2020 Short Story Competition

The Benedict Kiely Short Story Competition

2020 has been the fourth year of the Benedict Kiely Short Story Competition and once again we received high quality entries from Ireland, the UK, Australia, America and beyond. We’re proud to announce our 1st, 2nd and 3rd place stories.

Winner: Rent and Bills, by Emma Flynn

Judge’s remarks, from Colin Barrett: In ‘Rent and Bills’, a moody story about a soured but persisting love affair, the author writes that the protagonists says of their controlling, remote lover ‘There’s a paramedic seriousness to the way he holds my gaze.’ It is a stylish and composed story filigreed with such telling details. While the affair itself is stagnating, dragging down the protagonist like quicksand, the prose depicting their predicament is nimble and evocative.

Winner’s bio: Emma Flynn’s fiction, non-fiction and reviews have appeared in Banshee, Vox, The Cardiff Review, The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times and others. She was awarded second place in the 2020 Colm Toibín Short Story Award, longlisted for the 2019 Berlin International Short Story Award and shortlisted for the 2018 New Irish Writing in Germany Award. She is currently writing her first novel and a collection of short stories.

2nd place: Clusters of Berries, by Brigitte de Valk

Judge’s remarks: ‘Cluster of Berries’ reminds me of the overlap between story and poetry. It is enigmatic, chilling and poignant, progressing by image and mood rather than the full working out of a narrative, and is all the more memorable for it.

3rd Place: In the Casualty Department, by Niall McArdle

Judge’s remarks: ‘In the Casualty Department’ is a spiky, droll story in the classic missed connection mode where two very different characters lives come into brief, charged contact. It has a compelling delicacy the short story form can accommodate.

Below are our ten shortlisted writers. The shortlist was announced in October. Congratulations to them all!

Judges remarks on the shortlist: It was a pleasure in this strange year to judge the 2020 Benedict Kiely short story Prize. It has always been important, as a writer and reader, to come into contact with new voices, voices we have not heard before, but it feels especially important at just this moment. In any new voice there is an interplay of the familiar and the new – in subject matter, but also in style, form and theme.  The ten stories in this shortlist all yielded something distinct and lively, proffered a connection that was not there before. I want to thank each writer for that, and to assure them that narrowing the list down to 1st, 2nd, 3 was no easy task.

Shortlist in alphabetical order:

Jim Alabaster

Stephen Cunningham

Brigitte de Valk

Louise Farr

Emma Flynn

Rosanna Hildyard

Jo Holmwood

Richard Hooton

Andy Leach

Niall McArdle

The Benedict Kiely Short Story Competition is open to both published and aspiring writers, from anywhere in the world. This year’s Head Judge was Colin Barrett, author of Young Skins. We thank him for his time and efforts. The 2021 competition will open for submissions in early summer.