Friday, 16 May 2008

Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize

This year, I am the judge for the Seán O Faoláin Short Story Prize, for a story of up to 3000 words. Closing date 31st July. First prize €1,500.

For entry details see Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize.

Get your entries in early. This is a very honest and open competition: there is no team of first readers, the judge reads EVERY story. That is rare, and it means your story has an equal chance with every other story submitted. You are only going to be subject to one person’s taste (mine) so here’s a helping hand. These are some of the things that I’ll be looking for in entries:

• A distinctive tone or voice to the story. I often dislike straightforward narratives unless the language is beautiful.

• I have a weakness for stylish, first person narratives.

• Innovative, considered writing. The language used is equally as important to my enjoyment of a story as the ‘what happens’.

• Stories where something happens – however small the incident.

• Stories that make me squirm a bit. Avoid safe happenings to safe characters.

• Humour – the blacker the better.

• Concrete detail: name your places and objects, use your senses. I hate vagueness.

• I have a particular fondness for short shorts, flash fiction – whatever you like to call them. I love concision.

• Here are some of my favourite short stories, to give you an idea of the type of story that does it for me:

Lucky Girls – Nell Freudenberger

Breaking the Pig – Etgar Keret

Something that Needs Nothing – Miranda July

Angelo’s Passion – Christopher Burns

The Wake – Stuart Dybek

Blown from the Bridge – David Means

Pillow – Anne Enright

The Ceiling – Kevin Brockmeier

Helping – Robert Stone

Irrigation – Vanessa Gebbie

Zigzagger – Manuel Muñoz

Please do try to get your stories in early; people often rush to meet the deadline at the end (I'm guilty of it myself). But as I will be reading every entry, I’ll have a deadline too. And if I get sent piles and piles of stories near the end, they may not get as careful and leisurely a reading as the ones submitted earlier. Good luck!


OSLO said...

Thanks for the heads-up on what you're looking for. Now can you please delete the post before anyone else gets to read it!?

Women Rule Writer said...

You are welcome, J. Sorry, can't comply with your request as this is all purely selfish of course. If I've to read 300+ stories, I want to enjoy reading as many of them as possible. I hope it doesn't put people off though - the preferences in my post are what I KNOW I like. I can always be surprised! Good luck!

Tania Hershman said...

Wow, this is quite an astonishing and unique posts, WRW, I have never before seen a competition judge being so open and more importantly specific about what he/she likes! Thank you, this is incredibly helpful. It's made me rethink what I thought I was going to submit. I want to amuse you and make you squirm! Am going to quote your blog on mine, a very vaulable example of transparency in this world where, such as happened with the Willesden Short Story Prize, entrants are often confused, unsure of what is wanted. I hope other judges will follow your example - and I hope you enjoy the stories!

Women Rule Writer said...

I just hope it doesn't get me shot if I pick a winner in the 3rd person, with a straightforward narrative...etc etc... Y know: 'But you said you wanted x, y or z'. I know from editing various things that my tastes are quite specific. I like writers who use gorgeous language, who are obviously in love with words; who have a good ear; who are unafraid. I'm probably only complicating matters now. Again, T, all I can say is good luck!
I get to read every entry. That can only be good for all concerned. It's another example of the open and honest policies that characterise the work of the Munster Literature Centre.

Tania Hershman said...

Well, that's your prerogative, you're the judge. We all have a list of the kinds of stories we like, but that list can always be superceded by that stunning story, the one that breaks all the rules, that's in the second person conditional tense, or set in outer space, that makes you cry, laugh, keeps you up at night. There should be a judge's prayer: May I be blessed with some entries that make me laugh, cry, and keep me up at night!

Women Rule Writer said...

"May I be blessed with some entries that make me laugh, cry, and keep me up at night!"

This is officially my waiting-for-the-entries prayer. Thanks Tania!

laurie said...

i might send something.

my last big win was the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, but that was a few years back.

i like the image of myself staggering from competition to competition, winning prizes named after men....

podpilot said...

Thanks both for this post--and, even better, your commitment to read every entry to the contest. Hats off.

Women Rule Writer said...

Hi Laurie and Podpilot,
Do send something in. Reading all the entries wasn't my idea - that's the way Munster Lit have been running this comp since the start, so no kudos there. I have, since my original post, started to receive entries, which is fun.
PLEASE NOTE: there is a first prize of 1500 euro + a reading of the story by UK literary agent Lucy Luck; 2nd prize, 500, and 4 prizes of 100 + publication in Southword. So I get to choose six stories and all six get published. I call that a good set of prizes, don't you?