Forethoughts: Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Vol. 4

There are certain titles that need little introduction on RobAroundBooks, and the Bristol Short Story Prize anthology is one of them. If you’re a regular then you’ll know that I rate this anthology very highly, and so with the arrival of BSSP Volume 4 I’m sure you can imagine how excited I am for the journey that lies ahead. I’ll hold my patience for a little while longer though, and take you on a preview into the wonderful world of what for me is one the most hotly anticipated short story anthologies of the year.

I’ll begin by briefly explaining what the Bristol Short Story Prize is all about. Founded by the Bristol Review of Books and operating as a non-profit organisation under the guidance of the brilliant Joe Melia (brilliant because Joe’s passion for short stories is undying), the Bristol Short Story Prize is an annual prize which awards the best short story submissions as judged by an expert panel. The winner, along with two runners-up and seventeen other shortlisted stories, are given a small cash prize and awarded with publication in the yearly anthology. There is an onus on promoting previously unpublished writers, but the main aim of the Bristol Short Story Prize is in promoting the short story form in general, which is something much required in the UK, as fans of the form in this country will know.

That’s the Bristol Short Story Prize in a nutshell but what of this latest anthology, No. 4? Well, I’ll begin with the cover blurb:

Original, exciting and innovative writing abounds in this collection of 20 irresistible short stories. Selected from more than 2,000 entries for the 2011 Bristol Short Story Prize, here are 20 superb writers illustrating not only their own talents but, also, the vast spectacle of the short story.

Mmmm…‘the vast spectacle of the short story’, I like that phrase, and it’s oh so true. The short story is infinite in theme and it’s certainly a spectacle to behold. And that’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about previous BSSP anthologies, the selection has certainly always been wide-ranging with each of the stories standing as a real spectacle in its own right.

Of course the story that stands as the biggest spectacle in this latest anthology is the one which triumphed as this year’s Bristol Short Story Prize winner. The winning story is called My Girl, and it’s the creation of Open University PhD student, Emily Bullock. Since I’ve already reported on Emily’s triumph I’ll send you over to that post to find out more. What I will say though, is I’ve had a bit of a sneaky read of Emily’s winning story and I’ve got to say that I’m mightily impressed with it. Last year’s winning story was very ‘punch in the guts’ (Mum’s The Word by Valerie O’Riordan – you can read my review of it here), and Emily’s story, which is much longer in length, is even more so (quite literally), raising hopes that this latest BSSP anthology could turn out to be even better than last year’s one (diffcult to top, but who knows).

I’ve yet to read 1st runner-up Laura Windley with her story The Kitchen at the Lion, 2nd runner-up Laura Lewis with a story called, Reading Turkish Coffee or any of the other seventeen inclusions in this year’s anthology, so although I read Emily’s winning story before penning my forethoughts, I’ve only cheated a little :).

I’ve said on previous occasions that I have huge respect for the judging panel behind the Bristol Short Story Prize, not least because they all seem to have exquisite taste. And I’m delighted to note that the judging panel for this year’s award remains exactly the same as it was last year, with chair Bertel Martin being supported by authors Tania Hershman, Helen Hart and Joe Berger and publishing guru, Maia Bristol. I expect therefore, a similar standard of story quality to that which was published in the anthology last year.

Another thing that has remained more or less the same on previous editions of the anthology, is the design. I love the layout, mainly because each story is accompanied with a small thumbnail of each author and a brief bio, and this – for me at least – really sets things up, providing a nice little introduction to each story. I’m glad they’ve kept this winning format.

I say that the design has remained the same for the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Vol. 4, but of course the cover is different. I don’t know if you’re aware of the design process for the covers for the BSSP anthology, but it’s rather warming. You see, the winning cover is selected from those submitted by students enrolled on design courses at the University of the West of England in Bristol. This year’s winning design is the work of 2011 graduate, Claire Shorrock. It’s fantastic isn’t it, and I strongly suggest that you head on over to Claire’s Tumblr, to gasp in awe at the quality of her other illustration work. Gotta love the Bristol Short Story Prize for giving a step up to those in the early stages of their design career, and they even offer journalism students the opportunity to interview winning authors. Heart of gold that Bristol Short Story Prize. 🙂

So there we have it, the briefest of introductions to the new Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Vol. 4. It’s down now to the reading to discover whether this year’s anthology matches up to that of previous years. My ‘journey’ through BSSP 4 will be the same as it was last year (and as it is for every short story collection/anthology I read). I will read and review each individual story before passing opinion on the anthology as a whole. To aid you, and me, I’ve listed all of the stories contained within this anthology below, and I will link to my review of each story as I post it. I hope you stick with me through this one. If it’s anything like last year’s anthology then it’s going to be a thrilling ride. Thoughts and comments are gratefully received.


:: Contents of the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Vol. 4 ::
(links lead to individual reviews of each story, when posted)

Bristol Review of Books Ltd. | 16th July 2011 | £10.00 | PAPERBACK | 180 PP | ISBN: 0955955580

Find out more about Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology #4:

A note about forethoughts
‘Forethoughts’ offer an insight into what my initial thoughts and impressions of a book are before I begin reading it. Informal, and largely written as a stream-of-consciousness exercise in a single sitting, my ‘forethoughts’ capture an important stage of the reading experience for me – the anticipatory period before the book is first opened, when my excitement is piqued for the reading experience which lies ahead.

Blissfully ignorant my ‘forethoughts’ may well be, but when combined with my eventual ‘afterthoughts’, the result is a unique and comprehensive record of a very personal literary ‘journey’ through a particular book; a literary journey which will hopefully be of some value to other readers.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. stujallen (Twitter: stujallen)

    I ve just picked up a few short story collections today from library rob ,look forward to your after thought on this one ,all the best stu