1st Something - Jenny Clarkson, Lincoln
2nd Some Nice Stories, And One Not - Natasha Soobramanien, Edinburgh
3rd The Queens from Houston - N Nye, Colorado, USA
Runners-up (alphabetical order)
Hollie's Dream of Consciousness - Bobbie Allen, Cardiff
The Betsy - Cheryl Alu, Los Angeles, USA
On Creation - Anna Britten, Bath
The Malamute - Zach Falcon, Iowa City, USA
The War Baby - Helen Geoghegan, London
Don’t Say Anything - Kate Hendry, Newmilns, Scotland
Happy Birthday - Nicholas Hogg, London
I forgot my programme so I went to get it back - Joshua Lobb, Newtown, Australia
Siren - Annemarie Neary, London
In a seaside café - Teresa Stenson, York
1st Non-invasive - Dore Kiesselbach, Minneapolis, USA
2nd By Tompion and Banger - Nick MacKinnon, Winchester
3rd Night Drive - Lydia Fulleylove, Isle of Wight
Runners-up (alphabetical order)
Iron Gall Ink - Josephine Abbott, Derby
No Place - Liz Bassett, West Kilbride, Scotland
Crimson - Alan Buckley, Oxford
negative space - Rhonda Collis, B Columbia, Canada
Mourning - Clare Diprose, Bath
Relationship - Ben Holden, Exeter
Fictions - Rhiannon Hooson, Powys, Wales
Ultrasonic Mouse Deterrent - Christopher Horton, London
Morning After - Helen Oswald, Brighton
Hangover - Vidyan Ravinthiran, Leeds
Dorset Award Winner
All of These Things Are True and Not True - Joanna Quinn, Bournemouth
The short story is a powerful form, a tough and generous one. In its brief breathing space it fuses the lyric concentration of the poem and the social heft, the worldly revelation of the novel. Its formal elasticity is daunting. This is the most forgiving and simultaneously unforgiving of the literary forms. It will hugely reward a writer's courage in the handling of its structural potential and versatility, and a writer's discipline in its fundamental demand for tightness of edit and focus. It will shoulder-shruggingly deny this reward to anyone who puts a foot wrong in the composition.
This year's Bridport Prize attracted many thousands of entries in the short story category, so many that I could not possibly read them all. I received a shortlist selected by a team of experienced readers. I feel bad about not having seen the others - I wonder about every single one of them - but I profoundly trust the Bridport sifters, because what I discovered over the weeks it took me to read my knee-high box of stories was that pretty much every one they sent me was of a standard for worthy inclusion in this book. My job, therefore - to choose only a small percentage of these - wasn't at all easy. I am mourning several others that can't be included here.
What were these stories about, on the whole, and how did their writers meet their needs? Not many asked much of the form when it came to structure; not many were brave enough to be, well, slight: to trust the sleight-of-hand, the seismic shift between smallness and allness, which the story form can harness with such energy. A fair few were about marital break-up and gender anger. An awful lot were about death, or dying, or hospitals. This isn't surprising: it's a matter of life and death, after all, the short story. Its nature concerns itself with the shortness of things; by its very brevity it challenges aliveness with the certainty of mortality, and vice versa too, which is why I got very excited when I read anything which leaned towards the story form as a force and source of life. I wish there had been more of these.
In fact, I'd say this is the thing with which many of the shortlisted writers had most difficulty: the sense of an ending. Perhaps this is partly because a short story's end isn't an end at all, but always a kind of beginning: the point where the story, having closed, opens for and in a reader like a germinating seed cracks open in the ground. For this reason, the point where things end must be precise - like everything in a good story must be; too many of these shortlisted stories seemed to lose their hardwon precision just when it came to the close. All good writing is about this economy, edit, rhythm and precision; the short story form demonstrates this to the other literary forms. An end, when it comes, should always send you back to the beginning, because a good story, like any real art, demands revisitation. A good short story is lifelong.
Here are some stories which still had me after I'd finished reading them, whose voices I can still hear now, whose handling of detail had implication and whose handling of their own completeness was most persuasive, all of which means they repaid the revisit, for me, and I hope for you too when you read this collection.
I've awarded the top prize to "Something", which of all the shortlisted pieces was the one which, for me, in its seeming partialness, most understood completeness, and which most trusted, with what looks like casualness but what is really a close-focus exactness, both precision and momentariness. Its throwaway nature is serious about what throwaway means; its breadth of social vision, in just over a thousand words, is world wide. It's really something; and it redefines the notion of the word 'something': in the beginning the word suggests lost or missed meaning and in the end its reader is left with hands full of a very definite something, both hopeless and hopeful, perfectly done.
The runners-up, "Some Nice Stories, And One Not", and "The Queens from Houston", are for me good working examples of the form's huge potential. "The Queens from Houston" is a complete world, whose earthiness is skilfully both imagined and imaginative. "Some Nice Stories, And One Not" is another world-opener and eye-opener, a rhythmically impressive story of impossible identities, delivered with a great deal of originality and flair in a voice whose strength is its held idiosyncracy.
I was delighted to read the entries and the choice was difficult to make. There were wonderful poems in this year's entry, so various and so commendable in many ways.
In the end, I chose poems which were memorable, and touched me, poems about the age-old, time-worn themes of love and loss, relationships and grief, time and change. Poems on those themes were entered this year, again and again. The poems that I've picked stood out because of their originality in point of view or language, or image. I was looking for something different, something that stayed with me, a different kind of clock to tell the time. I hope that everyone will enjoy this selection, various as it is, and find in each poem, an offering of something whether that be consolation, recognition or surprise.
It was a pleasure to read them. And a great responsibility. I read all my favourite poems aloud to see how they lived off the page, and each of my choices make a good sound read as well as a paper one, the test of a good poem.
I was startled by the standard.