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“Reception Theory” by Nathan Alling Long: Read the story that won the 2017 OWT Short Fiction Prize 2

Nathan Alling LongProfessor Max Ludlow has been losing hair for some time, and not being a person oblivious to style —unlike some of his colleagues who groomed their remaining strands into a semblance of a youthful do—he has begun to shave his head.  This gives Ludlow a clean, meditative look, cosmopolitan and ageless—his grey hairs now nearly invisible—but it also exposes a star-shaped scar over his right ear, of which he is self-conscious.  Or perhaps more accurately, of which he is self-aware—that is, not embarrassed, but cognizant that it is there, though he can only see it when looking in a mirror and turning his head to the left.

When he does see the scar, he often thinks how much it resembles an asterisk, which makes him imagine that in his head is a thought and that the scar is marking an informal footnote, offering a caveat or explanation, there at the bottom of the page—or, in this case, literally at his feet.  Sometimes he even glances down at his toes when he thinks this, to see if an explanation might be there. But of course there is never any explanatory note, which he always feels is unfortunate.
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Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 OWT Short Fiction Prize 3

Competition is harsh. Today, we’re pleased to announce that three people will receive prizes, but sorry that 297 people have been disappointed along the way. We’ve tried to make our decisions as fairly and diligently as possible, but disappointing news isn’t nice to receive or deliver. While many authors may have been disappointed not to make the longlist, and 28 of those longlisted may have been disappointed not to make the shortlist, it may be that the most disappointed are those who made the shortlist but aren’t among our three winners. To those who didn’t make the longlist, that may seem greedy, but it’s fair and proper to want to win – that’s what competition is for. If you’ll indulge us for a moment, we’d like to repeat a few thoughts on competition that we typed when awarding the inaugural OWT Short Fiction prizes last year:

In our society, competition is often championed for economic reasons. An investment-based economy requires perpetual growth, and a major stimulant to growth is to create situations in which individuals and institutions have to compete. In many ways, this is obstructive to human happiness. It has given us hundreds of thousands of cold callers whose misfortune it is to cajole consumers into switching mobile phone operator or utility provider. It has left us unprecedentedly unequal, alienated from each other, working for more hours than ever before, and seeking treatment for mental health problems from depression to anorexia. Its main achievement has been to produce loads of stuff, much of which has value only when accrued competitively.

I’d go so far as to suggest that competition damages relations within a community. This is why, for thousands of years, civilisations have created designated times and spaces for competitions. The social function of pankration, duelling, jousting, boxing, rugby, chess, and writing contests is to allow people to practice competition in ways that don’t have negative effects on the wider community. A recurring theme of the etiquette associated with competition is that when the competition is over, regardless of the result, the contestants cease to view each other as competitors and treat each other as friends and colleagues. The competition has to stay in a designated space because anybody who devoted their life to “the activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others” would be behaving like a total dick.

We continue to hold that the above is true. But this year the judging has been even tougher – with more than double the entries, and still only three prizes, we’ve had to disappoint even more deserving authors. Sorry! We wish you all luck with placing your stories elsewhere.

But, now, here’s the happy bit…

On this occasion, our three winners are:

3rd place (£25): Douglas W. Milliken

2nd place (£50): Krystal Song

1st place (£100): Nathan Alling Long

Congratulations to all of the above, who will receive their prize money this week. In a close contest, Nathan Alling Long clinched first place with his short story “Reception Theory,” a hilarious, clever, and multi-layered tale of a love-struck semiotician. Nathan, who teaches Creative Writing at Stockton University, has published stories and essays in over 100 journals. “Reception Theory” is an absolute delight – funny and clever and ultimately poignant. We are thrilled that we will be publishing it on this site next week.

Thank you again to everyone who entered – judging hasn’t been easy, but it has been a treat.

Shortlist announced for the 2017 OWT Short Fiction Competition 1

Thanks to everyone who entered our short fiction competition this year, and congratulations to everyone who was longlisted. I’m sorry that we have to lose most of the longlisted stories at this stage. In 2016 we wrote about the difficulties involved in judging a competition such as this one, and a year later the process hasn’t got any easier. Different judges, following a different process, would no doubt have selected a different shortlist. So we wish all the longlisted authors success with placing their stories elsewhere. Meanwhile, we’re thrilled to announce that our winners will be selected from the following shortlist:

  1. Sudha Balagopal
  2. Jill Campbell Mason
  3. Darrel Duckworth
  4. Sleiman El Hajj
  5. Joe Giordano
  6. Rinat Harel
  7. Alaric Lejano
  8. Nathan Alling Long
  9. Douglas W. Milliken
  10. Mike Pearcy
  11. Krystal Song
  12. Hannah Whiteoak

Many congratulations to all of you. We will announce the three winners on Wednesday 19th April.

Longlist announced for the 2017 OWT short fiction prize 2

We have a longlist! It’s a slightly longer long list than initially intended because we ran out of time and couldn’t resolve all our arguments – narrowing 300 entries down to 40 was tough enough, and narrowing 40 down to 30 would have taken at least another week.

First, let me say a massive thank you to everyone who entered: it’s been a delight reading such an amazing variety of writing, and it’s been really hard to select just 40 pieces to go forward to the next stage of judging. Many of our choices came down to subjective factors: there are stories we couldn’t fit onto the longlist that I’m sure will find success in other markets.

However, for all the stories we’re sorry to lose at this stage, we’re thrilled with the quality of work we have left. The list features experienced, many-times published and prize-winning authors, but also includes many exciting new voices. We have stories from almost every continent in the world. The next round of judging won’t get any easier, but we’ll be announcing a shortlist of 12 on April 12th.

Congratulations to the following authors who have been longlisted for the 2017 Online Writing Tips Short Fiction Prize:

  1. Lucas Aresin
  2. Sudha Balagopal
  3. Carol Bruer
  4. Jeff Burd
  5. Laura Cardona
  6. Peter Chawaga
  7. Jules Ross Davidson
  8. William Dickey
  9. Darrel Duckworth
  10. Jacqueline Elliott
  11. Joe Giordano
  12. Stephanie Gorniak
  13. Anita Goveas
  14. Sleiman El Hajj
  15. Rinat Harel
  16. Nada Holland
  17. Yana Kertes
  18. Hannah Kubiak
  19. Alaric Lejano
  20. Margaret Lesh
  21. Nathan Alling Long
  22. Paige Lowe
  23. Rebecca Lukowski
  24. Mathabo Masilela
  25. Jill Campbell Mason
  26. Liam Mason
  27. Douglas W. Milliken
  28. Mike Pearcy
  29. Melanie Rees
  30. David Sexton
  31. James Smith
  32. Krystal Song
  33. Eric Taylor
  34. Ian Thompson
  35. Norman Turrell
  36. Mark Webber
  37. Hannah Whiteoak
  38. D.K. Whittaker
  39. Lynette Willoughby
  40. Linda Xia

OWT short fiction competition – update Reply

The 2017 OWT short fiction competition is now closed for entries. We have received exactly 300 entries – exactly! (The round number seems to us in some way significant.) That’s more than double the number of entries we received last year. We are thrilled – and a little overwhelmed – by the volume and range of submissions we’ve received.

The judging now begins. Alas, we have only three prizes to award, so we apologise that there is no way we can give all entries the recognition that they deserve. Please know how grateful we are to everyone who shared their work, and please remember that with so many strong pieces our choices will inevitably be subjective.

Given the volume of entries, we plan to make our selections in two stages. In the first instance our aim is to narrow the field to a longlist, which we plan to announce on Wednesday 29th March. We will announce authors by their name (or pen name), but, so as not to hinder non-winning entrants’ chances of publishing their stories elsewhere, we will not publish story titles at this stage. Please be patient as we try to choose between so many excellent pieces of writing. Thank you and good luck!