Fri 17 Jul 20
After receiving almost 800 entries from over 35 countries, the winners and runners-up of the 2020 Short Fiction/University of Essex Prize have been announced and published online:
The winning writers rose to the top of an extremely competitive field in a contest that was judged completely blind. After a reading marathon by the Short Fiction team in which every entry was read twice, a shortlist of 10 of the most excellent stories were sent to headline judge Jon McGregor, who chose The Retreat as the standout winner.
The competition was sponsored by the Department of Literature, Film, Theatre Studies (LiFTS) at the University of Essex, which is home to the Centre of Creative Writing and its popular multimedia journalism programme. The winner Toby Litt will receive £500, while £250 will go to the runner-up, Jamie Charteris. Short Fiction is also awarding an extra prize of £75 for the Highly Commended story by Adam Welch.
The support of LiFTS has also enabled the prize to be judged blind. By subscribing to the specialised submissions management software Submittable, Short Fiction and its reading team were able to accept entries with author names and details automatically hidden until after all decisions were made.
Short Fiction’s Editor Ruby Cowling said, ‘It’s great to finally see the names behind the three brilliant winning stories. A fantastic shortlist made the final judging really difficult – it was tough enough selecting a longlist from the quality entries we received – but The Retreat stood out for its humour, its gentle psychological insights and the professional level to which it was crafted. We’re thrilled to be publishing all three on our website in July.
“The affiliation between the magazine and the University has strengthened recently as three Essex students have joined the Short Fiction editorial board. They are now contributing to the year-round operation of the magazine and will be an integral part of setting up and running next year’s Prize.”
Professor Liz Kuti, Head of the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies said: "Many congratulations to the winners, and we hope to hold an award ceremony and a reading in the autumn!
“Thanks too to the tireless judges and to Ruby at Short Fiction. It's been really exciting for us in LiFTS to be part of this competition, and to be collaborating with Short Fiction into the future.
“The amazing response to this competition shows that the short story is a vibrant and ever-changing form, that can speak to the concerns of the current moment, as well as tap into universals, in such varied and flexible ways.
“Our students are relishing the chance to work as Associate editors and learn from Ruby and her team. We have so many aspiring writers in our Department, and our students have explored short stories in so many contexts - as autobiography, performance, flash-fiction within prison contexts to name just a few- and to add literary publishing to this is a great opportunity.
“I’m looking forward to celebrating this year's winners and hearing the authors read their work and perhaps inspire more and more of our Essex writers to get their stories told."
Winner: Toby Litt is the author of eleven novels and four short story collections. His most recent book is Patience (Galley Beggar Press). Toby teaches creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London.
Runner-up: Jamie Charteris is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer who lives in York. He has previously published two novellas under a pseudonym.
Highly Commended: Adam Welch is based in South London. His fiction has appeared in Ambit, Salt's Best British Short Stories 2019, Open Pen, Shooter, and the London Short Story Prize 2018 Anthology.