Comma Press announce the winner of the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2020

The winner of the 3rd annual Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction has been announced as award-winning poet and critically acclaimed novelist, JE Rowney.


JE Rowney spent several years in the Yorkshire hills, a landscape that has influenced her work. She now lives in Dorset. She is an award-winning poet, and also writes short stories. Charcoal, her first novel, was independently published in 2012 to wide critical acclaim. She has since published two further novels and two poetry collections.


The winner was chosen by a panel ofjudges including prolific short story writer Martyn Bedford and Northern Soul’s Literary Editor, Emma Yates-Badley, and was announced online today as the story “Protect and Serve” by JE Rowney.


The theme of this year’s Dinesh Prize was ‘Artificial Intelligence’, inspired by Dinesh’s short story ‘The Longhand Option’ from Comma’s Beta-Life anthology, which paired authors with scientists to write stories based on AI technology.


The six shortlisted stories will all be published online as an eBook by Comma Press (available from 29th May) and the winner will receive £500 from UCLan, as well as having their winning story published in Northern Soul.


The winning story “Protect and Serve” is read by author JE Rowney and available on the Comma Press YouTube channel, along with three of the other shortlisted stories.


Judge Emma Yates-Badley on the winning story: This story was the stand-out  winner… I was surprised by the scale of subjects – grief, loss, mental health, healing, our relationship with technology… and glimpses of a very possible future – the author managed to cover in the form of a short story.”


Judge Martyn Bedford on the winning story: “This story stood out for me on first- and second-reading and has lingered in my mind longer than any of the others on the shortlist… it’s written with skill and assurance, establishes a convincingly imagined futuristic world, and manages its storyline supremely well within the word-limit.”


The prize is in its third year of championing new writers from across the country and is confirmed to return in 2021 with the theme of ‘Home’. Submissions open for ‘Home’ on the 30th May 2020.


The 2021 prize will be judged by Dr Philip Braithwaite (UCLan), Abi Fellows (The Good Literary Agency) and author Courttia Newland. 


Comma Press and the University of Central Lancashire (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 winner of the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2018, Lucas Stewart, is a contributing author to Comma Press’s latest History-into-Fiction anthology, Resist: Stories of Uprising, as well as another shortlistee from the same year, Kim Squirrell.


This year’s shortlist included a broad selection of writers, based across the country from Huddersfield to Swindon. The writers selected were at varying degrees of acknowledgement, with some having recently graduated and as yet unpublished, and others having written award-winning works.


The other shortlisted writers were:


-       AJ Reid (has e-published a novella, A Smaller Hell).


-       Helen French (her short stories have appeared in venues such as Flash Fiction Online, Shoreline of Infinity and Daily Science Fiction).


-       Jake Blandford (a screenwriter and filmmaker).


-       Jan Kaneen(heraward-winning short stories and flash fictions have been published in Flash 500, Molotov Cocktail, Retreat West, Ink Tears and Scribble, and she has received nominations for Pushcart Prizes and Best on the Net).


-       Owen Townend (a MA Creative Writing graduate and writer, primarily of short speculative fiction).

Find out more about the prize here


Read about this year's winner in the Lancashire Post.