OWT Short Fiction Competition – update Reply

The 2018 OWT short fiction competition is now closed for entries – thanks so much to everyone who has submitted their work. We’re still counting the entries and it looks like we have nearly 600! Once again, that’s almost double the number of entries we received last year (in 2016 we had 148 entries, in 2017 we had 300 (exactly), and now we have almost 600; if the competition continues to grow at this rate then in 25 years we’ll have more entries than there will be people alive on earth.) 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.

Our judges this year are Tyler Keevil, D.D. Johnston, and Lucy Tyler. Tyler Keevil is the author of three novels and a collection of short fiction. His short story “Sealskin” won the $15,000 Journey Prize and his novel No Good Brother has recently been shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Prize. He is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Cardiff in Wales. D.D. Johnston is the author of three novels, which have been described as “Funny as all Hell” (The Sunday Herald) and “determinedly extraordinary” (The Morning Star). His short story “The Invitation” was shortlisted for the £5000 Bridport Prize. He’s a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire, England. And adding a different perspective to our deliberations, our third judge, Lucy Tyler, is a theatre maker whose creative work has been performed in Europe and the US, and whose critical writing appears in several scholarly books and journals. She’s Lecturer in Performance Practices at the University of Reading, England.

Tyler Keevil   DD Johnston 2013   lucy-tyler-headshot

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 of 60 (approx. 10% of entries), which we plan to announce on Monday 25th June. 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!

Online Writing Tips short fiction competition 2018 5

We hope you’ve all had a happy new year and that 2018 is treating you well. 2018 could be a prosperous year, for you have the chance to win the richest literary prize currently offered anywhere on this website.

Yes, the Online Writing Tips Short Fiction Prize is back for 2018, and the deadline has just been announced as midnight on May 31st (GMT). It’s free to enter and international entrants are welcome. There’s no theme, but to get an idea of what we’re looking for, check out the  winning story from 2016 and the winning story from 2017. In 2018, first prize will again be a sumptuous £100, with £50 for second place, and £25 for third. All the submission information is available here – good luck!

story-prize-poster-2018

“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.