17 March. St Patrick’s Day
WINNERS OF THE 2010/11 FISH SHORT STORY PRIZE AS CHOSEN BY SIMON MAWER. (See Simon’s thoughts on the judging process and the stories below).
The Space Between Louis And Me by Mary O’Donnell (Ireland)
La Paix by Hannah-Fleur Fitz-Gibbon (UK)
Big Spirit Blow by Robert Porteous (Australia)
Runners-up, not in order:
Bread and Stone by Sylvia Torti (USA)
The Yellow Cardigan by Vicky Woodcraft (UK)
The Blue Notes by Jenni Lawson (USA)
You Only Know Who Your Mummy Is by Kelly Holman (UK)
Off My Trolley by Jude Bridge (Australia)
Casting for Parts by Caitlin Greene (Australia)
Daddy's Rich and Mummy's Good-Looking by Jo Campbell (UK)
All of us at Fish would like to congratulate these ten writers. The Fish editorial staff worked diligently over the winter to read and shortlist the 1,900 stories that were entered, and I want to thank them for their time and care.
There will be some very disappointed writers on the shortlist that were not selected for the Anthology, and I would like to commend them highly on their achievement. As Simon Mawer indicates in his notes below, all on the shortlist were worthy of inclusion and there was little or nothing separating them from the winners. On another day, they might have been the ones. On another day, they will be.
The prizes will be awarded at the launch of the 2011 Fish Anthology of short stories, flash fiction and poetry. Bantry in west Cork is the location, on Wednesday 6 July, at the West Cork Literary Festival. The ten winning stories will appear in the Anthology alongside the winners of the Fish One-Page and Poetry Prizes.
Winner Mary O’Donnell, already a prominent Irish poet, receives €3,000. Second Hannah-Fleur Fitz-Gibbon gets a week at Anam Cara Writers’ and Artists’ Retreat in West Cork and €300, and third Robert Porteus receives €300. We at Fish hope that all of the writers can join Mary O’Donnell and read from their work at the launch.
Simon Mawer on Judging the Fish Short Story Competition, 2010/2011
“Short story writing is a bit like painting in water colours. It’s an art of precise strokes in which you need to be deft, accurate and sensitive to the faintest imbalance. And if it’s good then the finished whole is somehow more than the sum of its parts. On the other hand, novel writing is more like painting in oils. You can layer, rework, scrub things out, move near, stand back, live with the thing in your studio for a year or more, counterbalance a lapse here with a successful passage there. And all too often the whole is somehow less than its various parts. As a writer I feel I can do the oil painting, more or less; it’s the water colours that make me feel inadequate.
So it was with some trepidation that I received the stories that had made the cut in the Fish Short Story competition this year. No committee decision from now on: it was up to me alone. Aside from being a novelist I have also been a teacher – not of English or Creative Writing but of workaday Biology – and as soon as I turned to the first story I found the teacher in me asking questions: what are the criteria? where is the mark scheme? how can you be objective about this? The answer is, of course, you cannot. Assuming all the stories are competently written (they were) any further judgement must be purely subjective. So, feeling guilty, I threw years of pedagogical conditioning out of the window and sat down to read. I wasn’t a teacher marking exams, I was a writer doing the impossible: trying to rank works of art. And the only way I could do it was by deciding which of these stories I liked best.
What struck me forcibly was the preponderance of family anguish stories among the twenty. Isn’t this theme a trifle hackneyed? Perhaps it comes from that injunction of the Creative Writing course, that you should write about what you know. I’d say, write about what you imagine. Let your imagination take you to places and inside people whom you couldn’t possibly otherwise have known. Imagination is the key, the crux, the hinge on which all art turns.
So I was captivated by the desolate mining world evoked in Big Spirit Blow with its awful shrivelled corpses and the bewildered Ozzies trying to make out what was going on. And the biologist in me loved the gruesome mutated Cordyceps fungus attacking humans as the current species attack insects. The tone is right, the language is right, threat is expertly hinted at. You breathe in the spores as you read.
Closer to home, La Paix seemed a beautifully oblique portrait of a marriage broken by a single, mundane tragedy – half a lifetime distilled into a few thousand words, emotions alluded to rather than stated bluntly. I enjoyed the bleak detachment of the narration and the bitter irony of “insurance”, which is the leitmotiv of the story.
Finally my winner was The Space Between Louis and Me, for its humour and its gentle mockery of our current obsession with the virtual world. With social networks and online gaming replacing human interaction, who can doubt that someone like Louis, or Louisa, is waiting just round the corner for you? Yet beneath the veneer of humour was a real evocation of the isolation that imbues so much of modern life. And, as with a fine water colour, this piece was created with minimal brushstrokes.”
Simon Mawer, March 2011. Rome.
Finally, there are just three days left to the close of the Fish One-Page Prize, which will be judged by Chris Stewart. You can enter a story of 300 words or less online or by post – as long as they are post-marked before the closing date they will qualify.
The Fish Poetry Prize closes in 13 days. Brian Turner is judging and this is an opportunity to be recognized by one of the most interesting and powerful poets of our time.
Fish Publishing, Durrus, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland is the postal address. Entry for each competition is €14 and the first prize is €1,000. The ten best from each competition will be published in the 2011 Fish Anthology.
For writers who wish to improve their skills, the Fish online course in Flash Fiction offers a ten module course over three months. It is designed to be useful and fun, and includes free entry to next year’s One-Page Prize.
The 2011 Fish Short Story Prize will open on 1 June and close 30 Sept 2011.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, wherever you are in the world.