Manchester-based indie Comma Press and the University of Central Lancashire have launched a prize to find the best voices in short fiction.
Open to both published and unpublished writers, the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction was created in honour of creative writing lecturer and Comma Press director Dinesh Allirajah who passed away suddenly in 2014.
Allirajah lectured in creative writing at the University of Central Lancashire for eight years and was a long-term director of Comma Press. His short stories were featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, and he regularly ran workshops and literacy classes in community centres, schools and prisons, acting as chair of the National Black Arts Alliance and the National Association for Literature Development.
The theme for this inaugural year will be ‘Café Stories’, in honour of Dinesh’s Café Shorts series which he posted on his blog: Real Time Short Stories. He believed cafes to be “fertile ground for the short story”. He said: “The reason a café setting works is because we understand what goes on there, without the gauze of a local or historical context.”
The winning writer will receive £500 and all 10 shortlisted authors will be featured in an e-book anthology which will be published by Comma Press and sold online. The prizegiving ceremony will take place on 8th May 2018, Allirajah’s birthday, at UCLan.
Short story writer Claire Dean, a former student of Allirajah’s; poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams; and Dr Naomi Kruger, lecturer in creative writing at the University of Central Lancashire, will sit on the judging panel, with more judges to be announced. UCLan students have also been invited to participate in the judging process, and it is they who will be devising the shortlist from which the winner will be selected by the judges.
Dr Kruger said: “The competition is a fantastic way for writers to have their stories recognised, but is also an excellent opportunity for our students to critique original writing and play a fundamental role in the judging process. Above all, it will be a lasting legacy of Dinesh and his love of writing short fiction.”
Becca Parkinson, coordinating the prize at Comma Press, added: “We’re really excited to be launching this inaugural prize to celebrate Dinesh’s outstanding contribution to the form. His work with writers at all levels and from all backgrounds inspired us to make this prize free to enter, open to all writers - regardless of publishing experience - and anonymous throughout. By doing this we hope to platform newer writers with those more established, and unearth some of the best new voices in short fiction."
The prize is open to anyone aged 18 or over, providing the story submitted has not been published anywhere else, online or in print. Entry is free but limited to one per writer, and the closing date for applications is 31st October 2017.