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Catching up with our Short Story Award Alumni


Catching up with our Short Story Award Alumni

As the submission deadline nears for this year’s competition, we take a look back at some of the Award’s most recent Alumni to see what they’ve been up to since they were shortlisted for the prize… will their achievements inspire you to enter?


This is the exciting time of year that sees everyone on the STASSA team relish the prospect of hundreds of new stories to read, and begin to wonder which of these entries will go on to make the prestigious longlist in May.

The world has changed since this time last year: many entrants will be submitting their work from lockdown, and it will be fascinating to see how the pandemic has affected the mood and subject matter of 2021’s short stories.

However, one thing we are certain of is that the quality of the submitted stories will remain as high as ever. With that in mind, we thought it was time to look back at some of the incredibly talented writers who have been involved with the Award most recently. As you’ll see, while some writers enter the competition with years of experience behind them, for others being longlisted or shortlisted for the prize can be the first major recognition they receive for their work, and can give real momentum to the next stage of their career. As such we hope that looking at their literary trajectories might also provide inspiration for anyone wondering whether to enter within the next few days.

The most obvious starting point is the outstanding shortlist of 2020. The prize’s current winner, Niamh Campbell (Love Many), published her debut novel, This Happy (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) just one month before she won the Award. As well as garnering an excellent critical reception, This Happy was recently shortlisted for ‘Newcomer of the Year’ for the An Post Irish Book Awards. She has also written for RTE’s Drama On One.

Niamh’s fellow Irish writer on the 2020 shortlist, Louise Kennedy, has seen a whirlwind of attention since first entering the competition. 2020 was actually Louise’s second consecutive time on the Award shortlist (In Silhouette was shortlisted in 2019 and Sparing the Heather in 2020), and her involvement with the Award in 2019 sparked the intense interest that resulted in a ‘fiercely contested’ nine-way bidding war by publishers for her first collection of stories and her debut novel. Bloomsbury eventually emerged triumphant – huge congratulations to them, and of course to Louise. We can’t wait to get reading in 2021. It is no surprise that she was also shortlisted for ‘short story of the year’ for the An Post Irish Book Awards.

Continuing this trope of recognition in other major writing awards, another member of 2020’s shortlist was Namwali Serpell, whose debut novel The Old Drift (published a few months before her shortlisting) won the Arthur C Clarke Award 2020 in September.

2019’s shortlist has also been busy. Kevin Barry – an alumni of both 2019 (The Coast of Leitrim), and 2012 (Beer Trip to Llandudno), when he won the Award, has published to much acclaim a new short story collection: That Old Country Music (Canongate).

His fellow shortlistees from 2019 have also been prolific. Joe Dunthorne (All the Poems Contained Within Will Mean Everything to Everyone) will be publishing his first non-fiction book with Hamish Hamilton in 2021, and is also a judge for The London Magazine Poetry Prize.

Emma Cline (What Can You Do with a General?) published her first short story collection Daddy in September (Chatto & Windus), while Paul Dalla Rosa (Comme) has had his short stories published in various outlets including McSweeney’s since his shortlisting, and has another story scheduled for publication in Granta in 2021.

That year’s winner, Danielle McLaughlin (A Partial List of the Saved) – who won the Award a little over a year after winning the Windham Campbell Prize – has been busy working on her debut novel The Art of Falling, which will be published by John Murray in March 2021.

Of course, none of the shortlists would exist without the inimitable talents of the judging panels. Two very recent judges have also published new works: Kit De Waal’s new short story collection Supporting Cast was published this autumn by Penguin, and Carys Davies – a judge in both 2019 and 2020 – published her new novel The Mission House with Granta in August.

And finally – although we intended to mention only alumni since 2019 – we felt that the brilliant Sarah Hall deserves a huge mention. Both shortlistee and judge for the prize, in 2013 and 2014 respectively, Sarah recently became the first person ever to win the BBC NSSA for the second time with her story The Grotesques.

In a few short months we will reveal our latest additions to the Award’s Alumni – please do enter by 6pm GMT on Friday 4th December for your chance to take your place among them.

This piece updates an article here where you can read about some of the achievements of our Alumni in 2019 and earlier

By Laura Mell


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