American writer Janice Deal’s “Lost City” has won the Moth Short Story Prize 2021, judged by Ali Smith, while Stratford-upon-Avon butcher Kathy Stevens has scooped second prize.
The prize, worth €3,000 (£2,576), is run by the Moth, a quarterly printed arts and literature magazine featuring poetry, short fiction and art, which was founded in 2010. The three winning stories will appear in its autumn issue.
Smith said: “Janice Deal’s ‘Lost City’ is such a good story, dimensional, far-reaching, with a strangeness that feels true. It anatomises narrative, and also the hows and wheres of how and where we imagine we live, and do live, and the inevitable deteriorations, physical and mental, of hope and spirit and promise.”
She added: “It holds these things very lightly so the effect is even more haunting, as haunting as that lost place in the forest or in the self that you can’t ever really map though you keep tripping over the kerb of it all your life. Its revelation of inevitable disaffection is so quiet and true it’s near-cataclysmic, and very everyday.”
Deal signed up for a fiction-writing class at Northwestern University while working as a magazine editor in Chicago in the 1990s. Since then, her work has won the Cagibi Macaron Prize for fiction and has appeared in various magazines. Her first story collection, The Decline of Pigeons (Queens Ferry Press), was a finalist in the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and her debut novel, The Sound of Rabbits, is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing in the US.
The second prize was awarded to Stevens for her story “From Among the Dead with Go”. “I loved this,” Smith said. “It’s dry as f**k, there’s not a sentence wasted, it’s funny and mordant and piercing and dark and well judged, and it’s a total delight. May this writer flourish.”
Stevens studied English at Bath Spa University. She later earned a Master's in creative writing at UEA, winning the inaugural Kowitz Scholarship for a writer of limited financial means. Her fiction has appeared in the Moth, Litro, MIR and elsewhere, and she won the Bath Short Story Award in 2017.
Third prize went to “Miss Pauanui” by Cait Kneller, dubbed by Smith as “funny and brutal”. Kneller lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she works as a bookseller. Her writing has also appeared in Strong Words: The Best of the Landfall Essay Competition (Otago University Press). She is working on a novel told in stories, of which “Miss Pauanui” is a part.