Photo by J. McPherskesen
This year’s Edge Hill University Short Story Prize has been won by the seemingly unstoppable Kevin Barry for his collection Dark Lies The Island, published by Jonathan Cape. Barry has won a string of major literary awards. Most recently, his genre-busting novel, City of Bohane, scooped the 2013 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and he was also last year’s Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award winner. Barry also picked up the Readers’ Prize, judged by Edge Hill Creative Writing students.
He started out as a journalist for a local paper, going on to do freelance work, columns and sketches for Glasgow’s Sunday Herald, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Times and The Guardian. After leaving journalism to write fiction, Kevin published his first collection of short stories, There Are Little Kingdoms, which won the 2007 Rooney Prize for Literature. Speaking about his collection, he said
“For me the short story is my first love…. I think that the genre has become more popular in recent years, particularly as more people are reading online, so they want more intense reads and the short story fits this perfectly – long may it continue.”
The judging panel includes Scottish author and literary critic Lesley McDowell, Jim Lee, Regional Buyer at Waterstones and the 2012 award-winning writer Sarah Hall. Sarah congratulated Barry for his “outstanding power and range” and for creating “convincing worlds of the natural and unnatural”.
Now in its seventh year, the Edge Hill Prize is the only UK award that recognises excellence in a published collection of short stories. Dr Ailsa Cox, Co-ordinator of the Prize and Reader in Creative Writing and English at Edge Hill University, said: “each year the number and quality of the submissions is growing. 38 books were entered this year, both debut collections and work from some of our most highly acclaimed fiction-writers…. Writers and their publishers are recognising the significance of this prize, unique in the British book world. It’s been an extraordinary year for short story publishing, with strong showings from both established writers and debut collections”
Almost all of the collections on the shortlist were penned by authors who have enjoyed considerable success with novels, for whom the short story remains important. The flair and precision of the work presented here, indicates the health of the short story form, and the ongoing success of the prize clearly demonstrates the exceptionally high standard of short stories being produced by contemporary British and Irish writers. This year’s record number of entries and high standard was reflected in the judging panel’ s decision to extend the short list from five to six authors.
The other writers on this year’s shortlist were: Dublin-born Emma Donoghue, best known for her Booker short-listed novel, Room (2010); Adam Marek, who won the 2011 Arts Foundation Short Story Fellowship and was shortlisted for the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award was shortlisted for his second collection, The Stonethrower; Jon McGregor, who was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Prize in 2010 and 2011 and is also an IMPAC prize-winner; Jane Rogers, the award-winning author of The Testament of Jessie Lamb, who was a finalist in the BBC National Short Story Competition 2009; and Lucy Wood with her debut collection Diving Belles.
Offering words of advice to other writers Kevin said: “Work hard, always make sure you finish everything you start, I think that’s critical. And try to write when you’re still half asleep in the morning as writing comes from the same place as dreaming.”
Read Kevin’s story ‘Atlantic City’ here.