International writing competition winners announced

  • Date

    Wed 30 Jun 21

Man wearing a red plaid shirt and writing in a notebook outside.

A south Indian writer living in Berlin and a Somerset-based writer are the two big winners in the 2021 Short Fiction University of Essex International Short Story Prize, which attracted 780 entries from over 40 countries.

Avrina Prabala-Joslin scooped the top prize for her work She’s a Tank, a Battalion, a Banyan, while Claire Carroll picked up the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies (LiFTS) Wild Writing Prize for her story Cephalopod.

Both winners will receive £500 and the top four authors in the Wild Writing Prize will also be invited to a series of Wild Writing Masterclasses hosted by writers from LiFTS.

Speaking about the Wild Writing Prize, judges Dr James Canton, from LiFTS, and Naomi Booth, said: “We were looking for stories that were original, innovative and fresh; that had a sense of the wild, a deft delving into nature and humankind’s place in the natural world – with a notion that many would frame, if subtly, our current state of being in an era of climate emergency. We were so impressed by the quality of the shortlist that emerged. They were all extraordinarily exciting stories: salient, vivid, and extremely well written.

“We chose as the winner a piece that we felt captured, in beautiful prose, the exquisite strangeness of animal life as well as our complex human relationships – that rendered the most intimate human relationships newly strange, and the strange animals of the ocean as newly intimate.”

Claire Carroll, who lives in Somerset, said: “Cephalopod is taken from a series of short stories written in response to the climate crisis, so the vision of the Wild Writing category really resonated with me. I’m absolutely thrilled to have won, and excited to see this award paving the way in platforming writers of nature and environmental and climate crisis fiction.”

Dr James Canton, smiling and wearing a dark blue sweater
"We were so impressed by the quality of the shortlist...they were all extraordinarily exciting stories: salient, vivid, and extremely well written."
Dr James Canton department of literature, film, and theatre studies

Avrina Prabala-Joslin, who lives in Berlin, said: “She’s a Tank, a Battalion, a Banyan is the most intimate story I've written so far, a painfully beautiful reckoning guided by a kind, omniscient narrator. Of all the stories I've written, this is the one I want read – widely and wildly – and winning the Short Fiction University of Essex International Short Story Prize 2021 will give the story that. Isn't that something!”

Professor Elizabeth Kuti, Head of LiFTS, added: "Many congratulations to the winners, and thanks to Ruby Cowling for organising, and all the judges! Capturing and representing climate crisis in vital artistic forms is so crucial to everyone’s future, and we are very happy in LiFTS to encourage and support writers and artists who do this, as magnificently as our winners have."

Other winners included A bird is fluttering somewhere in me by Pnina Shinebourne and Maldonado by Nicholas Petty (second and third prize winners in the general category), and Cantlos by Millie Margretta, Just Another Sado Sea Shanty by Nicholas Petty and One Road Out by Anna Robinson (runners up in the Wild Writing Prize). All entries were judged blind.

Read all the winning entries.