A 1980s popstar, a former women’s weekly chief and an engineer are all vying for the Costa Short Story Award with an all-female shortlist for the first time.
Sophie Wellstood, a founding member of 1980s power-pop group The Ideal Husbands has been nominated for the prize, along with Caroline Ward Vine who previously ran magazines such as TV Times, Woman and Now. Fulltime engineer Amanda Huggins completes the prize shortlist for a previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words, run alongside with the Costa Book Awards but judged independently of the main five-category system. In the first time since its launch in 2012, the prize shortlist consists entirely of women.
London-based Wellstood, now a literacy and language specialist, is nominated for “Scrimshaw” which was inspired by a week-long trek across the remote Westfjords of Iceland. She has had previous stories published and shortlisted for the 2016 Manchester Fiction Prize. Her currently unpublished debut novel, which she described as “a darkly comic same-sex love story” is set in rural New Zealand, has also garnered awards and shortlistings.
Meanwhile Ward Vine is shortlisted for “Breathing Water”, shortly after completing her MA in Creative Writing. Her short stories have since been been recognised by the Bath Short Story Award, the Royal Society of Literature’s VS Pritchett Prize and the Bridport Short Story Prize. She is currently working on a short story collection and a debut novel. Based in Kent, Ward Vine now heads up a strategic and communications consultancy after working across magazines and education.
Finally Huggins, who lives in West Yorkshire, is nominated for “Red” and has had titles published with short story collection Separated From the Sea (Retreat West Books) and flash fiction collection Brightly Coloured Horses (Chapeltown Books). Her stories have also featured in various magazines, newspapers and journals as well garnering recognition from other awards, including the Bradt New Travel Writer of the Year 2019. She has just completed her first novel.
The following five stories were also commended by the judges: “Milk” by Rachelle Atalla, “La Donna è Mobile” by Edwina Biucchi, “The Boat From Dun Laoghaire” by Mark McGlinn, “The Wedding at Cana” by Jamie O’Connell and “Overhang” by Chris Tapley.
The judges included William Morris Endeavor agent Simon Trewin, authors Adele Parks, Kit de Waal (also a finalist for the Award in 2013), Radio 2 Book Club producer Joe Haddow along with Sarah Franklin, founder of Short Stories Aloud and senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University.
The ultimate winner of the £3,500 prize is judged anonymously through a public poll (now closed), with second and third place awarded £1,000 and £500 respectively. The winner will be revealed on 29th January at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in central London.