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And the winners of The Moth Short Story Prize 2020 are …


Frankenstein’s Monster is Drunk, and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences by Owen Booth (1st Prize, €3,000)

Owen Booth has had stories published in The White Review, The Moth, Gorse, Hotel Magazine, 3AM Magazine and Best British Short Stories 2018, among others. His first book, What We’re Teaching Our Sons, described by the Guardian as a ‘comic oddity with bite’ was shortlisted for the 2019 McKitterick Prize. His debut novel, The All-True Adventures (And Rare Education) of The Daredevil Daniel Bones, has just been published by 4th Estate.

‘The Moth Short Story Prize is hugely important to me – coming third in the competition in 2017 was a massive boost to my writing. If pushed, I would probably say I consider myself a short story writer before everything else. Short stories give writers and readers the opportunity to experiment with all kinds of approaches and effects that might not work over the sustained length of a novel, and sometimes to talk about things that we might not be able to approach in any other way. The Moth is a fantastic champion of that.’ 

Judge’s comment:
‘This felt like a winner from the very first sentence – “They’d dug him out of the glacier in 1946, pulled him out of the crevasse where he’d crawled after his Hollywood career had given up the ghost.” The language is confident. The idea is unexpected, eccentric and entertaining. And I could sense, already, the generosity which would underpin the whole story …
 
There are surreal details which work perfectly for reasons I can’t quite articulate (the monster harbours a deep and abiding hatred for an armoire in the woman’s house), and there are details which will stay with me for a long time (the monster searching for bodies in the wreckage of a crashed passenger plane on the snow-covered mountainside above the village, “the stink of jet fuel and perfume on everything”). And there is a brilliant coda in which their ten children (unmentioned up to this point), all of whom miscarried or were stillborn, are lovingly described, along with the lives they would have gone on to lead.’
 
You can read Owen’s story in the Irish Times.
 

Year of the Pig by Gabriel Smith (2nd Prize, a week at Circle of Misse plus €250 travel stipend) 

Gabriel Smith is 25 and from London, but currently lives in Venice. His fiction has previously appeared in The Moth, New York Tyrant Magazine, The Barely South Review and Thought Catalog. He writes about boxing for Hobart too. His agent is currently shopping around his first novel, ‘Dead Parents’.  
 
Judge’s comment:
‘This slender story is an object lesson in brevity and understatement. A woman is on holiday. She is thinking of writing a story about a woman who is terrified of people with red hair. There is a parade, there is a pool, there is a children’s book about Greek myths, there is an over-sized T-shirt bearing the words, “2019: YEAR OF THE PIG”.  Just like the landscape in which it is set, the story is full of bright light, hard lines and empty space.
 
‘Many writers of short stories, knowing that they have only a few pages at their disposal, try too hard: too much emotion; too many events; too many words. They paint in all the colours for fear that the reader will not get the picture. This story does exactly the opposite. It trusts the reader, which in turn makes the writer – and the writing – seem confident.
 
‘I still don’t know precisely what is happening in the story – or beyond the edges of the story – but the fact that I’m still wondering is a sign of its quality.’
 
 
Going Places by Natalie Southworth (3rd Prize, €1,000) 
Natalie Southworth was born in the UK and now lives in Montreal. Her short stories have won the Brighton Short Story Prize and have been shortlisted for The New Quarterly’s Peter Hinchcliffe short fiction award, the Federation of BC Writer’s short fiction contest, and Prairie Fire’s short fiction prize in Canada. She has an MFA from the University of British Columbia, where she was a member of the editorial board for Prism International. ‘Going Places’ is part of a collection of short stories that is close to completion.

Judge’s comment:
‘This story deftly handles a subject – two teenage girls, Dale and Yvette, bored with small town life and coming to terms with their sexuality – which could go very wrong in less skilful hands. After Dale’s mother dies, Dale’s father slowly falls to pieces and the house is gradually taken over by Dale, Yvette and the boys Dale invites round. Dale understands how much power they have over these boys but not the dangers of using it. There is violence but it is neither manipulative nor sensational and the characters are as messy and conflicted as actual human beings, which is something all realism should aim for.’
 
All three stories are published in the autumn 2020 issue of The Moth, available to purchase here.


THE JUDGE

The judge for The Moth Short Story Prize 2020 was Mark Haddon. Haddon’s recent collection of stories, The Pier Falls, was lauded as ‘pure genius’ by Douglas Coupland, while Max Porter described his recent novel, The Porpoise, as a ‘full-throttle blast of storytelling mastery’. Haddon’s worldwide bestseller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, won seventeen literary prizes and is now an acclaimed stage play. You can get some insight into what Mark was looking for in a short story in this short video.



ABOUT THE PRIZE

Every year, a single author is asked to anonymously judge The Moth Short Story Prize, choosing three winning stories from entries submitted worldwide. 

The winner receives €3,000, with the runners-up receiving a week-long stay at the wonderful Circle of Misse plus €250, and €1,000 respectively.  

Previous judges include Martina Evans, John Boyne, Donal Ryan, Belinda McKeon, Mike McCormack, Kevin Barry & Kit de Waal.

The three winning stories appear in the autumn issue of The Moth

With thanks to Circle of Misse for the superb second prize of a week-long writing retreat in France and a travel stipend of €250. Their house rests on the banks of the Thouet River (a tributary of the Loire), ‘thouet’ being the ancient Gallic word for ‘tranquil’. 

Call 00 353 87 2657251 or email enquiries@themothmagazine.com for more details