Friday 8 April 2011


New Short Stories 5 - the 12 finalists immortalised in print - 'Every human type and taste is here - sad, funny, fresh, sharp, gripping, sour and sweet - delicious small mysteries that suddenly reveal their secret hearts.'

Smashing event, as always, held this year at Willesden Library Centre - and even more special this year because Maggie Gee (she of the rather lovely quotes on books...) was the Willesden Herald Short Story Competition final judge. And even more special again because the line-up is truly international - look -
1st Prize:
"Out of Season" by Mary O'Shea (Ireland)

Equal runners up:
"Apartment" by Y. J. Zhu (USA/China)
"Homecoming" by Alex Barr (Wales)

For the complete list of finalists, all of whom have their work in this year's anthology - please see The Willesden Herald itself HERE-
And, if I may- it was even more special again, because Liar's League and WHSSP had teamed up. Six of the finalists had excerpts of their work read/performed.

I was there pretending to be my friend and colleague Adnan Mahmutovic, whose very moving story 'Gusul' (washing) was a finalist - but he was teaching in Stockholm, so sadly couldn't be there. Smashing to see lots of writer-type friends there, and to meet some new faces (facebook faces!) especially the uber-talented A J Ashworth, whose story excerpt, dramatised by Sarah Le Fevre, kept the room totally silent and spellbound. And even though I know Adnan's 'Gusul' well, I found the excerpt, (dramatised by Elizabeth Bower) incredibly moving.
All three of the winning stories had excerpts dramatised. So when the decisions were announced in true MG style, giving careful generous validation to each and every writer - we felt as though we knew them already - and worthy winners they are too.
Off to the pub afterwards... 'Oh alright, just the one G and T then...' and lots of natter, networking, and absorbing talk to Nick Rankin (Mr Maggie Gee) about his latest book - on the Royal Marine Commandos, due out from Faber in October. And the one before that, Churchill's Wizards, about subterfuge and camouflage in conflict... perfect. Amazon had a bashing this morning.

Thanks to all the Willesden crew, smashing event. And thanks to Lane for a rather lovely B and B experience.


  1. Thanks Vanessa. It has taken six years for the prize to go to Ireland. We've had Singapore, USA and Britain previously. If we count runners up, there have been prizes to Africa and short-listed from New Zealand as well. We also had New Zealand again this year (Emma Martin) and Sweden (Adnan).

    I was hoping that some from the sub-continent or Africa might come through - every year they nearly do. There were some very close to being short-listed for the past two years.

    Another thing about the Willesden competition, it seems to have almost an equal balance of stories by men and by women. Last year's book had 7 each. This years I think is 7 to 5 win for women.

  2. I well remember Henrietta Rose-Innes's story last year...lets have a campaign to bring stories in from African writers. I have made a few good contacts in India in the last twelve months too - very good writers. I'll make sure to ask them to spread the word among their colleagues.

  3. From India, there was Shakti Bhatt, who was short-listed. She was a promising editor and writer. I don't know if she ever saw the author's copies of the books because she died suddenly in the very week I sent them to her. She was a friend of Rana's and many others on the Indian literary scene. We corresponded about the text and last minute edits. It was one of the saddest things that happened over the past few years.

  4. I remember only too well, S. 2007 - so so sad.