Shortlist announced for the inaugural Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction

Comma Press and the University of Central Lancashire are delighted to announce the shortlist for the first annual Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction.

The shortlist includes writers from as far-reaching as London, Stockport, Edinburgh and Fife and have varying degrees of writing experience and commendations. The shortlisted writers are Eva Böhme, Benjamin Britworth, Selma Carvalho, WB Gooderham, Stephen Hargadon, Victoria MacKenzie, Rose McDonagh, Marija Smits, Lucas Stewart and Kim Squirrell.

The writers shortlisted showcase and celebrate the versatility and creative playfulness of the short story, approaching the assigned brief of ‘café stories’ in myriad ways: from a heated game of cards in a Shisha café  to futuristic artificial intelligence eavesdropping on customers. They are set in locations close to home but also as far flung as Tokyo and Lisbon.

A number of the authors have been successful in other competitions: in 2017 alone, Selma Carvalho was shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize and highly commended for the Brighton Prize. Rose McDonagh won the Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2017 and read at Edinburgh International Book Festival as part of their Story Shop programme. Others have had non-fiction published, including WB Gooderham’s Dedicated To or Lucas Stewart’s The People Elsewhere.  Many are working on new fictions, including a couple of first novels from Stephen Hargadon and Benjamin Britworth.

Comma Press and UCLan set up the prize as an opportunity to showcase exciting new literary talent from across the UK, imposing no restrictions on entry such as a fee or a first-publication. They hope to further the careers of all the shortlisted authors, regardless of their experience in writing.

The shortlist of 10 stories was narrowed down from almost 200 entries by a talented group of UCLan students, and have now been passed on to the esteemed judging panel which includes novelist Naomi Kruger, short story writer Claire Dean, newly appointed Tower of London Poet in Residence Inua Ellams and literary scholar and editor Abdulrazak Gurnah. This team will choose their winner and two runners up from the shortlist of ten. To ensure parity, the stories will remain anonymous to the judges until the prize giving ceremony on the 8th May.  After the prize giving ceremony, the ten shortlisted stories will also be published online as an eBook by Comma Press and made available worldwide.

Going into the judging process, head judge and UCLan lecturer Naomi Kruger said: 'As we go into the judging process I am really looking forward to engaging in lively discussion with my fellow judges. I will be looking for a winner who reflects the depth, clarity and playfulness and of Dinesh's writing. I want to be challenged and surprised.'

Comma’s Sales and Production Manager and prize coordinator Becca Parkinson said of the shortlist: ‘It has been absolutely fascinating seeing the variety of responses to the ‘Café Stories’ brief. As a short story publisher, we at Comma love to see writers experimenting with the form and responding to a brief in interesting new ways, and the ten writers shortlisted certainly do this.’

Comma Press and UCLan can also happily announce that the prize will return for 2018-19, with a new panel of judges and a new theme. The winner will once again receive a prize of £500. More information about next year’s prize will be announced in due course.

For more information about the Prize, please head to Resources > Prizes on our website.