have been working in conjunction with independent publisher Comma Press on the prestigious project.
The shortlist includes writers from as far-reaching as London, Stockport, Edinburgh and Fife and have varying degrees of writing experience and commendations. The shortlisted writers are Eva Böhme, Benjamin Britworth, Selma Carvalho, WB Gooderham, Stephen Hargadon, Vicky MacKenzie, Rose McDonagh, Marija Smits, Lucas Stewart and Kim Squirrell.
A panel of judges, including novelist and UCLan lecturer Naomi Kruger, short story writer Claire Dean, newly appointed Tower of London Poet in Residence Inua Ellams and literary scholar and editor Abdulrazak Gurnah will judge the shortlisted submissions.
The winner and two runners-up will be named on 8 May at the prize giving ceremony to be held at the Ham and Jam café in Preston.
All 10 shortlisted stories will be published online as an eBook by Comma Press and made available worldwide.
This has been a real challenge but a fantastic experience for us all. There were so many good entrants and it’s really opened our eyes to the techniques involved in writing a compelling short story.
Commenting on behalf of the UCLan student shortlisting panel Hannah Mosely said: “This has been a real challenge but a fantastic experience for us all. There were so many good entrants and it’s really opened our eyes to the techniques involved in writing a compelling short story.
“Compiling a shortlist of 10 authors was difficult and any one of them could win the competition.”
Chair of the student shortlisting panel Helen Day said: “The students have worked so hard, from devising a set of criteria, to reading all the stories (even coming onto campus at the weekend), re-reading the final 25 for the shortlisting panel and learning how to explain exactly why they thought their favourites should go forward. They have used what they have learned about their own creative writing and their study of short stories in a way that would not have been possible without this competition.”
The writers shortlisted showcase and celebrate the versatility and creative playfulness of the short story, approaching the assigned brief of ‘café stories’ in variety of ways: from a heated game of cards in a Shisha café to futuristic artificial intelligence eavesdropping on customers. They are set in locations close to home but also as far flung as Tokyo and Lisbon.
A number of the authors have been successful in other competitions: in 2017 alone, Selma Carvalho was shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize and highly commended for the Brighton Prize. Rose McDonagh won the Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2017 and read at Edinburgh International Book Festival as part of their Story Shop programme. Others have had non-fiction published, including WB Gooderham’s Dedicated To or Lucas Stewart’s The People Elsewhere. Many are working on new fictions, including a couple of first novels from Stephen Hargadon and Benjamin Britworth.
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.
Going into the judging process, head judge and UCLan lecturer Naomi Kruger said: "As we go into the judging process I am really looking forward to engaging in lively discussion with my fellow judges. I will be looking for a winner who reflects the depth, clarity and playfulness of Dinesh's writing. I want to be challenged and surprised."
Comma’s Sales and Production Manager and prize coordinator Becca Parkinson said of the shortlist: “It has been absolutely fascinating seeing the variety of responses to the ‘Café Stories’ brief. As a short story publisher, we at Comma love to see writers experimenting with the form and responding to a brief in interesting new ways, and the ten writers shortlisted certainly do this.”
Comma Press and UCLan can also happily announce that the prize will return for 2018-19, with a new panel of judges and a new theme. The winner will once again receive a prize of £500. More information about next year’s prize will be announced in due course.