Retreat West Short Story Prize 2019: Longlist

Cheering news arrived today! One of my short stories has been longlisted for the Retreat West Short Story Prize 2019. (No titles yet as reading are still anonymous.)

This year’s judge is Angela Readman, who wrote the fabulous short story collection Don’t Try This at Home.

The shortlist will be announced in the New Year… Here’s hoping.

Dalkey Short Story Prize 2019: Shortlisted


My short story, ‘Da’s Chair’, has been shortlisted for the Dalkey Short Story Prize 2019—and I’m thrilled.

This story has been a long time in the making and I’m very fond, so this shortlisting lifts the heart.

The prize is run by the Dalkey Creates Writing Festival in partnership with Books Ireland.

Shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2018


flyingbooksCallooh! Callay! My novel, This Starling Flock, has made the shortlist for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize 2018.

Now it its eighth year, the competition seeks out unpublished novels by debut women writers. And the prize, sponsored by the Peter Fraser and Dunlop literary agency, has proved a wonderful catalyst. Previous winners and finalists include Gail Honeyman, who went on to publish the glorious Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Catherine Chanter, author of The Well, and Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott whose novel Swan Song will be launched this summer.

More information on the six shortlisted writers is available here. I am delighted to be in such talented company.

The Totleigh Barton Magic


Two weeks have already passed since I returned from my Masterclass Residency at Totleigh Barton, but the magic continues… My stay was a exhilarating initiation into my year as a Jerwood/Arvon mentee. I met eight wonderful writers – you can read about them here – and we were spun into various states of creativity during our workshops. We rewrote some D.H. Lawrence; we recast fairy tales into plays, diagnosing Rapunzel with Stockholm syndrome and introducing IVF into the Sleeping Beauty story; and we wrote a load of poems in three hours. We cooked and ate and drank – very, very well. And on the final night, compèred by the incomparable Sarah, we shared readings of our work-in-progress. Time to turn to my novel in earnest. Long may the Totleigh Barton magic continue!

Awarded Jerwood/Arvon Mentorship 2015/16


I am thrilled to have been awarded a place on the 2015/16 Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme.

The scheme, funded by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, selects three fiction writers, three poets and three playwrights to work with a mentor in their field. And so, over the next year, I’ll be working on my novel with the wonderful Ross Raisin who wrote ‘Waterline’ and, one of my all-time favourites, ‘God’s Own Country’.

I’m really looking forward to the year ahead, which starts with a masterclass residency in Arvon’s Totleigh Barton. Nine Go to Devon!

Aesthetica Award Finalist, 2015


I’m delighted that my short story, ‘The Quicken Tree’, is a finalist in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award  and will be published in the Aesthetica Annual 2015. The winners, in both fiction and poetry categories, will be announced in December. I look forward to reading the anthology—some great titles—which can be ordered  here. Here’s a lovely preview in The Independent.


Irish Times Shortlisted: ‘This Means War’


The shortlist for the Irish Times short story competition ‘This Means War’ has been announced  and I’m over the moon to be one of the eight chosen writers!

To mark the centenary of the Great War, the Irish Times has run a series of eight stories this summer on the theme of war. Stark and beautiful stories by writers such as Donal Ryan and Mary Costello have appeared. The Times opened up the final story to submissions, judged by Donal Ryan, Aifric Campbell and Eilis Ni Dhuibhne. All the shortlisted stories are published in this week’s  Irish Times.

My story, ‘Deathwatch Beetle’, explores one Irishman’s experience of World War One: a war that came to be overshadowed in Ireland by the War of Independence.

I’m especially delighted to have this story published as one of the characters from my novel This Starling Flock, appears here as a child. Backstory fledged.

Brendon Deacy will illustrate the winning story, to be published tomorrow.  I would have loved Deacy to have interpreted my deathwatch-beetle character – his artwork for the series has been stunning. I look forward to enjoying the winner’s entry, and Deacy’s art, tomorrow.


Brendon Deacy’s artwork for John Connolly’s story ‘Mud’


Offside Stories Winner: The Pride and the Passion

Pride and PassionGreat news. My short story, ‘Neutral Ground’, has been awarded first place in The Pride and the Passion: Offside Stories Competition. This competition invited poetry and prose that explored all sides of the beautiful game. My story focuses on one of football’s darkest days, the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Two voices, a father and son’s, narrate across a span of twenty years.

The judges were Ian McMillan, poet, presenter of R3’s beloved ‘The Verb’, and owner of that wonderful voice; and Alex Davis, editor and publisher. Here are their words on my story: ‘This story really brought to life the tragic events of Hillsborough, and the use of the time stamps and short paragraphs was very effective in showing just how quickly things turned tragic that afternoon. The writing was sharp and spare, using a careful choice of language to great effect, and more importantly it did something short stories are so good at – providing a real emotional clout. Brilliant stuff.’

Ben Wilkinson won first prize in the poetry section with a poem on John Barnes. I really enjoyed Ben’s sonnet ‘The Catch’ last month, in The Guardian’s Saturday poem series. And so, I look forward to reading the anthology.

Fish Prize Shortlisted, Revising and Ducks


It’s been all quiet on the writing-news front recently as I complete work on my novel. Like a duck, I’m all pedalling legs below the surface. It was lovely, therefore, to discover yesterday that one of my short stories was shortlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize 2014. The competition received 1560 stories.  Not in the final anthology, but nearly there. It’s good to know this story is on the right tracks.

And to finish with a return to daffy ducks – ’cause why not? – here’s an article I’ve long loved from The Guardian by Angus Watson, about the surprising and exquisite sound ducks make in the moment of landing. Why? Because all their flapping awkwardness vanishes. ‘Just as onlookers put their hands to their mouths in dread, the duck produces the perfect ending… and glides like Cleopatra’s barge.’ Rereading, I thought it a lovely analogy to the (ideal) writing process.

Awarded Hemingway Short Story Prize: ‘The First Draft of Anything is Shit’

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My short story ‘The Telephone Man’ has been awarded first place in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. I am delighted – it’s wonderful news to receive while on my RLS fellowship in a hot, sunny and thunder-stormy France. News like this always nudges me forwards again, but especially this time as I have a real fondness for this short story. First drafted more than three years ago, this story has been a long time honing, revising, shifting, becoming what it wanted to be.  And so this story reminds me of Hemingway’s wonderfully blunt, throat-clearing homily to all writers:  ‘the first draft of anything is shit’. Hang those words next to your desk. Look at them every day. It’s okay for first drafts to be shit. The writing is in the rewriting. And I love the rewriting. I’m also fond of this story’s main character, a young boy beginning to realise his own powerlessness in the face of his parents’ unhappiness. And their unhappiness, of course, is his. The only person he can think to turn to is his favourite comic-book superhero. Maybe he’s a character after my writer’s and reader’s heart: a character who seeks solace in the imagined. But now, this story is no longer just mine to imagine.  Thanks to the Lorian Hemingway competition, I can let this story go knock on others’ doors now. The story will appear in the winter 2013 issue of the American journal, Cutthroat. The Lorian Hemingway Competition is an international prize, founded and judged by Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter and has been going now for over thirty years. This year, they received almost 1200 entries. The competition is open to emerging writers and gifts the winner a $1500 cash prize and publication in Cutthroat: A Journal for the Arts Go do your work, my little story! LHSSComp

Actress Gayla Morgan reads my story at Key West’s Hemingway Days Festival.