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Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Willesden Herald short story competition 2010-11


It's that time of year again when we ask you to round up those wild stories from the mountain, throw a bucket of rainwater over them and lead them into town for the annual gala. The short story competition opens on 1 September 2010 and closes on 17 December 2010.

The results will be announced in the new year at a special event sponsored by Willesden Green Writers' Group. See if you can claim the one-off inscribed Willesden Herald mug and 300 British smackers (approx. $500 US) or get one of the two equal runner-up prizes of £150. Up to ten shortlisted and up to four commended will be published in New Short Stories 5.

We are very lucky and honoured to have the great writer Maggie Gee, a literary superstar, to judge the winning stories this year. You could do worse than read Maggie's short story collection The Blue to find out what kind of short stories might appeal.

What we look for

People sometimes ask what sort of stories we look for in the Willesden competition and one very simple way to find out would be to get hold of some of the previous winning entries, which are all collected in the four previous New Short Stories anthologies. You can find excerpts and full details at New Short Stories.

To find out more about what we look for please visit the Willesden Herald website and blog, follow the links, browse, "stroll around the grounds until you feel at home!" Some of our winning stories have been included in Guardian Online original fiction, so there is another place to find the sort of stories we like. Although we have introduced a word limit of 7,500 the main challenge is still to overcome our reader's "highly variable attention span".

Entry fee offer

The entry fee this year will be £3, the same as last time, but we have arranged with the publisher of the New Short Stories anthologies to include prepaid entry to the competition with every copy of one of the anthologies bought direct from the online bookstore, starting from 1 August 2010. There are four books to choose from.

N.B. This only applies to the specified books bought from the publishers direct starting from 1 August 2010, not from Amazon or anywhere else and not to other books from the same publisher or books bought in the past. The publishers will forward the entry fee to the competition. If you wish to take advantage of this offer, please save your unique order confirmation number because you will need it for the entry form.


For whatever reason, the writers who find success in the Willesden Herald international short story competition continue to go from success to success, making our competition an excellent form guide to interesting new writing. Here are just some of the achievements of previous finalists.

Wena Poon
August 2010. The BBC announces Wena Poon's new novel Alex y Robert is to be serialised on its long-running popular national radio show "A Book at Bedtime". Wena Poon's story "The Architects" was awarded first prize in the Willesden competition earlier this year at Charles Dicken's House museum in London. You can read "The Architects" in New Short Stories 4. The British TV and radio critic Bidisha described Wena Poon as one of the most exciting fiction writers to come out of the US in recent years.

Carys Davies
London, 15 June 2010. Society of Authors' 2010 Awards. Twice Willesden Herald short story competition finalist Carys Davies has been awarded the Olive Cook Short Story Award for her story 'The Quiet'. The award, worth £1,000 and judged by Jane Gardam and Jacob Ross, was set up in 2004 and is awarded every two years. Carys Davies joins previous recipients, Claire Keegan, Bethan Roberts and Alison Macleod. Link: Some New Ambush

Jo Lloyd
Last year's winning story was "Work" by Jo Lloyd. We are thrilled to report and repeat and repeat again and again (sorry) that this superb and enthralling writer went on to win the prestigious and lucrative (£1,000) Asham Award for another of her short stories. The Willesden was Jo's first win and you can bet your last penny we are proud, oh yes mightily, to have been the first to recognise this most outstanding new writer.

Vanessa Gebbie
Vanessa was joint winner in the first year of this competition, which was adjudicated for the first three years by Zadie Smith. Other wins have included Telegraph novel of the year, winning out of thousands of entries. Vanessa has since published two collections of short stories, Words From a Glass Bubble and Storm Warning with a novel on the way. Her stories have been anthologised alongside such other famous writers as Jhumpa Lahiri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Link:

Mikey Delgado
Mikey's short story "Secure" was joint winner in the first Willesden Herald short story competition. You can read Secure in the first anthology we produced which was entitled "Fish Drink Like Us". It is also available to read in Guardian Online original fiction. With great pleasure, joy would not be too strong a word, it can now be announced that Mikey's much anticipated novel Life and War with Mikey Fatboy Delgado is about to be published by laughing mushroom press.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Steve Finbow, Tao Lin, Nicholas Hogg - we could go on (and on (and on (and on (...))))

The list of books published by various publishers, competition successes etc. is too long to fit in this newsletter. See the right-hand column at for a list of the latest books by finalists. "Alumni" of the Willesden Herald international short story competition are among the most successful up and coming authors. Perhaps we are a little biased but we have only been running for five years and the track record of our finalists is - don't you agree? - amazing.

Last word

I am looking forward to reading the new short stories as they come in day by day, saving some for re-reading, making a longlist and finding out which ones leave something in the memory when days have passed. There is no advantage to be gained by sending entries earlier or later. It would help if they came in at a steady rate from the opening to the closing date but on past evidence that is unlikely. In all honesty there might even be a slight advantage to getting entries in earlier, though I must try to efface that effectively. If you send your entry in the last week it will be one of a large number of entries that week, so you might want to think about that. In other words, the earlier the better. There, I said it. The closing date is December 17th and as usual I will use the Christmas holiday to work on the longlist. Good luck and thanks for supporting the competition.

Cheers, here's to the short story, sláinte!
Steve Moran (

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