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The LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2021 - an introduction to our judges.

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 10th July 2020

We would like to announce that we have opened submissions to our LoveReading Very Short Story Award. The submissions deadline is 31 October 2020, we will then announce the shortlist in January 2021. The judges top ten will be added to the site so you, our members (did you know that it's free to be a member?), can choose your favourite too. The winner or winners will be announced in February 2021. I have to admit that I love having the two prizes, the fact that so far, we have had two separate winners each year fascinates me, will this be the first year that we all agree? 

I adore a short story, if I feel emotion, real goose-bumpy emotion, I want to stand up and applaud. To be able to affect someone so intensely, in such a short space of time takes real skill. It’s not easy! Some of my favourite short story collections from individual writers include: Margaret Attwood and Stone Mattress, Sharon Blackie and Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women, Alexander McCall Smith and Chance Developments, Stephen King and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Simon Van Booy with The Secret Lives of People in Love.

Four of our five judges are returning from last year, we come from a diverse booky background, and have strong (but fair) opinions. I can assure you that our discussions will certainly be interesting. 

We interviewed Maxim, Matt, and Joanne last year, and have included links to their individual blog posts so you can refresh your memory. Each year we have a new debut author judge, I think this adds a fascinating voice to proceedings. I’m really thrilled to let you know that Beth Morrey, author of Saving Missy is joining us, and we have just interviewed her in our new Debut Author blog post if you’d like to learn a little more about her.

I asked our judges to divulge their thoughts on the short story and what they might be looking forward to this coming year, I’ll hand you over:

Beth Morrey: 

"For me, a short story should capture a crucial, fleeting moment in time – a polaroid as opposed to an oil painting – but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be carefully crafted, and scrupulously set up, every detail considered. I’ll always be tugged in by a thread of humour, even if the piece is serious, and I like an ending that’s underdone, leaves me wanting more."

Maxim Jakubowski:

"I look forward to seeing how imaginative this year's submissions will be. Writing at short length is a delicate art, in which the writer has to balance plot, background, mood and characterisation. Successful short stories present us with a whole world in a teacup (or whatever recipient you fancy...) that sticks at the back of our mind once the reader closes the pages. From a personal point of view, I seek a voice rather than  just a slice of life, an underlying story in which the emotions form a platform for the tale. I know it's not easy -I write too- but surprise me!"

Matt Bates:

"The short story deserves great recognition and applause because it presents the writer with the complex task of narrating something that the reader can experience in compact form. This challenge liberates the short story from formal narrative conventions and demands innovative use of the word count to express the writer's intentions. A short story does not necessarily have to have a beginning, middle, or end, and for the reader that immediacy can be uncomfortable or unsettling but also enthralling and compelling.

I”m sure there will be a diverse range of short-story-telling techniques displayed in this year's entries which is an exciting prospect for the judges. 

Will we read stories that echo the imaginative styles and magical realism of Helen Oyeyemi and Carmen Maria Machado? Or perhaps the cool, elegant prose of Deborah Levy; the unflinching eye of a Flannery O’Connor, or the exquisite yet calm realism displayed in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short fictions? 

I hope we will read stories that reminisce all of these styles - and of course many more - and I relish the thought that we may read something completely new too."

Joanne Owen:

"Some of my favourite books, those I’ve returned to most often, are short story anthologies. Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark and Smile, Please. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. Andrea Levy’s Six Stories and an Essay. While these authors have very different styles, and write about very different characters and themes, they’re linked by elements that feel fundamental to short stories. They’re a perfect balance of the big and the small, at once conjuring impactful details of people or place (or both) alongside themes and ideas that might just change the way you see the world. I think that’s what I’m most hoping for from this year’s entries – to be surprised, to see the world through different eyes. Let the reading begin!”

So, do take a look at the submission process and information, we really would love to see your short stories.

If you want to find out more about the LoveReading Very Short Story Awards 2021, click here to head to the awards page.

To find more short story recommendations, head to our Shorter Reads genre.

If you enjoyed finding out about our judges, head to our Industry Insight category to find more blogs from the world of writing and publishing.

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