Where to publish my fiction? The question will have occupied all aspiring writers. It is famously hard to publish fiction in Britain, which is why each of the few prizes for unpublished fiction attracts vast attention. There is a new prize in this sparse field: The White Review, the thriving independent quarterly arts journal, has inaugurated a short story prize for unpublished writers.
The competition, which is limited to residents of Great Britain and Ireland, opens on 1 December 2012 and closes on 1 March 2013. Submissions should be made at thewhitereview.org. The prize will be judged by the writer Deborah Levy, Karolina Sutton and Alex Bowler, editorial director at Jonathan Cape. The award will be presented by Booker nominated author Tom McCarthy at a ceremony in April 2013. The winning entry will be published in the print edition of the journal. The winning writer will receive prize money of £2,500 and the chance to meet Karolina Sutton, Senior Agent at Curtis Brown, to discuss publishing opportunities. And up to six shortlist entries will be published on The White Review’s website.
What are the judges looking for? The editors of The White Review say:
‘The judges will be looking for short stories that explore and expand the possibilities of the form. We encourage submissions from all literary genres, and there are no restrictions on theme or subject matter. The only emphasis is on ambitious, imaginative and innovative approaches to creative writing. We hope that the award will demonstrate the vitality of a form too often neglected in Great Britain and Ireland.’
Make of that what you will; but, to me, the criteria are more ambitious in scope than those of the Costa Short Story Prize, the other award for unpublished short fiction to be announced this year, which is merely being judged on the ‘basis of quality and originality of prose, narrative voice and storyline.’
The creation of both prizes suggests that, in addition to unpublished authors finding it hard to win critical and commercial recognition, the short genre is back in fashion. The form has been neglected in the past; but the last couple of years have seen a number of collections published in Britain and America, with acclaimed and successful contributions from Nathan Englander, Tessa Hadley, Junot Diaz and Kazuo Ishiguro, to name only four.
The world is, apparently, becoming smaller thanks to technology, so the renaissance of short fiction (and indeed the novella and the essay – Julian Barnes’ Through the Window is a wonderful book of wisdom posing as accessible lit crit), is not wholly unexpected. I don’t think it stretches plausibility to say that these trends are being determined by the tastes of readers and writers as much as they are by the possibilities of algorithms; so both The White Review and the Costa Awards are on to a winner here by giving unpublished writers and, in the case of the Costa, stories the chance to shine and hopefully capitalise.