The winners of the second Manchester Fiction Prize were announced at a gala ceremony on Friday 14th October 2011.
Krishan Coupland from Southampton and Richard Hirst from Preston were the joint winners of the £10,000 first prize, announced at the event which took place at Chetham’s School of Music as part of the 2011 Manchester Literature Festival.
Chair of Judges Nicholas Royle, who is also Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at MMU, said: “We found ourselves with so many excellent stories that collectively we couldn’t bear to let go, we asked if we could increase the shortlist from six to eight… Our deliberations continued and a winner emerged, a story that seemed to punch a little harder in the stomach than the other seven… And then, another winner emerged. The rules allowed us to split the prize, but would they allow us to split it in such a way as to let one story edge in front, effectively creating a first prize and a second prize, the first time that this has happened in this competition? Yes, they would. And so we find ourselves with two winners tonight.”
Coupland took a first prize of £7,500 and Hirst was awarded £2,500 as runner-up.
Almost 1,900 entries from writers in more than 45 countries were received, each submitting a brand new short story of up to 3,000 words in length. The international reach of the competition was reflected in the short-list, with four UK-based finalists, three from the USA, and one from Canada.
The judges – authors John Burnside and Alison MacLeod completed the panel – were delighted with the overall standard of the work submitted.
Of the eight finalists, Coupland and Hirst were joined at the event by Garret Freymann-Weyr from the USA, Alex Preston from London and Bethany Rogers from Gateshead, who each read an extract from their short-listed stories. Nicole Cullen and Judith Turner-Yamamoto from the USA and Silvia Moreno-Garcia from Canada couldn’t be there, but a section of each of their pieces was read out by one of the judges.
Royle added that: “There may be two winners, but there are no losers here tonight” – and asked for a round of applause for all eight contenders. He said: “I have always believed that publishers are looking simultaneously for two things when reading submissions: a reason to carry on reading and a reason to stop reading. Of course you would prefer to find the former and I think I can speak for Alison and John when I say that the stories that jump out at you – those on our commended list and those written by the writers who stand here tonight and those other shortlisted authors who were unable to be here – do so the moment you start reading them.”
Established by Manchester Writing School Creative Director and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy in 2008, the Manchester Writing Competition celebrates the very best creative writing and acts as a launch pad for new writers. Previous short-listed writers have gone on to win other awards, appear at reading events and have their work published. Profits from the competition have enabled MMU to stage creative events and activities across the city. James Draper from the Manchester Writing School said: “It is important in the current climate that we turn towards commercial activities and adopt corporate modes in order to survive in the face of cuts, but it’s also extremely important that we maintain intellectual and artistic integrity – and projects like this do both, combining income generation with the seeking out and celebrating of excellent new creative work.”
The eight short-listed stories can be read in full on the Manchester Writing Competition website: www.manchesterwritingcompetition.co.uk/fiction.