Skip to content Skip to main menu

The 2020 shortlist


Alexia Tolas.jpg

Alexia Tolas

With their story: 'Granma's Porch'

Alexia Tolas was born and raised in The Bahamas. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the former College of the Bahamas in 2015 and has been slowly, but surely, building a collection of short stories since. Her writing explores the intricacies of small-island life, heavily drawing upon local mythologies and folktales in order to convey realities silenced by tradition and trauma. Her writing has been featured in literary journals including Womanspeak, Granta, and Adda.

In 2019, she won the Commonwealth Short Story Regional Award for the Caribbean. In the dormant periods between writing spells, Alexia consumes

science-fiction and fantasy novels, studies perpetually for the GRE, plays too many video games, and debates with her family and students on anything from

ecocriticism in Madam Bovary and Things Fall Apart to the management of free

will in Castlevania.

Read an excerpt


SM_1070_0066.jpg

Niamh Campbell

With their story: 'Love Many'

Niamh Campbell was born in 1988 and grew up in Dublin. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Dublin Review, 3:AM, Banshee, gorse, Five Dials, and Tangerine. She was awarded a Next Generation literary bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland, and annual literary bursaries in 2018 and 2019. She holds a PhD in English from King's College London and has been a postdoctoral fellow for the Irish Research Council at Maynooth University. Her debut novel This Happy is forthcoming from Weidenfeld and Nicolson in June 2020. She lives and works in Dublin.

Read an excerpt


Daniel O'Malley.JPG

Daniel O'Malley

With their story: 'Simon'

Daniel J. O'Malley is an American writer whose fiction has appeared in Granta, Alaska Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, and other publications. His story "Bridge" was included in 2016's Best American Short Stories anthology and broadcast on the NPR program Selected Shorts. He grew up in Missouri and currently lives in West Virginia with his wife, the poet Mary Beth Ferda, and their two children. He teaches in the English Department at Marshall University.

Read an excerpt


Louise Kennedy.jpg

Louise Kennedy

With their story: 'Sparing the Heather'

Louise Kennedy grew up in Holywood, Co. Down. Her writing has been published in journals including Banshee, The Tangerine, Stinging Fly, in the Irish Times and Belfast Telegraph, and read on BBC Radio 4 and RTE Radio 1. Her short stories have won prizes and in 2019 she was shortlisted for both Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award and writing.ie Irish Short Story of the Year. She is a PhD student at Queens University Belfast where she’s researching the life and work of the writer Norah Hoult. Bloomsbury will publish her debut short story collection The End of the World is a Cul de Sac in January 2021. She lives in Sligo, in the north west of Ireland, and is working on a novel with the support of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Read an excerpt


SerpellHeadshot.jpg

Namwali Serpell

With their story: 'Take It'

Namwali Serpell is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a recipient of a 2020 Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction. Her first novel, The Old Drift (Hogarth, 2019) won the 2020 Anisfield-Wolf Book prize for fiction “that confronts racism and explores diversity” and the L.A. Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. It was short listed for the L.A. Times’ Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction, long listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and named one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of the Year, and a book of the year by New York Times critics, The Atlantic, and NPR. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for women writers in 2011 and was selected for the Africa 39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under 40. Her first published story, “Muzungu,” was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and short listed for the 2010 Caine Prize for African writing; she went on to win the 2015 Caine Prize for her story ‘The Sack.’

Read an excerpt


Vestal-photo-credit-Rajah-Bose.jpg

Shawn Vestal

With their story: 'Teamwork'

Shawn Vestal is the author of the novel Daredevils, published in spring 2016 by Penguin Press. Daredevils was named the winner of the Washington State Book Award. It was published in the U.K. by One/Pushkin Press, as well as in France, (titled Goodbye, Loretta, by Albin Michel); and in Germany, (titled Loretta, by Kein & Aber).

Vestal’s debut collection of short stories, Godforsaken Idaho, published by Little A/New Harvest in April 2013, was named the winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, which honors a debut book that “represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.” He also published A.K.A. Charles Abbott, a short memoir, as a Kindle Single in 2013.

Vestal’s short stories have appeared in Tin House, McSweeney’s, Ecotone, The Southern Review, The Iowa Review, Zyzzyva, Cutbank, Florida Review and other journals. His story “Teamwork” was published in The Sewanee Review in its Summer 2019 issue. It was later named the winner of the magazine’s Andrew Lytle Prize, honoring the best fiction published in 2019. He has published journalism and essays in The Guardian, The New Yorker web site, and other venues.

He lives in Spokane, Washington, where he is a columnist at The Spokesman-Review newspaper, and a member of the faculty in the creative writing program at Eastern Washington University.

Read an excerpt