TSS Publishing

Results


Results for the International Cambridge Short Story Prize 2017

This year we received 442 short stories from around the world


The CSSP 2017 Winners & Commendations

(See below for Judges’ comments)


1st – ‘Make a Wish, Keep the Wish Secret’ by David Swann

2nd – ‘Inside the Egg’ by Joan Taylor-Rowan

3rd – ‘Peekaboo’ by Adam Lock

Cambridge Prize – ‘Group’ by Craig Burnett

Individual Judges’ Commendations:

‘Where the Leviathan Sleeps’ by David Swann – Rupert Dastur

‘Darkness in the Aftermath’ by Hannah Murphy – Katy Darby

‘The Distance of Light’ by S M Walker – Joanna Campbell

Judges’ Comments

 

Joanna Campbell

What struck me about all the winning stories was their compelling voice, drawing the reader in straight from the opening line and leaving no doubt who was telling us the story. Whether enchanting and magnetic (Make a Wish, Keep the Wish Secret), unconventional and vibrant (Inside the Egg), disturbingly intriguing (Peekaboo), or poignantly humorous (Group), these distinctive voices were instantly engaging and also memorable long after the story ended. ‘The Distance of Light’ was beautifully narrated, with a carefully executed, satisfyingly unexpected ending.

Katy Darby

It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to read so many excellent stories in pursuit of the very best work, worthy of winning this year’s Cambridge Prize. Everything on the shortlist was thoroughly deserving, but the top stories, the ones to which we judges returned again and again – rereading, reconsidering, recasting – were truly memorable. That, I find, is what makes a piece of writing stand out, become more than just a story – become, almost, an event in your week, month, year, or even life: a part of your memory.

“The trick was to disguise everything, to make the effort appear effortless,” observes the nascent writer-narrator in David Swann’s winning story, Make a Wish, Keep the Wish Secret – and from the intriguing title on, he does just that, as sixteen-year-old Tom, desperate to come up with the perfect tale to charm Mollie, waits both for meteors to fall, and for the moment when he can tell her how he feels about her. I’m not generally a fan of protagonists who are writers – it’s too easy, a get-out clause which doesn’t require the author to use their imagination – but when it’s done so well, with such a light touch, and pays off so brilliantly in the final, emotive twist, I can only doff my cap to the skill and daring of an author who really knows his characters inside and out.

Joan Taylor-Rowan’s Inside the Egg is another story from the point of view of a teenager (perhaps unsurprisingly: the turbulent years of adolescence are a dramatically rich time in most people’s lives). This time it’s a girl whose mother, pushed to the brink, has left her mentally unwell husband and GCSE-dropout daughter to get on with it. An exhibit in the regional art gallery at which Kirsty volunteers – a giant, habitable wooden egg – draws her into it, and from within we discover how she got there, and realise the beautiful metaphor it represents on the very last page. (I may have teared up a bit reading this one).

Structurally complex and ultimately terrifying, Adam Lock’s Peekaboo slowly unfolds into many people’s worst nightmare through a series of backtracking memories whose device of repeated opening and closing lines is more commonly found in poetry, but works wonderfully well here. It starts off unthreatening, everyday – a simple Samaritan tale of stopping to help a stranger on the road – then gradually reveals the horror at its heart. Not quite sure how the author sleeps at night, but he thoroughly deserves his prize!

Craig Burnett’s Group captured me at once with its slyly comic, matter-of-fact tone and thoroughly modern take on our relationships with each other and the things we own, as seen through the prism of a Facebook buying and selling group: YouTube dolphin videos, secondhand golf clubs and designer toasters also get a look-in. But beneath the absurdist sex-comedy is a deeply serious question: why does our stuff mean so much to us, and what’s the true nature of desire – erotic or otherwise? The voice in Group is confident, assured, urbane, satirical: the underlying theme, in a wasteful Western world, is daily more relevant.

The creeping sense of ominousness, of something being subtly amiss, in Hannah Murphy’s Darkness in the Aftermath grew on me as Larry moved dazedly through humdrum urban set-pieces of clean-desk offices, pool halls and launderettes, and I wondered where we were going. There’s something hugely important missing from the protagonist’s life – but what? When you finally piece his loss together it’s a quietly devastating reveal. What’s happened is never referred to directly, which is part of the story’s power; and its final scene has a tragic, bittersweet sting that stayed with me long after.

Rupert Dastur

After months of reading, deliberation, and discussion, it’s wonderful to be announcing the Cambridge Short Story winners.

David Swann’s short story ‘Make a Wish, Keep the Wish Secret’ is masterful – there is poise and charm in both narrative and narrator, with an ending that is simultaneously clever and elegant. It’s the kind of story that gets better with each new reading. 

Joan Taylor-Rowan’s ‘Inside the Egg’ is a cartwheel of emotions, spinning through the highs and lows, while holding the whole piece together through a strong first person narration and some impressive symbolism. The tone was spot-on.

Even for someone who isn’t a parent, Adam Lock’s ‘Peekaboo’ is a story of back-shuddering possibilities. What I particularly enjoyed about this story was the play with form and structure and the way this, along with the language itself, reflected the psychology of the protagonist. ‘Group’ by Craig Burnett was humorous, fast-paced, and bizarre – a story that wove several inter-related themes (personal connection, social media, obsessiveness, consumerism) into a single plot, driven forward by a comic, cunning, and concerning protagonist.

‘Where the Leviathan Sleeps’ was striking for the sense of weight it created in a shared experience between two children and their father as they visit a beached, rotting whale. The sense of discomfort between the characters is palpable – the awkward outing, the car journeys, the later recollection – all served to create a visual, haunting piece of fiction.


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The CSSP 2017 Shortlist

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(stories are listed alphabetically)

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Beta Alpha – Hannah Persaud

Breech – Kate Finegan

Darkness in the Aftermath – Hannah Murphy

Fire Station – Mark Dixon

Grandma’s Feast Day – Lynda Clark

Group – Craig Burnett

Inside the Egg – Joan Taylor-Rowan

Life Is What You Make It – L F Roth

Lost and Found – Charlie Gracie

Make a Wish, Keep the Wish Secret – David Swann

Peekaboo – Adam Lock

Sea Glass – James O’Hara-Knight

She Clown – Hannah Vincent

The Cow – Sherri Turner

The Distance of Light – S M Walker

The Ghost Day – Sophie Powell

The Whale – Niall Bourke

This Card Has Been Left Blank For Your Own Message – Claire MacRae

This House is Falling Down – Alexandra Cocksworth

Where the Leviathan Sleeps – David Swann


The prize winners will be selected within one one week.


 

The CSSP 2017 Longlist

Araiyakushimae – Deirdre Shanahan

Beta Alpha – Hannah Persaud

Blue Monday – Rick Bland

Breech – Kate Finegan

Darkness in the Aftermath – Hanna Murphy

Dog – William Hillier

Dress Rehearsal – Hannah Persaud

Fire Station – Mark Dixon

Grandmas Feast Day – Lynda Clark

Group – Craig Burnett

Inside the Egg – Joan Taylor-Rowan

Lamb – Melanie Golding

Last Sortie – P J Stephenson

Left-Handed Jumpers – Peter Blair

Let the Water Take Them – Bonny Brooks

Life is What You Make It – L F Roth

Lost and Found – Charlie Gracie

Make a Wish, Keep the Wish Secret – David Swann

Memory of Unfathomable Solace – Nimah MacCabe

Overnight in the Dayroom – Deidre Shanahan

Payback – Andy Mead

Peekaboo – Adam Lock

Scorched Earth – David Butler

Sea Glass – James O’Hara-Knight

She Clown – Hannah Vincent

Shelter – Redfern Jon Barrett

Storm – Jonathan Page

Superyacht – Jonathan Page

Tell Me About Home – Nik Perring

The Architecture of Trees – Deidre Shanahan

The Bookkeeper – Richard Hooton

The Breakout – Tomas Marcantonio

The Cow – Sherri Turner

The Distance of Light – S M Walker

The Escape Tunnel – Andrew Hanson

The Ghost Day – Sophie Powell

The Girl in the Yellow T-Shirt – Jill yates

The Invitation – Sarah Evans

The Playroom – Jamie West

The Whale – Niall Bourke

The Fox – Jonathan Page

The Stars are Light Enough – Deidre Shanahan

There Where the Trees Are – Selma Carvalho

Think Global, Act Local – Tim Love

This Card – Claire MacRae

This House is Falling Down – Alexandra Cocksworth

This is the Beginning – Michael Packman

Where the Leviathan Sleeps – David Swann

White Swans – Shibani Lal