Emily Ford has won the £1,000 RSL VS Pritchett Short Story Prize 2017 for her short story "The Hikers".
The 2017 judges of the Prize, which is awarded for the year's best unpublished short story, were writers Aamer Hussein, Chibundu Onuzo and Michèle Roberts.
The story follows a couple who set off on a journey from the urban tangle of Hong Kong towards the Chinese border, carrying with them the baggage of raw emotions and unresolved conflicts: belongings, lost roots and families, homes and abandonment. By the time they reach a place "dark with history, frozen with ghosts", at least one of the pair is transformed when the ruined village evokes a double confrontation with present and past.
Onuzo said: "I kept thinking about this story for days after I’d read it. The imagery was crisp and clear and the protagonist was so finely drawn, I felt I would recognise her in the street. Absolutely brilliant. Not enough superlatives."
Roberts added: "it is intensely atmospheric, this powerful and gracefully told story explores unsettling questions of social identity and cultural alienation."
Ford is a writer and translator living in London. She worked as a journalist for The Times in London and Shanghai, and later as a correspondent for international news agency Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong and New Delhi. She has a MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and is currently completing her first novel. In addition to her £1,000 prize, the winner also appeared at an RSL event with author Tessa Hadley on Wednesday 8th November.
Ford saw off competition from a shortlist which comprised Hazel Atkinson's "Dark Wings", Grace Brown's "Hens" and Gemma Reeves's "Steel".
The winning story will appear in The RSL Review and will be published by Prospect Magazine online.