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Interview with QuietManDave 2020 Prize Judges – Entries Open Until Friday 17th April

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QuietManDave Prize will encourage, discover and celebrate emerging talent


The QuiteManDave Prize 2020 is accepting entries of short-form works from aspiring writers. On offer are two £1,000 prizes for Flash Fiction and Flash Non-Fiction – with an additional runner-up prize for each category.

The QuietManDave Prize is named in honour of David Murray, a much-loved Manchester based writer best known for his blog www.quietmandave.co.uk, which featured evocative writing about new places, theatre shows and other creative events going on in the region.

The Prize seeks to honour his memory and achievements, in addition to encouraging and promoting new writers.

aAh! Magazine speaks to the three judges of the Prize to give writers an insight into what they’re looking to see in winning entries.


Dr Shane Kinghorn, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre at the Manchester School of Theatre

What is it you’d like to see in a winning submission, that would set it apart from all other entries?

“I want freshness and originality, to be surprised, delighted, amused, disturbed – anything but  bored. My specialist area is theatre, so I’d love to be introduced to performance work I wasn’t aware of, or shown new approaches to recording our responses to  transient experiences.

“The winning entries will have sparked discussion and debate among a team of judges, and withstood a tough selection process: they will have made an impact and a lasting impression, so should have substance as well as style. Style only goes so far; you don’t want writing to be all gong and no dinner.”

The QuietManDave prize is open to short-form writing – is there something specific the judges want from entrants?

“First off, do follow the competition guidelines, and consider the advice offered. I’d recommend thorough exploration of the QMD website. The aim is to arrest the  reader from the first sentence and captivate them so that their sense of the outside world retreats.

“Ideally the reader should emerge with the feeling they’ve been away for a bit – not always to a place they’d choose to return, but finding their perspective somehow changed. This applies to both fiction and non-fiction. I’m not  looking for anything specific: content can vary enormously.  The key is to ask yourself  what you can and can’t achieve within a fairly tight word-count; every word needs to earn its place.”

What’s the number one reason a new and inexperienced writer should submit something to this prize? What benefits will they reap from doing so?

“Entrants will have their own reasons for doing so, and should not put the prospect of winning, even of being judged, in front of engaging with the task. It’s a tremendous discipline to work with a concise form, and writers will gain a great deal from discovering the possibilities and limitations of the brief.

“By and large, writing is solitary. Have your reader in mind. It’s powerful to be in control of where you’re taking them. Knowing that your work will be read, and discussed, is  motivation in itself, and I believe that you only get better through practice – a competition, and a deadline, spurs you into action.”


Tania Hershman, Writer and Poet

What is it you’d like to see in a winning submission, that would set it apart from all other entries?

“The first thing to mention is that it needs to be a complete piece that stands alone, not part of something longer, a section from a short story, essay or blog post, say. This is very important! The term “flash” refers only to length, it doesn’t refer to any particular style or type of content at all, so what I want to be is surprised and delighted, both by the story being told and the way it’s told. When you have only 500 words or less, every word, every comma, every space counts.

“For me, the voice that’s telling a story is so very important for flash fiction, if I can hear the character’s voice from the first line, you can take me anywhere and I will follow. For flash non-fiction, it doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering that you’re writing about, but I want to see that you’ve taken care with how you’ve written it, with the language you’re using, which doesn’t have to be “literary”, no need for complex vocabulary or anything fancy. I want to be drawn into your world from the outset and have to read on to find out what happens!”

The QuietManDave prize is open to short-form writing – is there something specific the judges want from entrants?

“Flash fiction can be so so many things, it might be a story that looks like a diary entry, say, or a recipe, or a science report. It might be set today, 400 years ago, or a century in the future on another planet!

“The same for the non-fiction category, it might be a theatre review (inspired by Dave Murray, who this prize is in memory of) but weaving together what happened in the play with something from the writer’s own life, own experience, that was sparked by this performance, say. Or it might be a very short science article about a new discovery. Or a personal essay about an event that happened to the writer that they are weaving into something that will speak to other people.”

What’s the number one reason a new and inexperienced writer should submit something to this prize? What benefits will they reap from doing so?

“Please submit, whether you are a new writer or a writer with many stories under your belt! Writing in 500 words or under is a brilliant thing to attempt. You may think, ‘But I couldn’t possibly say anything in such a short space?’

“It takes practice to get used to these short short pieces, but, as I mentioned, it can be incredibly liberating because of everything you are allowed to let go of. If you are new to this, you might either write a longer piece and then cut it down to 500 words or less – or write your way up to 500 words.

“There is a subset of flash fiction called the Drabble: a very short story of exactly 100 words. There are many amazing examples of this online.

“Surprise yourself first, you are your own first reader. Then give us the privilege of reading it.  Also, the £1000 prize is a pretty good benefit, and a new writer has just as much chance of winning that as an experience writer, we read all the entries blind, we have no idea who has written them!”

Kate Feld, Founder of Manchester Blog Awards

What is it you’d like to see in a winning submission, that would set it apart from all other entries?

“Originality. I’m always looking out for writing that surprises me and doesn’t remind me of anything else.”

The QuietManDave prize is open to short-form writing – is there something specific the judges want from entrants?

“I’d like people to be bold and send us work that feels risky or even weird to them. As long as it’s 500 words or less, and can fit within the parameters of fiction or creative nonfiction, we’d like to read it.”

What’s the number one reason a new and inexperienced writer should submit something to this prize? What benefits will they reap from doing so?

“Entering (and winning) competitions is not just something that experienced writers can do – anyone can do it.  Unlike many competitions, this one is relatively inexpensive to enter.

“So why not enter? It’s a small act of faith in your own writing. What have you got to lose?”


To enter the Flash-Fiction Prize, visit www2.mmu.ac.uk/qmdprize/flash-fiction-prize/

To enter the Flash Non-Fiction Prize, visit www2.mmu.ac.uk/qmdprize/flash-non-fiction-prize/

The deadline for submissions is Friday 17th April, 2020.

About the author / 

Ben Thompson

Modern History student. Mostly writes about politics and social issues.

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