“It feels incredibly affirming”: Meet the finalists of the 2022 QuietManDave Prize

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Flourishing new and budding writers are celebrated for their short-form writing in the 2022 QuietManDave Prize

The 2022 QuietManDave Prize shortlist has been revealed, showcasing the talented entrants to the prize honouring the much-loved critic, Dave Murray.

Run by the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Met, with the Manchester School of Theatre, this year’s prize has received more than 500 entries.

The judges have now selected their shortlist of nine Flash Fiction and nine Flash Nonfiction entries from the 500 entries. Each finalist submitted a short-form piece under 500 words for consideration, with no restriction on style or topic.

aAh! catches up with this year’s shortlisted writers.

Kathryn Aldridge-Morris – ‘Double Lives’ & ‘Unvoiced’

Kathryn Aldridge-Morris

Kathryn Aldridge-Morris is an emerging flash fiction writer living in Bristol. She is a freelance writer of English Language teaching textbooks and a trainer for the charity sector working with refugees and people seeking asylum. She also runs community-based workshops in creative writing for wellbeing.

When asked how it felt to be shortlisted for the prize, she shares: “It feels incredibly affirming, especially as the award is linked with such prestigious institutions as the Manchester Writing School and Manchester School of Theatre and is the legacy of Dave Murray, a loved figure of the Manchester literary scene.”

Reflecting on how she got started as a writer, Aldridge-Morris adds: “Like many people it was during lockdown, I finally decided to give myself time and space to write, to stop seeing creative writing as self-indulgent and to prioritise it.”

Sharing a word of advice for new writers, Aldridge-Morris says: “If you want to write flash fiction, read as much as you can. You’ll get a sense of the diversity of the form, how experimental it can be, and where your voice might fit.”

Sorrel Briggs – ‘You Were Seven’

Sorrel Briggs

Sorrel Briggs is a recent English graduate from Leeds, West Yorkshire. Her work has appeared at Tate Britain and in various publications. Winner of the Walter Swan Poetry Prize, she writes poetry as well as fiction and is interested in the possibilities offered by bridging the two.

When asked about how where she’s based affects her writing she shared that “a sense of place has always been important to me”. She adds: “Accents, dialects, the furniture of the environment you inhabit on a daily basis: these things will always inflect your work, whether it’s in the prosodies, the images, the characters, their preoccupations & their speech.”

Briggs tells us she is “grateful to be included alongside such accomplished writers”. She adds: “[I’m] also a bit nervous maybe? But it’s the first in-person awards ceremony I’ve been invited to, so I’m just really looking forward to it, to getting the chance to meet everyone, and to celebrate Dave Murray’s legacy, which is what it’s all about.”

Stuart Cavet – ‘What Happened’

Stuart Cavet

Stuart Cavet, a former international lawyer, has taken what he hopes to be a permanent career break to pursue writing full-time. He has had short stories and flash fiction published in Makarelle and Tigershark, and has been shortlisted by Writers’ Forum in one of its monthly competitions and been a finalist in one of Globe Soup’s regular competitions. He has also written a novel for which he is currently seeking representation.

Pauline Clooney – ‘My Mr Shakespeare’

Pauline Clooney

Pauline Clooney was born in Manchester, raised in Ireland, and currently lives there in County Kildare near the Curragh plains. With a BA in History, Sociology and English, an MLitt on Charlotte Brontë, and an MA in Creative Writing, in 2017 she left a teaching career to concentrate on writing. Her debut novel, Charlotte & Arthur (Merdog Books) was published in 2021. Awards include winner of the 2015 Penguin Ireland/RTE Guide short story, the 2021 Denis O’Driscoll literary bursary, and the 2022 Irish Arts Council Agility award.

Reflecting on her practice, Clooney shares: “I am a full-time writer. I turn up at the desk every day, well, Sundays are hit and miss. At the moment, the day is divided between research, editing short stories, and writing first drafts of new stories.

“As I have ten stories already written for the collection, I will go over one story each week, making small changes. On most days I will start a new story, some days I could get a healthy word count or on rare occasions a first draft down in one sitting. Often though, it will be a paragraph or two a day… I tend to be slow with first drafts.”

Sharing her reaction to being shortlisted, Clooney adds: “It is such an honour. Also, writing is a solitary affair and unless you are in the process of publication, there is often a sense of doubt as to the validity of what you are doing, if it is any good, so a listing like this is a welcome validation.”

Ian Humphreys – ‘Whose Story?’

Ian Humphreys

Ian Humphreys lives in West Yorkshire. His debut poetry collection Zebra (Nine Arches Press) was nominated for the Portico Prize. He is the editor of Why I Write Poetry (Nine Arches), and the producer and co-editor of After Sylvia: Poems and Essays in Celebration of Sylvia Plath (Nine Arches). Ian’s work has been highly commended in the Forward Prizes for Poetry and won first prize in the Hamish Canham Prize.

Jo Lygo – ‘All We Wanted’

Jo Lygo

Jo Lygo lives with her husband and their Schnauzer, Poppy, in the village where she was born. Before moving back to Staffordshire, she taught French and English in France and the East End of London. She has an MSt in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge and has enjoyed a wide range of shorter courses. She has won or been placed in various competitions for flash fiction and short stories with her flash fiction appearing in two anthologies. She is currently reworking a dual timeline novel set in rural France to include elements of flash fiction alongside longer chapters.

Rosaleen Lynch – ‘Free-diving Five Hundred Million Years Ago’

Rosaleen Lynch

Rosaleen Lynch, is an Irish youth and community worker and writer in the East End of London with words in a number of journals, including New Flash Fiction Review, HAD, Fractured Lit, Craft, SmokeLong Quarterly, Jellyfish Review, EllipsisZine, Mslexia, Litro and Fish. They have also been shortlisted by Bath and the Bridport Prize, is a winner of the HISSAC Flash Fiction Competition and the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize.

When asked about the inspiration behind their story, Lynch says: “I’ve written a story for the last three International Women’s Days and what they have in common is how inextricably linked women’s issues and climate crisis issues are. All three are celebrations of resilience against tides of oppression. This year I wrote ‘Freediving Five Hundred Million Years Ago’ during an online London Writers’ Salonhour. The session started with this Audre Lorde quote:

‘I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my noseholes–everywhere. Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a fucking meteor!‘”

“I’d read an article in The Guardian called ‘I didn’t even know this was humanly possible: the woman who can descend into the sea in one breath’ and loved the power in both these ideas and was interested in how free-diving could be used to look at climate change reversal and women’s mental health and resilience. And as a fan of the breathless paragraph, I knew this was the perfect form for this story,” Lynch adds.

Reflecting on being shortlisted by the QuietManDave Prize, Lynch describes this as “an honour, especially in the excellent company of writers I admire and am lucky to work with like Sara Hills and Kathryn Aldridge”. She adds: “How lovely it is to celebrate a life by promoting writers’ work and creating such a wonderful community of support! Prizes like this, especially at times like this, mean we feel invested in as writers and feel encouraged to keep going, through the rejections and self-doubt, the scarcity of resources and burden of commitments and the three-steps-forward and two-steps-back it takes to learn the craft.”

Niamh Mac Cabe – ‘A Marram Grass Cradling’

Niamh Mac Cabe

Niamh Mac Cabe is published in a dozen journals and has been nominated thrice for the Pushcart Prize, twice for the Best Small Fictions Award, and selected for the Best British & Irish Flash Fiction list. She has won first place in many competitions, including The Wasafiri Prize, John McGahern Award, and Molly Keane Award, and Runner-Up in The Costa Short Story Award, Galley Beggar Press Prize, and many others.

“It is such a wonderful validation of what is usually a blinkered endeavour, a solitary leap-of faith,” says Mac Cabe, discussing how she felt being shortlisted for the prize.

Discussing how she got started writing, she shares: “I’m a lone parent, so raising my children not only took up all my time but also all my space, leaving no room (metaphorically and literally) for my visual art. When they got older and took up less time (but not less space!).

“I began writing as a step on the way to get back into the creative process because all it required (spacewise) was a chair and table. As it turned out, I found writing to be such an expressive, manipulative, accommodating form, I’m still tricking around with it!”

Leeor Ohayon – ‘Prayers’

Leeor Ohayon is a writer from London and based in Norwich, where he has recently begun a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia. His short fiction has appeared in the White Review, Prospect Magazine, and the RSL Review. Ohayon is the 2021 winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s V.S Pritchett Short Story Prize, and is part of the 2022-2023 cohort of the London Library’s Emerging Writers Programme.

Sara Hills – ‘Door Slam, 1980’

Sara Hills

Sara Hills is the author of The Evolution of Birds, winner of the 2022 Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection. Her stories have been selected for Wigleaf’s Top 50, the BIFFY 50, and The Best Small Fictions, as well as widely published in anthologies and magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, Fractured Lit, Cease Cows, Flash Frog, Splonk, and Reckon Review. Originally from the Sonoran Desert, Hills lives in Warwickshire, UK.

“The other writers are so talented and the listed pieces are quite diverse in style and tone. I’m a bit gobsmacked to be included, especially with this story that’s so dear to me,” says Hills, reflecting on her place in the shortlist.

Hills tells us about where she is based and how this affects her writing: “I’ve moved house over 40 times in my life—from isolated desert ranches to rundown trailer parks to old cities. My most recent move was to a tiny village in N. Warwickshire, and it’s such a strange yet wonderful experience to actually know one’s neighbors. I love the countryside here, the quiet, the lack of rattlesnakes and the shortage of guns. I do a lot of writing in my head while walking the country lanes and footpaths with my dog. I’m quite an introverted person, so I’d say the quiet of nature really helps me hear my own voice.”

Benjamin Judge – ‘The Child Can Not Touch the Owl’

Benjamin Judge

Benjamin Judge completed his Creative Writing MA at the Centre for New Writing at The University of Manchester. His fiction has been shortlisted for, published in and/or rejected by various awards, anthologies, magazines and websites. His creative non-fiction story Drinking Coffee with My Father in The Most Expensive Cafe in Manchester, won the Real Story Award. But nobody likes his poetry, in his own words: “Not even his own mother. Not even him.”

When asked about how it felt to be shortlisted, Judge responds: “It has been one of the highlights of my year. I lost all my momentum as a writer during lockdown. Everyone being on top of each other in the house, not having the space to let thoughts sit and simmer, everything being not quite right, it all took a toll on my mental health. I felt fuzzy and dulled. I didn’t write anything for over a year. My entry to the Quiet Man Dave Prize was the first thing I sent out after that. It marked the end of a crisis of confidence. So to have somebody say, yes, we liked this, was incredibly important.”

Kate Karko – ‘Ghost Walking’

Kate Karko

Kate Karko grew up in Hertfordshire. Her first book, Namma, was a memoir about living as a bride in a nomadic tribe in the grasslands of Tibet. She has published features on Tibetan culture in The Independent, Tatler and Selvedge – where she was news editor, and poetry in the competition anthology, Beyond the Storm. She has a degree in Cultural Studies and was awarded distinction for her MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University. There, she wrote her mythological YA novel, The Nomad’s Song for her sons. Currently, she divides her time between writing and primary teaching.

Based in Hertfordshire where she grew up, but having spent many years living in London and Asia, Karko shares how this has impacted her work: “I met my Tibetan husband in India, and we returned to his nomadic home in the vast grasslands of Eastern Tibet after he’d been away in exile for nine years. I became part of his tribe and we lived between there and the UK for many years, until our children started school. Later we took them back to India to live in the Tibetan community in Norbulinka for two years.

“My book, Namma, was a memoir about living in Tibet and was dedicated to our nomadic family who changed my life. Being close to nature – whether it is in a yak hair tent in the grasslands, or among the golden roofed temples at the foot of the Himalayas, or on a hill above a marshy river valley – inspires my sense of wonder and respect for the belief in living landscapes.”

Annie Lord – ‘Cyst-Hand-Spine’

Annie Lord

Annie Lord is an artist and writer based in Edinburgh. Lord has been commissioned to create a range of environmental public artworks including an exploration of river pollution and fish migration for Forth Rivers Trust and a network of 160 apple trees planted across coastal Edinburgh. A book telling the story of that project, The Neighbouring Orchard, was written and illustrated by Lord and published in September 2022.

She has performed at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Science Festival and Hidden Door Festival and in summer 2022 was artist in residence at Kinghorn Ecology Centre. She studied sculpture at the Slade and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing (nonfiction) at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Ruby Martin – ‘A Review of Big Boys in One Impossible Act’

Ruby Martin

Ruby Martin is a working-class writer and performer originally from Cornwall now based in Manchester. She is currently working on her first non-fiction book Fussy, a memoir about food that is coming out in summer 2023 with Saturday Boy Books.

Patricia Newbery – ‘To the man sitting in the row behind…’

Patricia Newbery is a British-Irish translator and editor. She has lived abroad for much of her adult life, for the last 20 years or so in Cairo: “I’m based in Cairo, which influences my writing life in that it isn’t easy to get hold of the books and magazines I’m interested in promptly, and I don’t have the opportunity to go to readings.

“I don’t know why I added that last bit because, having been to a lot of readings when I lived in Paris, and passing through London, most are dire. (Just occasionally, of course …) Obviously, if one were looking for an English-language writing community, Cairo isn’t the ideal place, not that that bothers me particularly.”

She also humbly told us about a piece of advice for new writers: “I wouldn’t presume to give young writers any advice, but, for the benefit of other anxious souls, I will repeat a, to me, helpful admonition I came across a few years ago: Don’t get it right, get it written.”

Peter Scales – ‘A house fire’

Peter Scales

Peter Scales lives in Derby. He is a retired university lecturer in Education. He graduated from the University of Bath with a BSc in Social Sciences in 1980 and completed a MA in Education in 2010 at the University of Derby. As a retirement project he undertook a MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2019. Having written successful textbooks on teaching and learning in higher and further education, he decided to try something more ‘creative’ in retirement, with a particular interest in life writing.

He tells us about his life and how he came to creative writing: “I am a retired university lecturer in education and teacher training. A little background might help: I left school at 15 with no qualifications. I became a mature student at 25, graduating from the University of Bath in 1980.

“All of my subsequent working life I taught in further and higher education. Because of this I am a passionate advocate of lifelong learning and opportunities for people in later life. This is one of the reasons I undertook an MA in Creative writing as a retirement project, graduating when I was 69.”

Susan Wigmore – ‘Balancing Act’

Susan Wigmore

Retirement has given Susan the space for reinvention and she takes great delight in finding herself – in her sixties – an emerging writer. She walks, canoes and writes enthusiastically, and enjoys challenging herself in all three. Her work has been published, placed or listed by Fractured Lit, Globe Soup, Reflex Fiction, Oxford Flash Fiction, The Daily Telegraph Short Story Competition, Fish Flash Fiction and Sci Po, an initiative exploring the creative common ground between science and poetry. She is currently working on a novella-in-flash.

She revealed a part of her writing process: “Words first go down on paper. I love the beauty of notebooks and of pencil on a blank page. For me, this physicality frees up an idea that’s been dancing around in my head. What I write might be rubbish but it shows me the way to go. I then work on my laptop, slowly and carefully, which often means small word counts. Perhaps this is why I love flash fiction and its exquisite crafting of language. Throwing it all at the page is fine; it’s just not my style. And that’s fine too.”

The winners of the 2022 QuietManDave Prize be announced at an awards ceremony hosted at Manchester Metropolitan’s Grosvenor East building on October 27.

About the author / 

Samuel Ethan Jolly

Born and raised in Manchester (UK), Samuel grew up surrounded by markers of the Industrial Revolution: flats carved out of old Workhouses, murky canals, and grand chimneys. The Peaks and Lakes, of Derbyshire and Cumbria are all added to Samuel's mixed rural and urban experience of the North. He is an avid reader, writer, photographer, and general enjoyer of fantasy, sci-fi, history and many more.

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