2015/ 2016 short story prize


14 February

We have a winner!

That winner is: Backburn by Ríona Judge McCormack. (Available here!)

The first thing to say is that this story was up against serious competition. Every story on our shortlist was a serious contender – and I’d recommend all of them to anyone, without reservation.
But for now, let’s focus on Ríona. One of the great things about this story is that – as far as we’re concerned – it’s come from nowhere.  And also that it isn’t just a fine work of art in and of itself, it’s the announcement of a new talent. Ríona is a writer who can immerse you in a scene; she allows you to walk side-by-side with her characters, helps you enter their thoughts, she makes you feel their world... Her writing is vivid, sharp and particular. It is evocative, it's real – and it packs a correspondingly heavy punch. It’s a lesson in controlled anger, rage set on simmer and, as the title suggests, fire.
Yet, while Backburn is a wonderful story, the really exciting thing is what happens next. It’s a delight to be here, at the beginning of a career. One we hope and assume will be exciting and prize-packed.

28 January

We have a shortlist!

Jessica Greenman - You Must Forget

Rowena Macdonald - Feathered Friends

Jarred McGinnis - Daughters Of The Revolution

Backburn - Ríona Judge McCormack

This is a fantastic list, and we're tremendously pleased - but for the fact that we could only put four stories on it... The truth is that we'd have been almost equally proud of a shortlist made up of any of the other stories from our original longlist. I don't know if it will be any compensation to the writers who didn't get through to this round to know how close they came to making the final cut... But I do hope they at least know they were all in serious contention and we thought their stories were excellent too. Speaking for myself, it was a subjective, personal process as much as it was a judgement of quality... But, of course, we had to make a choice somewhere, somehow. Here are the judges' thoughts on each of the four that made it through, in alphabetical order, by author surname:


Paul Ewen on You Must Forget

After first reading Jessica Greenman's story, You Must Forget, I wondered if its real author was actually David Bowie and if the work was in fact another elaborate piece in his final death riddle. You Must Forget is certainly very rich, dense and layered with meaning. 'Untethered' was a word used to describe it during the judging process, which I think is very apt. As a reader you are taken on a wonderful, rambling journey through a dreamy garden-like world, where flowers express fragility and human vulnerability, and darker themes, such as addiction and mental illness are suggested. It is a hugely imaginative work which demands much from the reader - it certainly required the most effort of all the shortlisted stories - but the rewards are equally great, and it stays with you like a recurring dream.

Sam Jordison on Feathered Friends

Feathered Friends is about loneliness, break-up, loss and a particular kind of quiet desperation. It's sad and it gnaws at you and it makes you feel very sorry for the world. But it's also bright and witty and  - at times - hilarious. It's a fine mixture of light and dark and a lovely demonstration of talent and humanity.

Eloise Millar on Daughters Of The Revolution

What is ‘Daughters of the Revolution’ about? Well – on the surface, it’s a story involving two gloriously wayward teenagers (Paige, Annie) watching a film called ‘Pink Flamingos’ at Annie’s blind grandmother’s house: 
“The only thing Paige knows about the movie is that at the end a fat trannie eats a dog turd. That is recommendation enough.”
These two sentences alone, coming at the end of the (short) first paragraph, were enough to make me sit up straight. Whoa there, I thought – and was transported immediately back to my own secondary school, where a similar film, ‘Animal Farm’, was passed around the entirety of Year 10.
But there’s much more going on here than scatological humour and the (pleasurable) shock of the obscene.  This really is a terrific writer: the deceptive lightness of the prose, the whippet-quick pace, the giddy fun and the comedy, is all combined with other things – anxiety, isolation, unstated fear – to create a pitch-perfect expression of the teenage years: a halter-skelter, whirlwind affair, where, at any moment, you might lose your balance, and the fun will turn into something else.

Ben Myers on Backburn

In Backburn, Riona Judge McCormack writes like an author already well-established. The drama of an encroaching bush fire and the community that are pulled together to fight it is more than enough to sustain this pungent narrative. Hidden in the gaps is a suggested back-story too – one of traditions, relationships, hierarchies, race and tragedy. To me, it brought to mind several masters of the rural story – from William Faulkner through to Cormac McCarthy and J.M. Coetzee - and felt less like a novel compressed into a story and more a glimpse into a whole other world that I wanted to know a more about.


We now have a longlist for the first Galley Beggar Short Story prize - and it's one that makes us very proud. There are some wonderful stories.
But while we're delighted with the end result, we have to confess to some difficulty and anxiety too. It wasn't easy whittling down the stories to this level - and we've had to leave some really excellent pieces of work out. In fact, the first thing we'd like to do here is to thank everyone who entered. The standard was often impossibly high and left us wondering just how we were ever going to decide. 
In the end, and counting postal entries, there were over 570 submissions. So for every story that has made to the long-list, they were up against almost 60 other entries…  That’s a hell of a lot. Especially when so many of those stories were so good.  As mentioned, this is our first short story prize, and we weren’t quite sure what to expect – both in terms of quantity and quality. The number of entries far exceeded our expectations – but even more than that, the quality was very strong. Deciding between so many quality stories was a tough job - and the margins between them were often so small as to be almost indiscernible. In the end, we had to be harsh. It often came down to tiny problems (a phrase that a child would be unlikely to know, a faltering of dialect, an illness that didn't seem to manifest in quite the right way) - problems I might add that in the usual course of things would be smoothed over in the editing stage of story publication. In other words, if your story didn't make it through, don't give up on it. There were a great many entries that we would consider publishable, given a few tweaks, which simply fell down at the final stages. There are also dozens, nay, hundreds of writers we'd be keen to hear from again. This prize has given us a fine confirmation of the talent that's out there. 
Some other observations. Here in the teens of the 21st century, as in every other age, there seem to be a lot of writers interested in marital and familial relationships; in sex and especially sex that doesn't go very well. There's a prevalence of self-doubt as a theme. A surprising number of stories were written in the second person. Some had very traditional structures, while others tried for something new, wayward… Both kinds of story were equally successful at snagging and keeping our attention. 
Out of an amazing list, fantastic entries, and many, many writers who we feel will go on to write (and are already writing) wonderful things, the stories on the longlist are those that we were most bowled us over. 
Following the longlist, we've included an additional list. Here there are a few other stories (fewer than we were tempted to highlight). They deserve a special mention… and we feel very sorry to have to let them go. 
Aidan Clarkson, ‘The Count’
Gordon Collins, ‘Do Not Fall Asleep in the Bath’
Chris Connolly, ‘There’s No one New around You’
Sean Farrell, ‘Manslaughter’
Philippa Found, ‘How To Be In Love With Your Best Friend’
Gonzalo C. Garcia, ‘Like Penguins in the Desert’
Jessica Greenman, ‘You Must Forget’
Peter Higgins, ‘A Brief Guide to the Lost Cinemas of London’
Rowena Macdonald, ‘Feathered Friends’
Riona Judge McCormack, ‘Backburn’ 
Jarred McGinnis, ‘Daughters of the Revolution’
Special mentions:
Claire Adam, ‘Is Yours Now’
Neil Bristow, ‘Postcard from Bogota’
Kate Brown, ‘Small Deaths’
Michael Carey, ‘A Rare Concession’
Jonathan Jacobs, ‘As Told To’
Alice Jolly, ‘Keep Right On To Eternity Road’
Niamh MacCabe, ‘The Lark Ascending’
Amanda Mason, ‘Sing Me No Sad Songs’
Catherine A. O’Toole, ‘Maddalena’  
Yara Rodrigues Fowler, ‘Natal 1992’
Nikesh Shukla, ‘A Man, Without A Donkey’
Richard W. Strachan, ‘All This Was Ocean’
So that's it. Thank you again, everyone that entered. We hope to read your work again next year. The authors will now be notified, and the longlisted stories will be made available as digital singles over the next week or so.




Submissions have now closed. Thank you to everyone that entered. Longlist announcment coming soon. (Slightly after the original advertised date as we've had so many good entries. More announcements on 8 January!)

Building on the success of the monthly Galley Beggar Singles Club, which since its inception has won several national awards, Galley Beggar Press will be running a new, annual short story prize for both published and unpublished writers. The prize aims to sponsor nothing more and nothing less than exceptionally good stories. We want the best – and we want you to be the best.

Short-lists, long-lists, readings and prizes

  • The deadline for submissions is 15 November 2015.
  • On 1 January 2016 a long-list of 8–10 stories will be announced.
  • On 21 January 2016 a short-list of 4 stories will be announced.
  • On 14 February 2016 the winner will be announced on the Galley Beggar website.

The winning author will be invited to choose from a cash prize of £500 or year-long editorial support from the directors of Galley Beggar Press. (See the terms and conditions for full details.)

In addition, the stories of the long-listed, short-listed and winning authors will be anthologised in an ebook which will be sent out to subscribers to the Galley Beggar Singles Club, and made available in our store. Additionally, on 10 March 2016, at Waterstones Piccadilly in London, they will be invited to attend a celebratory event and read from their work.

Further submission information and dates

  • Submissions must be no longer than 6,000 words, and the cost of entry for each short story is £10.
  • Submissions of six short stories or more will receive a year's free subscription to Galley Beggar Press Singles Club.
  • The deadline for submissions is 15 November 2015.
  • By entering this award, you accept the terms and conditions.
  • To submit your stories, please refer to the instructions above.


The judges for this year's award are Sam Jordison and Eloise Millar (the directors of Galley Beggar Press) and award-winning authors Paul Ewen and Benjamin Myers. Read more about the judges.

How to enter

To enter the award, there are two simple steps:

  1. Attach your story, together with a covering page detailing your name, contact details, and the title of the work, using the widget beneath these notes. 
  2. Hit 'add to cart' and tour submission will then be added to the Galley Beggar Store shopping basket. Go to that basket and pay the £10 fee using Paypal.

We encourage online submissions. Those who need to post their submissions should first email info@galleybeggar.co.uk.

Files must be less than 64 MB.
Allowed file types: txt pdf odt doc docx.