LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2021

The 2021 winners of The LoveReading Very Short Story Award are announced today, March 3rd.

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LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2021

LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2021: LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2021 Shortlist

Judges' Award Winner

“I need to make a number two pencil,” my son says from the back of our family car, a 1967 VW bug. “What’s that, dear?” I say as I drive him home from school. “I need to make a number two pencil.” “You mean for class?” He’s only just ...

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The People's Choice Winner

‘There’s a radio in the kitchen. Bush. Looks new,’ said the shorter man. The taller man nodded and Terry understood what that meant. He shouted,‘You can’t!’But the two men ignored him.It hadn’t taken them long to look round the maisonette and Terry felt both scared and guilty. ...

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Shortlisted Books

After a closely fought race we are absolutely thrilled to announce the winners of The LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2021. The judges had a particularly tough time this year narrowing down the stories to a long and short list, let alone the winner! 

A big thank you must go out to our judges. Joining LoveReading editorial experts Joanne Owen and myself, were Maxim Jakubowski, Matt Bates, and Beth Morrey. Our five judges read the stories blind with no idea who the author was or where they were from. They chose ten stories to sit on the short list (and the overall Judges’ Award winner), the short list was then opened up for members of the LoveReading community to vote for their favourite. We love our People’s Choice Award, it’s really important for us to give our members the opportunity to vote and the wondering wait to see if everyone agrees is always an interesting one. We had a fabulous range of genres, and it's clear that Covid-19 certainly hasn’t affected people's imaginations. You may have already noticed that we are announcing two winners, yes that’s right, for the third year running we have two separate winners.

And with a drum roll we can announce that:

The Judges’ Award goes to: The Hole by Nathan Alling Long 

Joanne: The Hole truly stood out. It’s bold and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, with an ingenious twist that packs a mighty punch whether you saw it coming or not - the writer throws readers off the (subtle) scent by drawing them into a surprisingly engaging internal dialogue (extra kudos to them for making musings on pencil-making a gripping reading experience). I also really rated the characterisation - the child’s dialogue is top-notch and perfectly carries the hilarious denouement, while the adult narrator is fully-formed through well-chosen words that reveal their desperation to be the best parent possible. Speaking of which, the cleverly contained undercurrent of parental anxiety brilliantly demonstrates the multi-layered power of a well-written short story - like this. And, ingeniously, this desire to be perfect is what causes the parent’s self-absorbed loss of concentration that leads to a high point of panicked horror before that final sublime twist.

Maxim: Strikingly original and witty, a tongue in cheek tale of confused parenthood that works on two separate levels, raising a smile as well as a nod of understanding to the vicissitudes of child-rearing.

Beth: The Hole is hilarious, but it’s so much more than that - dense, packed with detail and a beautifully rhythmic build-up. It also hints at a really interesting parental power dynamic which resonates beyond its wince-inducing humour.  

The People’s Choice is: The Radio by Paul Marriner

Joanne: With a cleverly chosen soundtrack playing out in the background, The Radio conveys a resonant sense of everyday struggles and kindness through its powerfully simple style, and without a jot of pretension or schmaltz. The mother-son relationship is finely-drawn (‘Wait,’ said Terry, ‘The Captain will know what to do’ - a simple, short line that reveals so much) and the writer has a real knack for drawing readers’ eyes to tell-tale details - the cracked Formica table top, the tiny music box ballerina, the Captain’s gestures - to create a characterful, tender tale.

Liz: Quietly told, yet full of emotion and impact, The Radio evokes strong feelings of compassion and tenderness. Within the first few sentences you know exactly where you are and what is happening. The story gently plays out, with kindness simply and eloquently weaving through to the ending. This is a thoughtful, lovely story that really strikes a chord.

We have interviewed our two winners, and you can see their thoughts and feelings here.

We also have two Highly Commended stories:

The Smell of General Tso’s. And Hope by Greg Beatty 

Matt: This short story excels at both characterisation and dialogue. Murray, the central protagonist, is an initially unappealing and somewhat antagonistic character who, through skilful narrative handling by the author, manages to both convince and win over the reader by the end. This story tackles familial judgments towards an ‘outsider’, cleverly challenging narrow and normative values. A refreshing, honest and wholly absorbing story which delights with the quirkiness of its brilliantly realised central character. 

Liz: All my senses clamoured as I read, I adored the descriptions and felt the emotions homing in on me from all sides. Relatable and emotional with  sweet and sour tones, this was a lovely evocative read.

As Quiet as a Little Mouse by Lee Dawkins

Beth: As Quiet as a Little Mouse is an elegantly brutal little story that takes you by the hand and leads you to a very dark place. Straightforward but by no means simple, horrifying but full of heart, it’s a chillingly effective piece of writing.  

Matt: A beautifully realised story, which captures a child’s point-of-view deftly and distinctively. Narrated with great pace and suspense which gradually build into a growing sense of premonitory dread as to where the story is heading.