I’m amazed and delighted to have won this year’s Willesden Herald Short Story Prize.

My story, ‘Ward’, is about a young girl who gets very ill and how it changes her.

You can read it and the other nominated stories by buying the anthology which is a bargain at £5.99 (incl. postage)- the best place to buy it is here.

An extract:

She’d never had so many presents. Flowers, magazines, teddy bears and balloons, a poster of two puppies wedged in a boot. Sandra was the only visitor who didn’t bring a gift. Her presence was confusing, because she and Emily weren’t friends. Emily wondered if Sandra liked her the way she liked her classmate Maxine: quietly, from an awed distance, content to sit two rows behind. After ten minutes she noticed the way Sandra’s eyes returned to the needle in her arm, the IV line, the slowly shrinking bag. She asked if Emily was in pain, if she was going to have an operation. She wanted to tell everyone about her dying classmate.



Pushcart Prize nomination


I’m pleased to say that I have been nominated for a a Pushcart Prize for my story ‘Amy’, which appeared in New Short Stories 3. I still have a few copies of the anthology, which you can buy by sending a paypal payment of £6 (includes P + P) to

Bridport prize shortlist


A story of mine entitled ‘The False River’ has been shortlisted for the Bridport prize.

Whilst this is all very nice, please do not confuse this with me having a) won anything or b) being in contention for anything. The Bridport ‘shortlist’ is actually about 80 people long. The real shortlist is the 13 people who are still in contention for the prize itself. Being shortlisted for the Bridport prize is one of the boxes that short story writers like to check, especially in their bios.

Willesden Herald competition


The Willesden Herald short story competition is now open, and worth entering for several reasons.

Firstly, in addition to three prize-winners, they put out an anthology that features the top 10 stories, so unlike many other competitions, there’s a chance of publication even if you’re not in the top 3 (which I wasn’t last year).

Secondly, though you have to pay to enter this year (as opposed to the previous years, when it was free), it’s only £3, far less than competitions like the Bridport prize (about which I should also like to say that no one who places highly in it seems to be ever heard from again).

Thirdly, if we have even a passing interest in having any sort of literary culture that does not revolve around celebrity-written memoir or novels, we’re going to have do some work ourselves. Which means buying literary magazines and supporting small presses, not dutifully, or because we feel we should, but because there’s a lot of good work out there which will otherwise be ignored (especially if, as Mr James Kelman said earlier this week, it falls outside the more heavily-marketed genres).

Dog of the Day

‘Dog of the Day’, as the phrase suggests, is a competition which aims to decide which of the dogs encountered during a given day (whether they be few or many) is most deserving of praise (and of course, the coveted title). It is certainly not an opportunity to engage in mawkish dribbling over pictures of cute pooches:




‘Dog of the Day’, by contrast, is a far more rigorous endeavor, one bound by codes evolved through generations of practice (my father, and his father, and his father before that). Whilst some of these are matters of taste (and conscience), others can be more clearly expressed:

  • the assessor should have ‘met’ (i.e. interacted with, and preferably touched) the nominated dog. This, however, is not a mandatory requirement. Most experienced dog-assessors can recall occassions when it was, if you like, ‘Dog of the Day’-at-first-sight. A Mr B. Morris of Cambridgeshire (one of the most promising young assessors in a region long known for its keen eyes) has written to remind me of a fine morning in April when he and I, and several chums, whilst en route to the continent, spotted a dog with an inordinately long pole in its mouth, at least the length of a well-nourished man. The animal brandished this item with such gusto and skill that it immediately called to mind the villainous character in the much-loved motion picture Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Though nominations were nominally kept open for the rest of the day, no one who had witnessed this remarkable dog ventured to suggest any other candidate.
  • the assessor should be able to provide a full description of the nominated dog (preferably written and corroborated by at least 2 witnesses between the ages of 16 and 65- experience suggests that many of those outside this age range are prone to non-useful assessments like “He was so cute!” and “Just like a baby!”) including, but not limited to information such as: breed; age; disposition; presence of distinguishing coat, leash, or collar; whether the nominated dog had a stick, ball, plastic bottle or other such ‘toy’ in its possession; what the dog was doing when encountered; what it did after it had been encountered, including how it reacted to the departure of the assessor; any comments (for example, regarding the dog’s name) made by the dog’s human (aka, but not equivalent to ‘owner’) regarding the dog.
  • When assessing a dog, be aware of your own biases, whether they be for short hair or long, smooth hair or fluffy, big dogs, little dogs, dogs that jump up or roll over, dogs that bark, whine or make grunting sounds that more closely approximate a pig.
  • On days when either no dogs are ‘met’, or when the dog or dogs that have been ‘met’ are not deemed sufficiently meritorious (though they be sufficient in many other ways (friendly, non-biting etc.)), the accolade ‘Dog of the Day’ need not (and should not) be awarded.
  • When trying to reach a decision on which of the nominated dogs should be ‘Dog of the Day’, particular consideration should be given to unique and charming features. For example, yesterday I ‘met’ an Alsatian whose back legs were strapped into a supporting frame with wheels, enabling it to run at still impressive speeds using its front paws. The dog seemed perfectly happy, as did its companion, a mongrel who looked to have a fair bit of wolfhound in him. There was no suggestion that the mongrel looked down on, or felt sorry for, the somewhat disabled dog (or vice versa). What I suppose I am trying to convey is that the clearest candidates for ‘Dog of the Day’ have the sense of a larger story around them.

But ultimately the process of choosing is more an art than a skill. One learns, through sucessive encounters, to hone one’s perception so that even the briefest interaction- a stroke of the head outside a shop; being approached while in the park -is sufficient to allow the assessor to perceive the signs of character that mark a dog as being, indisputably, a true ‘Dog of the Day.’


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