photo by Marja Flick-Buijs
At the start of February, we launched our third annual
International Short Fiction Feature Writing Competition.
This is a Competition that celebrates all that Thresholds stands for, namely the reading, writing and study of the short story form. The entries we have received certainly support our goals: exploring, debating and, most importantly, taking pleasure in the intricacies of short fiction.
As in previous years, we called for features that recommend a single short story, a collection or an anthology, or that profile the life and writing of a short story author. We asked that all entries meet the Author Profile or We Recommend criteria, as well as the Thresholds submission guidelines, though, as always, we offered a slightly more generous maximum word count.
Running a competition is always a daunting prospect, particularly when you are asking people to write an essay. Unlike entering many short story competitions, it’s not often one has a ready-written essay on a particular author or story lying in wait in a desk drawer. This is why it’s a great honour for us to see so many carefully considered and well-written features flood in. This year entries arrived from all over the UK, Europe and around the world – including the USA, India and New Zealand – showing just how far Thresholds now reaches.
Our thanks go out to everyone who took the time to write and polish a feature to send to us. We know it’s not an easy task and it was an absolute pleasure to read every entry.
This year our team of judges found a very high quality of writing across the board, with vibrant and insightful pieces that captivated us, surprised us and even challenged our preconceptions. It’s always interesting to see how the brief will be interpreted and your entries certainly didn’t disappoint. Several of the features discussed writing processes, covering Gordon Lish’s edits on Raymond Carver’s short stories, asking where the humour in our writing has gone, and taking us into the drawn narratives of graphic storytelling.
Interestingly, many of the entries focussed on reactions to stories. One argued that Annie Proulx’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’ is about a love story that happens to involve two men, rather than about the social issue of homosexuality. Another examined the roles of women in George Saunders’ recent Folio prize-winning collection. Whilst a third drew a line under the controversial comparisons between Sarah Hall’s ‘Mrs Fox’ and David Garnett’s Lady Into Fox.
Other features bravely took an author we may not be familiar with and introduced us to their works. F.X. Toole’s boxing stories, and the one-time tale from mysterious author Helen Harris are just a few that I will be adding to my bookshelves. But, as much as we love finding new authors, we also revel in re-discovering stories. It is remarkable that a great number of your essays can bring yet further new light to names we know so well. You’ve managed to fascinate us with writing on the stories of Joyce, Chekhov, Hemingway, Elizabeth Bowen, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter and Alice Munro. Not an easy feat. Even Charles Dickens’ stories have been given new life this year. And, at the same time, contemporary names we are familiar with here at Thresholds – Kevin Barry, David Constantine, Robert Shearman, to name a few – have been presented in such a way that we want to pick up a copy and re-read their tales.
With this wonderfully rich collection of essays – plus many more that, regrettably, there just isn’t room to mention – judging was a difficult task. After lengthy discussion, we finally compiled our longlist of fourteen measured, insightful and compelling features, and now we’ve managed to whittle it down to the following shortlist of seven.
Each of the shortlisted essays will be published on The Forum in the coming months. The overall prize-winner of £500, and the two runners-up (each receiving £100), will be announced on Thresholds next week.
We would like to pass our warm congratulations to the 2014 THRESHOLDS International Short Fiction Feature Writing Competition shortlisted writers.
Carys Bray: Horror and Humanity
Stephen Devereux: Where are you Helen Harris?
Dan Powell: Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s The Push Man and Other Stories
Angela Readman: What We Talk About When We Talk About Editing
Sharon Telfer: Wolves at the Hearthside
Gill Thompson: A Woman of Words
Claire Thurlow: on Alice Munro
Victoria Leslie: Lost and Found: Mary Butts’ ‘With and Without Buttons’
Charles E. May: The Love Story of Annie Proulx’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’
Kath McKay: Drilling for Water
Marcella O’Connor: Elizabeth Bowen Misremembered
Juliet West: In Your Dreams: Fantasy Women in George Saunders’ Tenth of December
Scott Wilson: Dickens’ Ghosts
Patrick Yarker: The View from the Mailbox