The 2022 Outsideleft Short Story Competition has been one of the most exciting undertakings in the history of this magazine.
It all really took shape with a sentence from our contributor Tim London, tightening up my meandering rules and focusing my reasoning: “Every week OUTSIDELEFT tells the stories of art and culture that mean something to our writers. Now we are encouraging you to write something for us!” Tim’s words are the epitome of eloquence that I could never manage and oh boy how many of you responded!
The regular contributors to Outsideleft, the names you see on this site every week, all pitched in and sifted and sifted through the stories. A convoluted formula was concocted to whittle (I love a little whittling, don’t you?) down to a final few which were passed to our esteemed judges. Throughout the week Outsideleft is publishing a selection from that whittled-down shortlist. There are links below.
The winning story will be revealed, Oscar™-like on Friday, 16th September, a little later than initially hoped, but we were inundated by storytellers! And… one of our judges broke an arm while on a summer vacation, it is not easy to read, take notes, pour tea and eat biscuits while reading with one broken arm. So extra thanks is due there for perseverance. After all of this, perhaps perseverance should be our theme word next year!
Our judges are independent bookshop owner Jenny McCann and award winning author, Lisa Blower.
Jenny McCann is the owner and operator of the Bear Bookshop in Bearwood in the UK. Established just a few years ago, Jenny’s Bear Books has become a hub of the community - with extracurricular events most weekends. Spacious and light inside, Jenny’s bookshop is the epitome of what a modern independent bookshop needs to be. Planned on the cusp of the pandemic, as Bear Books approaches its second official birthday. It has gained a strong reputation for promoting new writing and local authors, “I always wanted the shop to have a strong community identity,” Jenny says, “so I definitely try to stock as many books as possible by local authors. And other independently published authors too - for a lot of people it’s a long-held dream to write a book and I feel very privileged to be able to be a part of realising that dream for newer authors.”
Lisa Blower is the winner of The Guardian’s National Short Story Prize and the 2020 Arnold Bennett prize, an acclaimed novelist, short story fanatic, and nominated for more writing awards than you knew existed. Significantly too, she is a fervent advocate for the regional voice. Lisa is the author of two novels, 2016s 'Sitting Ducks’ (Fair Acre Press) and 2020s 'Pondweed’ (Myriad Editions) which I hope you already own. Lisa’s work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, in the New Welsh Review, The Simple Things, Comma press, Oh Magazine, The Big Issue amongst others, and she was a contributor to the anthologies ‘Common People‘ (Unbound, 2019) and ‘Spake’ (Nine Arches Press, 2019) which celebrate the regional voice and being working-class. I met her while learning how to write (a work still in progress), and I couldn't be more grateful to her for lending her eye for a story as a competition judge, and a veneer of credibility to our competition. Lisa’s critical advice for short story prize writers… “If you enter, be prepared to win…” This is also a funny facet of Lisa’s anecdote about winning her Guardian Short Story Prize. When the literary establishment came calling in the wake of her victory, they were quickly disabused of her commercial appeal when they discovered she was working on a high-minded history of 17th-century feminism… And not some sort of updated Alan Sillitoe facsimile or something or other. Lisa says, “For me, a good short story is realising what you read isn’t the story you’re left thinking about.”
Harriet Bradshaw - Always April
Sean Taylor - Fatum Divina
Callum McDonald - Alice
Claire Griffiths - Man on a Bridge
Alice Gregg - The Little Village Wall (unpublished)
Sourav Roy - The Chalky Bit
And the Winner is...
The winning story revealed here