The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award 2012

Latest update 'Adam Johnson's Nirvana wins the 2014 Sunday Times EFG Sunday Times Award'

Winner

A story about a group of middle-aged men and their passion for authentic beer has won the world's most valuable short story prize. The Irish author Kevin Barry was presented with a cheque for £30,000 by novelist and prize judge Joanna Trollope on 30 March 2012 at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival for his bittersweet tale of camaraderie amongst a group of ale aficionados. 

 

Kevin talks to us about his win:





Melvyn Bragg, also on the judging panel, said that the story 'takes a disregarded and often scorned stratum of male pals and finds wit, pathos and great energy there.'

Kevin Barry saw off competition from a shortlist that included compatriot and Room author Emma Donoghue, who is also currently longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012 with The Sealed Letter. She and fellow shortlisted authors Jean Kwok, Tom Lee, Robert Minhinnick and Linda Oatman High each received £1000. Kevin Barry joins a winners circle of American Anthony Doerr who won the Award last year with his story 'The Deep' and New Zealander C K Stead who won the inaugural Award in 2010 with 'Last Season's Man'.

Hanif Kureishi, prize judge:
'Our winning story performs a deft bit of alchemy, taking a very ordinary group of amateur ale connoisseurs and transforming them and their not instantly appealing tastes into something sweet, funny and unexpectedly moving. Barry follows the camaraderie and unique bond of these men on their train journey from Liverpool to Llandudno with a sensitivity that never transgresses into sentimentality.

It's a beautifully constructed piece of writing that says something fresh about how men find comfort, support and humour in each other's company. This is an astonishing story that is both daringly original and full of heart.'

Shortlist

 

Joanna Trollope, novelist and Award judge, commented on the shortlist:

Short stories are notoriously difficult to pull off successfully, needing - as they do - to involve the readers during reading as well as to leave them with something to reflect on afterwards, and all in only a few thousand words. What impressed me about these six stories wasn't just their ability to pull off all of the above, but to do it in such different ways, with such different voices, and on such very different topics. I warmly congratulate all of them.

Extracts from the stories and the authors on what inspired them:

Kevin Barry - 'Beer Trip to Llandudno'

It was a pig of a day, as hot as we'd had, and we were down to our T-shirts taking off from Lime Street. This was a sight to behold - we were all of us biggish lads. It was Real Ale Club's July outing, a Saturday, and we'd had word of several good houses to be found in Llandudno.

Kevin on what inspired his story: 'I write from the ear, primarily, and I do so in the belief that if you can capture the way people speak, you can capture their souls. The story is largely inspired by the time I spent living in Liverpool, and by the patterns of speech there, which are oddly familiar to a pair of Irish ears. I also became schooled in the subtleties of real ale during my time in that city, and the characters in the story wind up with the same predilection.'

 

Favourite short story collection: The Collected Stories of V S Pritchett


Emma Donoghue - 'The Hunt'

He's fifteen, or thereabouts. He thought he would be home by Christmas. That was what they were told, when they were given their red coats and shipped across the ocean to put down the rebs: that it wouldn't take more than a couple of months. But it's December already, and in New Jersey the snows are as dense as cake, and he thinks now that every soldier is told that: home soon. He wonders whether it's ever been true.

Emma on what inspired her story: 'It's inspired by a snippet of history, as my stories and novels often are: in this case, a passing reference in a historical study to a mass rape that happened in 1776.  The crucial decision for me is always point of view, and in the case of 'The Hunt' I think having the story told by an unwilling teenage rapist was the breakthrough.'

 

Favourite short story collection: Anything of Ali Smith's

 

Jean Kwok - 'Where the Gods Fly'

I kneel here before the gods and the thought of what I am about to do stings my eyes like incense.

I can already hear the protest from Pearl's ballet teachers - "you can't do this, she is an extraordinary talent."  The gods give with one hand and take with the other, I think, and then, ashamed, immediately touch my forehead to the ground before the triple Buddha's. 

Jean on what inspired her story: 'I wrote "Where the Gods Fly" keeping in mind my own passion for the arts and how my mother was unable to accept it because she loved me so much. I placed myself in her shoes because I understand perfectly how she felt. Dance, or any of the arts, was too much of a risk for the likes of us. At heart, this story is about the place art holds in a life filled with hardship, as my own was. It's about how both choices have their own validity - the choice to hold onto that which is safe, and the choice to find the place where the gods fly.'

 

Favourite short story collection: Anything by Chekhov and Italo Calvino

 

Tom Lee - 'The Current'

Ever since my father's treatment - which, in many ways, had to be considered a success - it had been hard to know what to do with him.  My brother and I went to pick him up from the farmhouse in Dorset where he had been staying for the week.  When we pulled into the driveway we could see him sitting around a table in the garden with seven or eight others, all talking and smiling, their faces turned to receive the sun which was bright and high in the sky. 

Tom on what inspired his story: 'Of all the stories I have written "The Current" has the most material drawn directly from my own experience, although I didn't set out to use this. My dad was ill for several years and then had some unconventional treatment that helped him quite radically and the basic premise comes from that, my brother and I going to pick him up from where he had been staying.'

 

Favourite short story collection: JD Salinger's For Esme - with Love and Squalor


Robert Minhinnick - 'El Aziz: Some Pages From His Notebooks'

Even for that season it was hot. I went west along the coast and found myself in Nerja, everything shivering like cellophane in the haze.

I saw they had built a palace where the dunes had been. Once the dune pools held egrets. They had reminded me of home.

Robert on what inspired his story: 'In 1998 I was helping make a film about depleted uranium. It involved interviews with US & UK soldiers who had fought in the first Gulf War, and with Navajo and Hopi miners who actually dug out the uranium in Arizona.'

 

Favourite short story: Collected Short Stories by H G Wells.

 

Linda Oatman High - 'Nickel Mines Hardware'

Flex ties, plastic, two bags.  Eye bolts.  Nails, tubes, clamps.  These are the things he bought, right before he shot up the school and killed all those girls.

Katie Zook knew who he was: the milkman.  Thin wispy hair the color of hay, ordinary wire-framed glasses. A tall and lean man, with a bit of a befuddled barn owl look about him.

Linda on what inspired her story: 'I was inspired to write the story after covering the Amish school shootings of 2006 for a newspaper in Lancaster and another one in Scotland.  My husband's grandparents were Amish, and so I felt a personal connection to the people and their tragic loss. I've also written a screenplay titled Nickel Mines, which is currently under consideration at a production company. I've written about the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in several books, including A Humble Life:  Plain Poems, A Stone's Throw From Paradise, Hogwash, History, & Horse Sense; as well as in the anthologised short story "The Shunning of Sadie B. Zook".'

 

Favourite short story collection: My Father's Tears and Other Stories by John Updike

 

The winner will be announced on 30 March 2012.

You can order a copy of the shortlist anthology exclusively from the Waterstones website

 

Readers can savour all six shortlisted stories at a series of special events at Waterstones Piccadilly on 27, 28 and 29 March, all featuring readings by a stellar line-up of acting talent including David Morrissey, Elizabeth McGovern and Julian Sands. As well as being able to hear the stories, audience members can meet some of the shortlisted authors, talk to judges about their choices, and pick up a copy of the anthology. These events are being produced in conjunction with WordTheatre.

 

For tickets to the Waterstones Piccadilly events call 020 7851 2419 or get them in the store.

 

Read the shortlist press release

Longlist

The 2012 longlist has been announced


The judges have narrowed their search to a longlist of 20 including 10 women and 10 men, ranging in age from 31 to 94 and drawn from as far afield as Hong Kong, Ireland, the USA, Canada and the UK. Jackie Kay, A L Kennedy and Kevin Barry have all previously been longlisted for the Award and Will Cohu is longlisted for the third consecutive year.

 

The full longlist:


  • Diana Athill - 'A Hopeless Case'
  • Kevin Barry - 'Beer Trip to Llandudno'
  • Evgenia Citkowitz - 'Business Class'
  • Will Cohu - 'Two Bad Thumbs'
  • Emma Donoghue - 'The Hunt'
  • Jackie Kay - 'These Are Not My Clothes'
  • A L Kennedy - 'Late in Life'
  • Jean Kwok - 'Where the Gods Fly'
  • Barrie de Lara - 'Dinner at Benutti's'
  • Tom Lee - 'The Current'
  • Toby Litt - 'The Sandy'
  • Alison MacLeod - 'The Heart of Denis Noble'
  • Martin Malone - 'Valley of the Peacock Angel'
  • Robert Minhinnick - 'El Aziz: Some Pages From His Notebooks'
  • Linda Oatman High - 'Nickel Mines Hardware'
  • Alison Pimlott - 'Five Year Diary'
  • Tamara Pollock - 'Elsa' 
  • Alex Preston - 'The Bridge Over Shuto Expressway No. 1'
  • Lionel Shriver - 'Prepositions'
  • Johanna Skibsrud - 'Fat Man and Little Boy'

Novelist, screenwriter and broadcaster, Melvyn Bragg, commented:

The most striking thing about the haul of entries this year was the wide range - not only in geography but also, and perhaps consequently, in subject matter. The novel used to be celebrated for bringing The News and many of these short stories certainly bring, in fiction based on closely observed reality, a fine perception of the way the world is going at the moment. It was the usual sweat to reduce the list to a mere 20 and now we're headed for the hothouse to get the last half dozen. There are many strong contenders.

Download the press release

Information on the upcoming shortlist events and anthology at Waterstones

 

The authors and their take on the short story:


'It's not so much a case of liking to write short stories as that I feel a curious humming feeling when a story occurs to me which leads me to set it down in writing…'

Diana Athill (OBE) is a former editor who worked for Andre Deutsch for over 50 years with high-profile authors including Philip Roth, John Updike and Simone de Beauvoir. She is a novelist and memoirist with her most recent title, Instead of a Book (Granta Books), published in 2011. Granta also published Instead of a Letter, Stet, and Somewhere Towards the End, the latter of which won the Costa Book Award in 2009. Diana is also a short story writer and won first prize in the Observer Short Story Competition for 'The Return' in 1958. Born in 1917, she studied at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, before going on to work for the BBC throughout the Second World War.

 

'A short story is a high wire act... Every sentence is a step along the line, and you can fall off and break your neck at any moment. You're working with your breath held, almost, as you try to engineer this very delicate contraption. Most stories wind up in pieces on the floor.'

Kevin Barry is a writer whowas longlisted for The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2011. His first short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms (Stinging Fly Press), was published in 2007 and was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and his second Dark Lies The Island (Jonathan Cape) will be published in April. His first novel, City Of Bohane, was published in 2011 and was shortlisted for both the Costa First Novel Award and the Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel of the Year. Kevin's stories have appeared in The New Yorker, the Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, and Best European Fiction 2011 among others and his plays have been produced in Ireland and the US. He lives in County Sligo, Ireland.

 

'The difference between long and short form is like the difference between writing a fugue and a song. With a fugue the composer has to sustain all the voices so that they work together in counterpoint, but with a song, the single melody has to be indelible and beautiful enough to stand on its own.'

Evgenia Citkowitz is a writer of fiction and screenplays. She was born in New York and educated at St Paul's Girls' School in London before returning to the US to attend Barnard. Her short stories have appeared in The London Magazine, Another Magazine, and Tatler, and her first short story collection, Ether: Seven Stories and a Novella (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) was published by in the US in 2011. Her screenplay of The House in Paris, based on Elizabeth Bowen's novel, is currently in development with Hit and Run Productions. She lives in Kent.


'Short fiction exerts a technical and stylistic influence that is disproportional to the significance it is accorded: style tends to matter greatly, each word counts and each mark matters.'

Will Cohu has been twice shortlisted for The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford and has been a freelance writer and journalist since 1991. Writing principally about environment and nature, he has worked as a columnist and contributor to the Daily Telegraph and other broadsheets and is a current columnist for Tree News. His novels include Urban Dog (Pocket Books), Out of the Woods (Short Books) and forthcoming The Wolf Pit: A Moorland Romance (Chatto & Windus) to be published in April. He has lived in Lincolnshire since 2000 keeping sheep, pigs and chickens and has three children.

 

'Writers often love writing short stories because they are small worlds: big while we're inside them, and offering all the satisfaction of researching and shaping a novel but in miniature, without the years of commitment.'

Emma Donoghue is an Irish writer born in 1969, whose fiction includes Slammerkin, Life Mask, Touchy Subjects, The Sealed Letter and Room (all Virago and Picador), which was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker and Orange Prizes. Her new short story collection Astray which includes her longlisted story 'The Hunt' is being published in October by Picador. Emma grew up in Ireland and studied for her BA at University College Dublin, before moving to England to earn a PhD from the University of Cambridge. She settled in Ontario in 1998, where she lives with her partner Chris and two children, although they have spent the last year in France.


'I enjoy writing the genre more than any other - I like the space in it, the way it does not spoon feed the reader, the way it is a kind of hybrid form existing between the novel and the poem, the way for a wee form it can handle big ideas.'

Jackie Kay (MBE) is a poet, novelist and short story writer who was longlisted for the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. Her most recent works are Red Dust Road which won the 2010 Scottish Book of the Year Award, and the volume of poetry Fiere, shortlisted for the 2011 Costa Award (both Picador). She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Saltire and Forward Prizes for The Adoption Papers, the Somerset Maugham Award for Other Lovers, and The Guardian Fiction Prize for Trumpet. Born in Edinburgh, Jackie attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama as a child, studied at Stirling University and has worked as a hospital porter, child care worker, and at the Arts Council. She currently teaches at Newcastle University.

 

'Writing short stories is technically more demanding than working in any other form.'

A L Kennedy has written for the stage, TV, film and radio and was longlisted for the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. She was twice listed among Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, has won an Encore Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, a Saltire Award and the Costa Prize. Her most recent publications include the novel The Blue Book and a collection of short stories entitled What Becomes (both Jonathan Cape). She was educated at Warwick University and has a BA (Hons) in Theatre Studies and Drama. She occasionally performs as a stand-up comedian and tours a one-person show to various national and international venues. She is unmarried and lives in Scotland.

 

'Short stories are an illuminating and extremely difficult art form. Because of the limited length, every sentence in a short story has to count, every scene has to add to the whole.'

Jean Kwok immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood. She won early admission to Harvard, where she worked as many as four jobs at a time and graduated with honors in English and American literature, before going on to earn an MFA in Fiction at Columbia University. In between her degrees, Jean worked as a professional dancer for a major ballroom dance studio for three years. Her debut novel Girl in Translation (Penguin)became a New York Times bestseller, has been published in 16 countries and was named an Orange New Writers title among other honours. Jean lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two sons.


'Short stories are much more demanding - especially ensemble short stories. You can distill a situation and resolve it quickly. Characterisation needs to be immediate and sure-fire.'

Barrie de Lara has written fiction and journalism pieces for a variety of magazines including The Times, The London Magazine and The Oldie. He was placed second in The Sunday Times and The Independent-Fodor Travel Writing competitions and his longlisted story 'Dinner at Benutti's' won Third place in last year's Bridport Prize. He was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, and went on to teach English as a Foreign Language around the world for 35 years. He is married, has four children and two grandchildren, and lives in Norwich.

 

'I have only written and published short stories.  This isn't a conscious choice but the form does seem to suit me. I like that they tend to be suggestive, allusive and unresolved.' 

Tom Lee's stories have been published in The Sunday Times Magazine, Prospect and Esquire, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and two are being adapted for film. In 2004 he received an Arts Council Grant to finish his debut collection, Greenfly (Harvill Secker) which was published in 2009. In 2007 his story 'The Good Guy' was runner up in the Royal Society of Literature's VS Pritchett Memorial Prize. He has performed readings throughout the country, taught literature and creative writing at Goldsmiths College and the Open University, and provided editorial advice for The Literary Consultancy. He is currently working on a second collection of stories and completing a PhD at Goldsmiths College.

 

'I wrote 'The Sandy' whilst listening to Neil Young's LP On the Beach. I was also thinking about Matthew 7:26, about the foolish man and where he built his house.'

Toby Litt was born in 1968, grew up in Bedfordshire and has since worked as a teacher, bookseller and subtitler. He is a Granta Best of Young British Novelist and a regular on BBC Radio 3's The Verb. He has published two collections of stories and nine novels including Corpsing, Exhibitionism, I play the drums in a band called okay and most recently King Death. His story 'John & John' won the Manchester Fiction Prize in 2009. He teaches creative writing at Birkbeck College. Toby has also written two song-cycles with the composer Emily Hall and is currently writing lyrics for the Belgian band True Bypass.

 

'I love the intensity of the short story form, the live unfolding quality of it as you write, and the sense that it often seems to know itself even before you, the author, do.' 

Alison MacLeod is a novelist and short story writer. Her most recent collection Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction (Penguin) was 'highly recommended' by Time Out, and one of its stories, 'Dirty Weekend' awarded the Society of Authors' Olive Cook Prize for Short Fiction. Last year, her story 'The Heart of Denis Noble' was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award. Her novels include The Changeling (Macmillan) and The Wave Theory of Angels (Penguin) and her third will be published by Penguin in 2013. It is set in Brighton, where she now lives. Alison lectures on a part-time basis at the University of Chichester, where she is Professor of Contemporary Fiction.

 

'What I like about the short story is the briefness of the world - like ships passing in the night - and how that brief passing captures a beautiful essence'

Martin Malone is the author of five novels, a short story collection, a memoir, several radio plays and the stage play, 'Rosanna Nightwalker' (2011). He was awarded the John B Keane/Sunday Independent Award and was shortlisted for the Kerry Irish Fiction Award in 2001 for his debut novel Us (Poolbeg Press). His short stories have won him RTE's 2004 Francis MacManus Short Story Award, the Killarney 2004 International Short Story Award and have been widely broadcast. Martin is a former Military Police NCO in the Irish army, with five tours of duty to Lebanon and one posting to Iraq, and has an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin. He has two sons, a grandaughter and lives in Ireland.

 

'The story 'El Aziz: some pages  from his notebooks' takes a fictional migrant to the UK and places him as a 'care-worker' in a care home in West Yorkshire and Manchester. This is based on my father--in-law's experiences in the Elmroyd nursing home in Brighouse.'

Robert Minhinnick is a Welsh novelist and poet whose works include Sea Holly (Seren), King Driftwood (Carcanet), Fairground Music: the World of Porthcawl Funfair (Gomer) and most recently The Keys of Babylon (Seren). His book New Selected Poems (Carcanet) is due out this year. Robert won the Forward Prize for best individual poem in 1999 and 2003, Wales Book of the Year in 1993 and 2006 and was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize in 2008. He works in the environmental movement, having co-founded Friend of the Earth Cymru in 1984 and Sustainable Wales in 1997. He is married with one daughter.

 

'As a poet/songwriter, I enjoy the sparse form of writing a short story.  The story must be told and resolved in a concise manner, and every word matters.'

Linda Oatman High is an author, journalist, playwright, poet and screenwriter who is a lifelong resident of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She has published several stories and articles in the UK's My Weekly and The Sunday Post, and thousands in the US. Linda's books for children and teens have won many awards and honors, including the 1999 Top of the List Best Picture Book of the Year for her book Barn Savers. Linda holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, and graduated in 2010 at the age of 52. Her family includes her husband John - The Barn Saver - as well as four grown children and grandchildren.

 

'Short stories allow exploration of a concept, as if writing a sonata instead of a full length symphony, but the discipline is gruelling - and superb training.'

Alison Pimlott has published five crime novels as Alison Taylor, including Simeon's Bride and In Guilty Night (both Robert Hale & Penguin), House of Women, Unsafe Convictions and Child's Play (all William Heinemann & Arrow). She has also written several short stories for Ireland's Own and the Daily Post newspaper. Alison studied architecture before embarking on a long career in psychiatric social work, probation and child care social work. She lives in Wales and has two adult children.

 

'What is wonderful is that what doesn't go down on the page is as important as what does.  Characters' back stories, their motivations etc., have to be very economically presented and every word must contribute.'

Tamara Pollock was born in London in 1961, the fourth of eight children, and ran a successful business for 20 years before giving it up to become a full-time writer. She received an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London, and has written a number of short stories, including 'Jules', broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2010 and 2011, and 'Holland' published in The Mechanics' Institute Review in 2010. She is currently working on her first novel. Tamara lives in London with her husband and three children.

 

'It's hard to hold a novel in your mind after 30,000 words or so; with a short story you can see the block of marble and sculpt it into shape.'

Alex Preston was born in 1979 and lives in London. His first novel, This Bleeding City, won the Edinburgh Festival Readers' First Book and the Spear's First Book Awards and was selected as one of Waterstones New Voices 2010. It has been translated into 12 further languages. His story 'The Desert Swimmer'was a finalist in the 2011 Manchester Fiction Prize. His second novel, The Revelations (Faber & Faber)was published in February 2012. He is studying for his PhD on Violence in the Modern Novel at University College London.

 

'You have to be able to telescope without trivialising - since stories told too cryptically no longer seem to matter.'

Lionel Shriver is an American writer who lives in London. She is the author of nine published novels, including the New York Times bestsellers So Much for That (a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award and the Wellcome Trust Book Prize) and The Post-Birthday World (Entertainment Weekly's 2007 Book of the Year), as well as We Need to Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail). The latter was the 2005 Orange Prize winner and was adapted for a feature film by Lynne Ramsay in 2011. Currently a columnist for Standpoint, Lionel is a widely published journalist appearing regularly in the Guardian and The Sunday Times among others. Her tenth novel, The New Republic (HarperCollins),will be published in spring.

 

'Like poetry [short fiction] is able to focus intensively on particular images, ideas, characters and situations; like full-length fiction, it is able to examine and elaborate the relationships among them.'

Johanna Skibsrud's collection of short fiction, This Will Be Difficult to Explain and Other Stories, was published by Hamish Hamilton Canada in 2011 and will be published in the UK by William Heinemann in March. She is also the author of the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize winning novel, The Sentimentalists (William Heinemann) and two collections of poetry, Late Nights With Wild Cowboys and I Do Not Think That I Could Love A Human Being. Originally from Nova Scotia in Canada, Johanna currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she is working toward the completion of her PhD in English Literature and a second novel.

Judges

Joanna Trollope, who is also the Chair of Judges for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012, commented on being a judge:

 This is going to be a rich reading winter with two prizes to judge, both admirable and both in a completely different writing genre. I am especially impressed by the Sunday Times and EFG Private Bank for their perspicacity and generosity in sponsoring a prize for that most taxing of prose genres, the short story. It will be fascinating to see how fiction and the short story complement and challenge each other, and I look forward to being presented with fresh approaches to both by my fellow judges, every one of whom has, thank goodness, a mind of his or her own. I intend to emerge from this winter better read, broader minded and more convinced than ever of the unique value of fiction to the reading public - in which I definitely include myself.

About the The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award 2012

The entry period for the 2014 Award has now closed

For reference please see the entry forms and terms and conditions below.

Download the 2014 Award Entry Form
Download the 2014 Award Terms and Conditions

 
If you have any questions, please contact the prizes team at Booktrust on sundaytimesefg@booktrust.org.uk or 020 8516 2960