Comma and UCLan launch new prize - The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction

We, alongside the University of Central Lancashire, are delighted to announce the inaugural call out for submissions to the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction.

Open to both published and un-published writers, this prize aims to seek out the best established and up and coming voices in the form, in honour of Dinesh who passed away suddenly in 2015.

Dinesh, who described himself as a jazz writer, lectured in creative writing at the University of Central Lancashire for eight years and was a long-term director of Comma Press.

His short stories were featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, and he regularly ran workshops and literacy classes in community centres, schools and prisons, acting as Chair of the National Black Arts Alliance and the National Association for Literature Development.

He was also a DJ, playwright, radio presenter, cricket enthusiast, performer and blogger, posting his writing on his blog, Real Time Short Stories.

The theme for this inaugural year will be ‘Café Stories’, in honour of Dinesh’s Café Shorts series which he posted on his blog. He believed cafes to be “fertile ground for the short story” – in his own words, he said “The reason a café setting works is because we understand what goes on there, without the gauze of a local or historical context.” The judges would like to see how writers handle this narrative space, and how the writer projects his or her fiction onto it with their entry.

To ensure parity, entries will be anonymous throughout the entire judging process. The winning writer will receive £500 and all 10 shortlisted authors will be featured in an ebook anthology which will be published by us and sold online. The prizegiving ceremony will take place on 8th May 2018, Dinesh’s birthday, at UCLan.

Short story writer Claire Dean, a former student of Allirajah’s, poet and playwright Inua Ellams and Dr Naomi Kruger, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Central Lancashire, will sit on the judging panel. UCLan students have also been invited to participate in the judging process, and it is they who will be devising the shortlist from which the winner will be selected by the judges.

Dr Kruger said: “The competition is a fantastic way for writers to have their stories recognised, but is also an excellent opportunity for our students to critique original writing and play a fundamental role in the judging process. Above all, it will be a lasting legacy of Dinesh and his love of writing short fiction.”

Becca Parkinson, our Production Manager and coordinator of the prize, said: “We’re really excited to be launching this inaugural prize to celebrate Dinesh’s outstanding contribution to the form. His work with writers at all levels and from all backgrounds inspired us to make this prize free to enter, open to all writers - regardless of publishing experience - and anonymous throughout. By doing this we hope to platform newer writers with those more established, and unearth some of the best new voices in short fiction.’

Claire Dean said: “Short stories are often regarded as a practice ground for writing a novel, but those of us who focus on short forms know they're not a stepping stone on the way to something else – they offer a whole universe to explore. Sometimes small means huge, quiet speaks the loudest, and short lasts for the longest time. I was lucky enough to have Dinesh as a tutor. He was an inspirational writer and teacher who showed how people and places could be brought vividly to life. I'm looking forward to reading work by people who are just as excited about what the short story can do.”

The prize is open to anyone aged 18 or over, providing the story submitted has not been published anywhere else, online or in print.

Entry is free but limited to one per writer, and the closing date for applications is 31st October 2017.

For full details on how to submit, visit the Comma Press website.

Scent: The Collected Works by Dinesh Allirajah was published in hardback by Comma Press in 2016.