Colin Barrett wins the 2014 Frank O’Connor Award


World’s Most Valuable Short Story Collection Prize Celebrates Its 10th Year





The Munster Literature Centre is pleased to announce that, in its tenth year, the winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award is Irish author Colin Barrett for his debut collection Young Skins. The €25,000 award is the single most lucrative in the world for a collection of short stories and is named after the writer whom W.B. Yeats described as the Irish Chekhov. The award has been hugely influential in raising the profile and esteem of the short story form in recent years. Previous winners have included Haruki Murakami, Edna O’Brien, Ron Rash and Yiyun Li amongst others.

The award is co-sponsored by Cork City Council and also by The School of English, University College Cork and was founded to encourage publishers to issue more collections of stories by individual authors – and to acknowledge Cork’s special relationship with the short story: not only Frank O’Connor but also William Trevor, Elizabeth Bowen and Sean O’Faolain hail from Cork.

The international jury for the award consisted of Irish poet Mathew Sweeney, Anglo-Canadian novelist Alison MacLeod and American novelist Manuel Gonzales. Patrick Cotter, Artistic Director of the Munster Literature Centre selects the jury and acts as non-voting chairman.

Explaining the judges’ decision MacLeod said of Barrett’s début ‘How dare a debut writer be this good? Young Skins has all the hallmarks of an instant classic. Barrett’s prose is exquisite but never rarefied. His characters — the damaged, the tender-hearted and the reckless — are driven by utterly human experiences of longing. His stories are a thump to the heart, a mainline surge to the core. His vision is sharp, his wit is sly, and the stories in this collection come alive with that ineffable thing – soul.’

The book was first published in Ireland by the Stinging Fly Press in 2013, and has been published in the UK this year by Jonathan Cape – it is set to be published in the United States by Grove Atlantic in spring of 2015. The book will be published in translation in the Netherlands by De Bezige Bij, in November 2014 and in France, Editions Rivages in 2015.

Patrick Cotter, Award Director said: “I’m grateful we can continue to offer this lucrative award in difficult economic times. Huge kudos to Cork City Council and UCC for supporting this unique award into its tenth year. As a life-long lover of the short story form I’m delighted the award is going to a brilliant book, but as an Irishman I can take special pride that a book by a new, young, genius Irish writer can hold its own against the best in the world and win the award in this milestone year.”


Colin Barrett

Colin Barrett grew up in Mayo and studied English at UCD. After graduating he worked for several years with a mobile phone provider in its Dublin headquarters, continuing to write in his spare time. Ultimately, he left his job to do an MA in Creative Writing at University College Dublin. In 2009 he was awarded the Penguin Ireland Prize and he received bursaries from the Arts Council in 2011 and 2013. Young Skins is Colin’s first book. His stories have previously featured in The Stinging Fly magazine, as well as in the anthologies, Sharp Sticks, Driven Nails (Stinging Fly Press, 2010) and Town and Country (Faber and Faber, 2013).

He is thrilled and surprised to learn he won the award “Consider me knocked splendidly sideways by the news. It’s a bewilderment and honour to be awarded the 2014 Frank O’Connor prize. The shortlist was superb, and the role call of previous winners – including living legends like Edna O’Brien and Haruki Murakami – is humbling. Many thanks to those who helped me along the way, especially the Stinging Fly Press, who first published Young Skins and were instrumental in its creation, and a deep thanks to the judges, the organizers, and to the Munster Literature Centre for continuing to care about the short story” 

The award will be presented to Barrett in September at the closing of the Cork International Short Story Festival which is the world’s oldest annual short story festival.


June Round-Up 2

Hello short story fans!
Here’s all the short story news from the ShortStops’ blog over the past fortnight.

Lit Mags

We’re thrilled to welcome two new lit mags to our list: Control Literary Magazine, “a free online magazine dedicated to giving you the best literature and artwork from new writers and artists”, and The Silver Lynx Sporadical, “a new literary journal based in Aberdeen… Our interest lies in only what can hold it”.

For your reading pleasure, Issue 7.1 of Flash! is out now, as is Spontaneity’s Issue 4, Only Human. Have a read of Jotters United’s Retro Issuethe June issue of Long Story, Short: The Art of Losing and Don’t Do it magazine’s Issue 4: Translations.

Popshot is open for literary submissions on the theme of Time. Here Comes Everyone would love to consider your short stories for the Boy/Girl issue and, starting early, The Casket of Fictional Delights is calling for your Christmas stories! HeadStuffwants your writing, as does The Cro Magnon, for their website and perhaps for their travelling show.


The Berko Summer School is holding a series of one-off masterclasses, including a short story masterclass with Adam Marek on July 29th.


The RAC is running a national short story competition on the theme of Driving in Europe, deadline 11 September.  The Sean O’Faolain short story competition is now open, deadline 31 July, which is also the closing date for Writeidea’s national short story contest, The Writeidea Prize.

Creative Industries Trafford are holding a flash fiction competition, deadline Sept 15th. You’ve missed Writing Maps June contest but it’s monthly, so check them out.  More contests: the 3rd annual A Spot of Hysteria Writing Competition run by the UK Hysterectomy Association is now open for entries (deadline Aug 31), and the Historic House Short Story Comp (26 Sep) wants stories inspired by or set in a historic house.

Find out which collections were shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Read Stinging Fly editor Thomas Morris’s short essay Beautiful Animals: Theorising and Defining the Short Story (In Under 1000 Words).

Live Lit & Short Story Events
Don’t miss the Short Short Story Slam in Manchester on July 8th.

Live Lit Review: Louise Tondeur went to Rattle Tales’ Brighton Prize awards night for us: “”There was a sense that it is writing that’s important, not publication or prizes”…Read more >> 

Last Minutes & Gentle Reminders

Closing todayThe Moth International Short Story Prize  and Kingston University’s two new short story competitions – one judged by Hilary Mantel and one, for stories to be read aloud, judged by Bonnie Greer.

If you are eager for even more short-story-related news, do follow ShortStops on Twitter where, when we should be writing, we spend (far too) much time passing on news from lit mags, live lit events, short story workshops and festivals! If you’d like to review an event or a publication, drop me a line.

Happy reading, writing, listening and performing!
Tania x

10 Writers On The Bad Advice They Chose To Ignore

The Stinging Fly

A google search for ‘writing tips’ provides 1.9 million results. And you can’t walk down a Twitter-street without someone proffering their #WritingTips (we’re even guilty of it ourselves). But one of the most difficult tasks is learning how to filter the good from the bad, and the useful from the not-quite-so-useful-at-the-moment.

So we asked ten authors to share an experience of counsel that isn’t/wasn’t all that constructive. (Bearing in mind that one man’s baguette is another man’s reminder of his gluten intolerance…)

Write The Book Only You Can Write!

—Colin Barrett

Advice I’ve heard more than once, in different scenarios, and which I’ve always thought to be wary of, more than anything because of the scope for misinterpretation, is the idea that you must ‘write the book only you can write’. Broadly speaking I suppose, there is behind this tautology the relatively benign notion that you should write to your ‘strengths’ (another slippery conger of a concept) but too often I think writers can succumb to the illusion that Book X is the one they must write. It is The One. And so they hang onto it for too long, whether in terms of physically writing it, or pursuing its publication thereafter. There are plenty of legitimate examples of such tenacity paying off, of course, but as dismaying (and habitually necessary) as it is to admit defeat in a given project, with that capitulation/emancipation comes access to one of the few consolations the living, failing scribbler can reliably know: the next thing can, or may, or might be better.

Play The Game!

—Eimear McBride

While in the midst of my dystopian publication nightmare, a—considerably more successful and critically lauded—writer went to pains to impress upon me the paramount importance of choosing single word titles because ‘that’s what’s in fashion now’ which, for me, displays a combination of such industrial-strength savvy and soul-crunching cynicism that I’ve never since been able to pass a display of their impecuniously-titled novels without a rush of infuriated blood to the head.

Don’t Be Selfish!

—Billy Ramsell

‘Don’t be selfish’—that’s one you hear a lot, especially growing up from parents, guardians, teachers and so on. It’s terrible advice for writers though. Writing practically demands that one exhibit a high degree of selfishness. Not I hasten to add with regard to money, prizes and acclaim but when it comes to time, that most definitively finite of commodities. Can you taste it in the back of your mouth? The almost tangibly metallic tang of wasted time as you sit there reading this blog? Writing, especially for those of us not in the position to go at it full-time, requires a maniacal degree of possessiveness about your every spare quarter hour. It means letting down and fobbing off lovers and dependents, cousins and confidants. You have to master the gentle art of inflicting disappointment.

Be More Specific!

—Dimitra Xidous

I used to be part of a writer’s group back in Canada—myself, four other women and one man. One evening, I brought in a poem, ending on the lines:

I confess that I laid myself down then

like a dog, for love

The women ‘got’ it. Understood what I meant by ‘like a dog’. The man kept asking ‘how, like a dog’ exactly? He wanted me to make it explicit, to take away all the ambiguity—which, to my mind, and to the other members’ minds—was the reason the poem worked.  He went on—‘was it salivating’, was it ‘hungry’ etc. And everything he suggested only served to lessen the impact.

Needless to say, I did not take him up his advice—I left it. I know what ‘like a dog’ means to me—and it may or may not have meant the same thing to the other women in the group. I wouldn’t dream of taking the pleasure that ambiguity, when used well (and I am going to go out on a limb here and say that in this case, I’ve used it well) affords a reader to come to their own conclusion as to what dog-like thing love can sometimes turn us into. It is different for everyone. Making something like that explicit makes assumptions about love, the experience of it, not to mention the reader/audience. Now, this is not to say I am advocating for more ambiguity in poetry—it is a difficult thing to use and use well.

But in this poem’s case, I think it works because of that metaphor. Gauging by the man’s reaction, I think, yes, in this case, the use of ambiguity is perfect.

Stay Clear Of The Following Things!

—Daniel Seery

When I was nine, our class went on a trip to Clara Lara Fun Park. Before we went, my mother took me aside and told me to stay clear of any water. Of course she wasn’t to know that every activity in Clara Lara was based around water. Being a literal kind of a child I dodged the rafts and the water slide and the swings dangling above the lake. I spent my day continuously walking back and forth under a tunnel, the only dry place in the park.

If my mother had seen Clara Lara for herself I’m sure her advice would have been different. ‘Don’t drown yourself!’ or ‘Don’t drown anyone else!’—or some other equally useful tip.

I guess the same concept applies to writing—the whole idea of taking inflexible advice before you fully understand where you’re going, before you are 100% sure what your novel is going to be about, before a word has even been written.

e.g. Do not use flashbacks. Do not use mannerisms in your dialogue. Do not write a novel over 100,000 words. Do not have a domestic pet as a central character!

For me, writing doesn’t work well with limitations. Writers have the luxury of making mistakes. We have been given the gift of editing. And I prefer to leave the editing until I actually have something to edit.

Do Something Else Instead!

—Nuala Ní Chonchúir

People love to advise writers. I get the following said to me: (1) ‘You should write in Irish.’ (2) ‘Write a book for children!’ and (3) ‘Write one of them chick-lits and earn a fortune.’

No, no and no.

I tried (1) — I wrote a few poems in Irish but my heart wasn’t in it; I don’t think through Irish so find it unnatural to write in it.

(2) I was commissioned by a publisher to write a kids’ book, but I just couldn’t muster interest in the project so it didn’t get very far.

As for (3), I don’t read chick-lit so wouldn’t have the first idea how to write that kind of book.

We write what we write and it’s distracting and time-consuming to follow other paths. I’m happy where I am, and I will only veer away from that if an excellent opportunity—one that I am fully enthused about—comes up.

Quit What You’re Doing!

—Rob Doyle

Ages ago, an editor urged me to leave behind the motifs that recurred consistently in my fiction at the time—sexual obsession, strippers, earnest young literary men with porn fixations—and represent the day to day experiences of people from a similar social background to my own. I briefly gave this a try, but found, as I have found with so many things in life, that I just couldn’t be fucked. What is clear to me now is that, as an artist of any kind, all you really have are your obsessions, fascinations and perversions, and the way to artistic self-definition is to be trenchantly faithful to them. All the rest is dreary obligation: in other words, community service.

Three Classic Pieces of Advice!

—Niamh Boyce

1) Write What You Know!

This one makes my soul shrink. Write what I know? What do I know? Oh hell, I’m so limited! If I write what I know—my books will be minuscule novellas of doom. Not even doom, my life’s too dull for doom… I wish I was a Parisian. Maybe I should learn—I don’t know—to trapeze before I even think about starting to write. I’ve never bungee-jumped or taken acid at an orgy. I’ve never even been invited to an orgy. I prefer, ‘Write anything you damn well like…’ That’s different. That I can do.

2) Find Your Voice!

This one irritates me. By listening to my characters, I hope that each piece of work, each novel, each story, will have its own distinctive voice. I know it’s not a completely rational response, but I don’t even like the sound of this advice. And years since I first heard it, I still don’t know what it means. Find what voice? What’s to find? Don’t I have a voice? (Or am I channelling Victor Meldrew’s here?) And, why does a writer need a Voice with a capital V? Doesn’t a writer give voice to her characters? Aren’t they the important ones?

3) You Need A Room Of Your Own! (Sorry Virginia!)

Who doesn’t want a room? Make mine a red boudoir, with a coffee maker, a balcony and an open fire. But for now, and the foreseeable future, I don’t have a room and I’m getting along fine. So, don’t wait till conditions are perfect, or even half-perfect. Don’t wait for the room, the cash, the time, the space or the ‘inspiration’ … write on loo roll if you have to. Use spare minutes. Writing can be done anywhere, almost. After all, when De Sade was stuck, he used his blood as ink and the walls of his cell as parchment… you and I don’t have to stretch that far (unless we want to) but let’s not wait for that illusive room. Life’s too short, there’s work to be done.

Have Something To Say!

—Gavin Corbett

I’m not sure if anyone has ever said this to me directly, but I regularly enough come across the advice that a writer ‘should have something to say’, which I think is terrible guidance. Writers who write because they have nothing to say are my favourite kind. If you’re uncertain about your place in the world, about how you feel about the world, then that’s the best starting point of all. In the process of figuring it out, you’ll create something valuable. Revel in the noise-making, and in the feel of the words under your nails, and don’t worry about what you’re ‘saying’. Let others decide on that.

Wait Your Turn!

—Sarah Maria Griffin

During my MA in Writing, we had a guest speaker in. She was a poet. At this point I was twenty-two and absolutely tenacious, I really wanted to get my start. I asked, during the Q&A at the end, how does a person go about getting a book of poetry in the world? I mean, it’s a green question, sure. I was only a bit more of a kid than I am today. I honestly wanted to know, because it’s something I wanted to do. Make a book.

She replied, slightly scornfully, that one usually had to be asked. It wasn’t as simple as just going and getting a book put out there. You had to wait. You can’t really just go and do it. That’s not done. You had to be asked for a collection, you didn’t just make one. I took this to heart pretty badly and felt embarrassed for quite a while for even imagining that I was someone who should even be considering putting a book out in the world. This moment was gatekeeping at its finest, and it’s a terrible thing to tell any young writer.

Stop telling people to wait. Tell them to work hard, make good art, and wake up fighting. Tell them to staple together a chapbook and sell it five quid a pop—like a musician would with a home-recorded EP or a mixtape, tell them to put their studio headphones on! Tell them to write query letters and go to readings and meet people and make friends and network and write and write and really, really, wake up fighting and make good art. Don’t tell them it’s not as simple as going and making a book. It’s exactly that simple.


Colin Barrett’s debut collection, Young Skins, is published by The Stinging Fly in Ireland and by Jonathan Cape in the UK.

Niamh Boyce’s debut novel, The Herbalist, won the 2013 Bord Gais Irish Book Awards Newcomer of the Year.

Gavin Corbett’s second novel, This Is The Way, won the 2013 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year.

Rob Doyle’s debut novel, Here Come The Young Men, will be published in May (Lilliput Press). His review of Markus Werner’s Zúndel’s Exit appears in our current issue and can be read here.

Sarah Maria Griffin’s poetry collection Follies was pubished by Lapwing Press. Her latest book, Not Lost: A Story About Leaving Home, is published by New Island.

Eimear McBride’s debut novel, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, is published by Galley Beggar Press. The novel won the Goldsmiths Prize for Fiction 2013 and is currently shortlisted for many more awards.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s second novel, The Closet of Savage Mementos, will be published in Spring 2014 by New Island. Nuala guest-edited the fiction in our current issue.

Billy Ramsell’s second poetry collection, The Architect’s Dream of Winter, is published by Dedalus Press. His essay on Patrick Galvin appears in our current issue and can be read here.

Daniel Seery’s debut novel, A Model Partner, has just been published by Liberties Press.

Dimitra Xidous’ debut poetry collection, Keeping Bees, is forthcoming with Doire Press. Dimitra is the featured poet in our current issue.

March Round-Up (I)

Hello story lovers,
Welcome to spring! Here’s our roundup of what’s been happening in the short story world over the past few weeks:

Lit Mags, Competitions and Workshops
Stinging Fly’s new editor, Thomas Morris, tells us what he’s looking for in his submissions pile: A Tingling Pleasure. Holdfast magazine’s second issue is published and they are calling for submissions for Issue #3 on the theme of Objects, Artefacts and Talismans. Check out the new issue of Flash magazine, issue 6.2. Short Fiction’s 2014 short story prize is still open for entries, deadline March 31st, and you have until June 30th to submit to the Moth International Short Story Prize.

Live Lit & Short Story Events
The next Hubbub is on March 10th in London and features Zoe Pilger and Liane Strauss. Telltales wants your submissions by March 17th on the theme of ‘Unhinged’ to be read at their next event in Falmouth on March 25th. Stand-up Tragedy’s Tragic Heroes is at the Hackney Attic in London on March 21st.

At In Praise Of Short Stories at the Daunt Books Festival on March 27th in London, KJ Orr will be talking to AL Kennedy, David Constantine and Helen Simpson. And the next Word Factory event, also in London, on March 29th, is a trifecta of short story delights: a masterclass, short story club, then live lit event with AS Byatt, Joe Dunthorne and Will Cohu.

Last Minutes & Gentle Reminders
The Edge Hill Prize for published short story collections is still accepting entries, until the first week of March. Bare Fiction is looking for contributors to its Features and Reviews section.  Brittle Star magazine is holding an Open Writing Competition, judged by the excellent David Constantine, deadline March 12th, and The Siren journal is calling for submissions for its first short story anthology, deadline March 15th.

Writing, Publishing & Workshops
The Writers’ Centre Norwich is holding a short story workshop on March 15th & 16th.The creators of On The Same Page have launched a crowdfunding campaign to finish development of the app which will allow you to publish your own creative work as an app.

Happy reading, writing, listening and performing!
Tania x

Davy Byrnes Short Story Award 2014

The Stinging Fly are delighted to announce the return of the Davy Byrnes Short Story Award — Ireland’s biggest short story competition.

Prize fund: €15,000 for the best short story, plus five runner-up prizes of €1,000

Competition Judges: Anne Enright, Yiyun Li and Jon McGregor

—The competition is open to Irish citizens and to writers who are resident or were born in the thirty-two counties.

—Entries must consist of a previously unpublished short story written in English. The maximum word count is 15,000 words, no minimum. Only one story per entrant.

—We will be accepting entries from December 1st 2013. No online entries. Entries must be posted/delivered to Davy Byrnes Short Story Award, c/o Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin City Libraries, 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.

—The deadline for receipt of entries is Monday, Feb 3rd 2014. There is a €10 entry fee, payable online or by cheque/postal order.

—The six short-listed writers will be announced in late May/early June 2014 and the overall winner announced in June 2014.

The competition is sponsored by Davy Byrnes and organised by The Stinging Fly in association with Dublin UNESCO City of Literature

For further information about the award — and to enter your story! — please visit our website.

What the judges say:

The Davy Byrnes Award is given to a story that has the writer’s name removed, the judges of the prize have been more international than local and the prize money is substantial. These three things meant the world to me when I won in 2004, a time when I felt washed up on the shores of the Irish boom. The short story yields truth more easily than any other form, and these truths abide in changing times. As a writer turned judge, I am looking for a story that could not have been written any other way; that is as good as it wants to be; that is the just the right size for itself.

—Anne Enright

I am a staunch advocate for short stories, and respect any organisation/effort that supports stories and story writers. I am thrilled to be serving as a judge for the Davy Byrnes Award. As for what I look for in a short story, to borrow from Tolstoy: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ There are stories written like happy families, which one reads and forgets the moment one puts them down. But the stories that belong to the category of unhappy families, they can do all kinds of things: they touch a reader, or leave a wound that never heals; they challenge a reader’s view, or even infuriate a reader; they lead to a desire in the reader’s heart to be more eloquent in his ways of responding to the story yet leave the reader more speechless than before. A good story is like someone one does not want to miss in life.

—Yiyun Li

I’m both thrilled and slightly daunted to be taking part in judging the Davy Byrnes Award this year. Thrilled, because it’s a prize with an astounding track record of unearthing great talent and excellent stories; the previous judges have clearly had a very sharp reading eye. Daunted, for pretty much the same reasons. There’s a lot to live up to.

What I look for in a short story is a kind of intensity of purpose and a clarity of expression; something which holds my attention and rings clearly in my reading mind. For me, this is mostly something in the voice on the page; something in the control of the syntax, which immediately puts me in the world of that story. If it’s there, it usually kicks in within the first few lines; after that, it’s just a matter of seeing whether the writer can really keep it up.

—Jon McGregor