By Jacqueline Grima
The shortlist for the 2015 Manchester Writing Competition has now been announced. The list, comprised of poems and six short stories, was decided by poetry judges, Adam O’Riordan, Olivia Cole and Kei Miller and prose judges, Nicholas Royle, Stuart Kelly and Leone Ross. The winners will be announced at a glittering prize-giving ceremony at Manchester Metropolitan University’s No 70 Building on Friday 27th November.
Manchester Poetry Prize
First on the Manchester Poetry Prize shortlist is Tess Barry. Tess is from Pennsylvania and holds an MA in English from the University of Pittsburgh as well as an MFA in Creative Writing and Poetry from Carlow University. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the 2014 Bridport Prize. Tess submitted five poems to the Poetry Prize, entitled ‘Wild Fennel’, ‘My Father’s Remains’, ‘Raspberries’, ‘Near the Ocean’s Edge’ and ‘After Singing Midnight Mass’. Themes that feature strongly in Tess’s work are nature, the landscape and childhood.
Next on the list is Kierstin Bridger. Kierstin’s poems are called ‘Demimonde’, ‘Ella Belladonna’, ‘Hunger is the Villain’, ‘Ella Unrequited’ and ‘Mining Town’ which focus on strong emotional themes such as isolation, loss and longing. Kierstin comes from Colorado and her work has previously won the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize and the ACC Writer’s Studio Prize. She holds an MFA from Pacific University.
The third shortlisted poet is Cath Drake. Cath’s poems include ‘Truly Deeply’, a beautiful portrayal of an ageing family pet, ‘A Man My Father Played Golf With’, ‘Why I Feel Queasy Scanning Rental Listings’ and ‘The Flowers of Our City’. Cath is originally from Australia but now lives in London. Her pamphlet Sleeping with Rivers won the 2013 Mslexia/Seren poetry pamphlet prize.
Next is Linda France. Linda is from Northumberland and has published seven poetry collections with Bloodaxe, Smokestack and Arc. She also won the 2013 National Poetry Competition. Her poems are entitled ‘Dawn Chorus’, ‘Swallow Song’ and ‘To An Unplayed Piano’, a haunting metaphor for the grief at slowly losing a loved one.
Next on the list is Lindsey Holland. Lindsey submitted three poems, entitled ‘Yellow Jack’, ‘The Raft’ and ‘St Elmo’s Fire’, two of which focus on life on board the brig Calder in the 19th century. Lindsey teaches Creative Writing at Edge Hill University and is co-editor of the online poetry magazine The Compass.
Finally on the Manchester Poetry Prize shortlist is Lucy Ingrams. Lucy’s collection of poems includes ‘So will there be apples?’, ‘Signs’, ‘A Hearting Space’, ‘Siena’ and ‘August Letter’. The themes of her work include cairn-building, tourism and dreams. Lucy is currently studying towards an MPhil in Creative Writing at the University of South Wales. Her work has previously been published in Poetry Ireland, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Agenda.
Manchester Fiction Prize
First on the Manchester Fiction Prize shortlist is Harriet Clare. Harriet’s short story focusses on the friendship between two teenage girls, Cat and Jane and the time they spend at their local boat club. When a boy, Adam, intrudes upon their friendship, Jane’s teenage anxieties come to the fore. Harriet is an award-winning journalist and film-maker and lives in London.
Next on the list is Martin Dodd from California. Martin began writing at the age of 67, following his retirement from community service. His story, ‘Loribelle and Cooter’ is a fascinating portrayal of life in an American trailer park, 41-year-old Cooter struggling to communicate with his on/off girlfriend Loribelle, who “at nineteen had a toddler, a divorce and one less eye.” Will Loribelle and Cooter manage to break the cycle of poverty and teen pregnancy that has gone before them? Perhaps that is up to the reader to decide.
Next on the Fiction Prize shortlist is Shaun Lusk. Shaun’s magical story ‘Snake Charm’ tells the story of lonely and isolated Lisa, whose only friend, after her partner leaves, is the pet snake he left behind. As Lisa’s world narrows, the snake becomes the focus of her existence. Shaun gave up his job in the civil service to write full time and has recently finished his first novel.
Also on the shortlist is Angela Readman. Angela’s debut short story collection, Don’t Try This At Home, was published in 2015. The collection won a Saboteur Award and the Rubery Book Award. Another magical and beautifully-written story, ‘Fishtail’ tells the story of a boy who, alongside his father, spends his time waiting for his mother, one of the “water folk”, to come back from the sea. After she comes back, their time is spent reintegrating her into the world before waiting for her to leave again.
Next is Tracey Slaughter, whose story ‘Stage Three’ focusses on the concept of creating an identity behind the mask of social media, an entire life (and death) put out in front of an eager audience. As the narrator says, “She had a face made for selfies…I left cute captions, I hashtagged her into place.” Tracey lives in New Zealand and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Waikato. Her novella, The Longest Drink in Town, was published in 2015 and her collection of short stories, Deleted Scenes for Lovers, is due out in 2016.
Finally on the Manchester Fiction Prize shortlist is Richard W Strachan. Richard lives in Edinburgh and writes book reviews for The Herald and the Scottish Review of Books. He won a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust in 2012. Richard’s story, ‘Zero Moment Point’, tells of an innocent walk through the city that becomes life-changing when the protagonist’s legs refuse to obey the command to stop. Over streets, roads and fields, through the daytime and the night, his legs continue to move as fragments of the man’s life fill his exhausted mind.
The Manchester Writing Competition is organised by the Manchester Writing School. Both the winner of the Poetry Prize and of the Fiction Prize will be awarded £10,000 in prize money. For more details about the prize-giving ceremony and to read the shortlisted stories, visit the Manchester Writing Competition website.