Every year I look forward to the Bristol Short Story Prize anthology, and there’s a good reason for this – it never seems to disappoint. I realise that I’m perhaps being a little premature in saying such a thing, but I have real confidence in the quality of these short story anthologies, not least because the contents are selected by a team of panelists who always seem to get it right. I will hold off on absolute judgement until I’ve read the anthology of course, but I’m confident that I have a thrilling journey ahead of me.
In reality this is a journey that I set off on a little later than I’d hoped to. Generally I like to tick off anthologies and collections linked to literary awards in the same year they are running, but as regulars will know, 2013 was a bit of a wash out for me and so I’m having to play a little game of catch up.
Thankfully however I don’t need to put in too much effort in catching up with the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 6. In 2013 the organisers changed the dates around, and instead of revealing the winner of the prize and the runners-up before publishing a prize anthology in July, they withheld until October (their new date), which when you think about it was only a couple of months ago.
Open to all published and unpublished, UK and non-UK based writers (so in other words, EVERYONE :)), the Bristol Short Story Prize is judged, as I’ve said previously, by a panel. In 2013 this judging panel was comprised of Ali Reynolds, former editor at Vintage Random House; writer, critic broadcaster and human rights activist, Bidisha; author and journalist, Anna Britten, and novelist, Christopher Wakling. This team was responsible for sorting through the mountain of entries received during the submission stage, and selecting an overall winner, together with a second and third place and 17 other runners-up. As always all twenty stories were then published in the prize’s anthology i.e. this one I’m clutching in my hand (metaphorically, because of course it would be impossible to type while holding a book :)).
In the end the overall prize this time around was won by Irish-born writer, Paul McMichael, with Indian writer Deepa Anappara and Bath-based writer Anne Corlett taking second and third place respectively. At this stage I know absolutely nothing about any of them.
Skimming the contents of Anthology 6 there aren’t too many writers that I do recognise to be honest, but this is good for two reasons. Firstly, it means that the judges, as always, select solely on merit, and not by the shininess of a well known name. Secondly, it means that I have a new world of discovery ahead of me, as I sample writers who I’ve never tasted before. I’ve found this happening a lot while reading Bristol Short Story Prize anthologies in the past. Brand new writers are revealed to me, and once they appear on my radar they remain, often leading to the discovery of more work; other stories – either subsequent or older – that turn out to be as enjoyable as the one submitted for the prize.
I know I’m beginning to sound like a marketing stooge for the publisher here (if I haven’t sounded like one already), but I think you can see that there’s real value to be had from picking up a Bristol Short Story Prize anthology. Not only are there some great stories to be found, but there is always the potential for discovering somebody fresh and exciting, and the prospect of that is indescribably thrilling.
Anyway, I’m off on that premature thing again so I’m going to button it for now. Below I’ve listed the contents of the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 6, and as I progress with my reading I’ll link to each review. At the end of reading I will put up a final afterthoughts post which will summarise my reviews and offer an opinion on the anthology as a whole. Meantime, if you fancy having a pop at the prize yourself then 2014 submissions are open (think of the irony of you reading this today and me reviewing your story later in the year :)).
:: Contents of Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 6 ::
(links lead to individual reviews of each short story, when posted)
- First Prize: The House on St. John’s Avenue by Paul McMichael
- Second Prize: The Breakdown by Deepa Anappara
- Third Prize: Why I Waited by Anne Corlett
- England Doesn’t Want You by Michael Bird
- Wind and Water by Joanna Campbell
- The Standing Still by Ric Carter
- Med City by Ruth Corkill
- Men of the Waste by Krishan Coupland
- Stop Press by Martin Cromie
- Transit of Venus by Allan Drew
- Pink Leomonade by Uschi Gatward
- Pool Boy by Jane Healey
- Young Fairbrook by Aaron Hubbard
- The Montclair Redoubt by Jack Hughes
- Sophie Stops the Clock by Alison Love
- What Ma and Pa Saw in the Meadow by Erinna Mettler
- Poison Hands by Amanda Ousthuizen
- When You Check in to 3 West by Rachel Peters
- Ferried Back by Bethany Proud
- Icarus by Nick Rawlinson
Bristol Review of Books | 20 October 2013 | £10 | PAPERBACK | 222 PP | ISBN: 978-0-9569277-4-3
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 journey that 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 personal journey through a particular book; a literary journey which will hopefully be of some value to other readers.