Co-founder of Oneworld, Juliet Mabey, and authors A L Kennedy and Irenosen Okojie, have been selected to judge literature development organisation Spread the Word's London Short Story Prize 2016.
Mabey is the publisher behind Man Booker Prize 2015 prizewinner Marlon James’ novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, while A L Kennedy (pictured) is currently longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 for her latest novel Serious Sweet (Jonathan Cape). Irenosen Okojie's debut novel Butterfly Fish (Jacaranda Books), published in 2015, meanwhile, has won a Betty Trask Award and has been shortlisted for an Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award.
The £1,000 prize, designed to discover and raise the profile of the best short story authors in London, also includes publication of the winning story in Open Pen, London’s first open literature magazine, and in the annual Spread the Word London Short Story Prize anthology, alongside the highly commended and shortlisted entries.
Ruth Harrison, director of Spread the Word, said: “Our London Short Story Prize is a unique opportunity for short story writers in London to be read and recognised by our aspirational judging panel. Since its inception four years ago, the prize has helped to discover and profile talented writers who have gone on to be picked up by agents, sign exciting publishing deals and receive fantastic recognition as a result of winning, or featuring on the prize shortlist. We’re looking forward to reading some exceptional short stories from London writers and to celebrating their successes.”
The judging panel revealed what they’re looking for in short stories, with Okojie seeking out "strong, daring voices", leaning towards "offbeat stories with a distinctive tone", that can hold readers' attention from beginning to end "regardless of style".
Kennedy commented she wanted to see "some kind of courage, an appetite for real engagement and either end of the equation. An understanding of the strengths and limitations of the form and how that relates to the story in hand and a real sense of voice and eye".
Meanwhile, Mabey said: "The first thing I look for in any writing is an original voice, but I love being surprised by writers, so short stories that showcase unusual plots and settings will always capture my attention, while the ability to immerse a reader fully in their world and strong characterisation are qualities I particularly appreciate in short stories.”
The prize is open for submissions from next week, between 23rd August and 18th October 2016, for unpublished stories of up to 5,000 words from published and unpublished writers based in London.
The winner will be announced in December 2016, with an anthology published in a partnership between Spread the Word and Kingston University in April 2017.
Spread the Word has been running the London Short Story Prize (originally the Spread the Word prize) since 2013, with previous winners of the Prize including Clare Fisher, debut author of All the Good Things, to be published by Viking in 2017, and short story collection How the Light Gets In to be published by Influx Press in 2018; Ruby Cowling, also a White Review short story prize winner; and Joanna Campbell, author of Tying Down the Lion (Brick Lane).