Now in its sixth year, it is the only UK only award that recognises excellence in a published collection of short stories and has attracted established names competing alongside relative newcomers. This year's event attracted a record number of entries from a diverse range of writers, with interest from a wide range of mainstream publishers and independent presses.
It's the first time that the shortlisting has resulted in an all-female finale. The authors nominated are:
- A.J Ashworth - Somewhere Else, Or Even Here (Salt Publishing).
- Tessa Hadley - Married Love (Cape).
- Sarah Hall - The Beautiful Indifference (Faber).
- Zoe Lambert - The War Tour (Comma).
- Rowena Macdonald - Smoked Meat (Flambard).
"We're delighted by the sheer quality and diversity of the shortlist. A good short story is intense and exciting, sometimes sad and often very comic. The five collections all have these vital ingredients - so I predict that judging will be difficult this year."
The judging panel includes the 2011 winner Graham Mort, also known as one of contemporary poetry's finest practitioners, alongside writer and critic Suzi Feay, and Professor Rhiannon Evans, former Pro Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University.
The prize has three categories:
- The main literary award of £5,000. A panel of judges will choose the winner from a shortlist of five collections to be announced in May.
- The £1,000 Readers' Choice, chosen from the same shortlist.
- A £500 student prize, which will reward one of the stars of Edge Hill University's MA Creative Writing course.
Short biographies for the five writers are as follows.
- A.J Ashworth. This is the Lancashire-born and former journalist's debut collection of short stories, which also won Salt Publishing's Scott Prize 2011. She has previously had stories published in magazines such as Tears in the Fence, The Warwick Review, and The View From Here. She has also been longlisted/shortlisted in competitions including the Willesden Herald International Short Story Competition, the Short Fiction Competition and Fish Short Story Prize.
- Tessa Hadley. Living in Cardiff, Tessa teaches Literature and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. She reviews regularly for the London Review of Books and the Guardian and was shortlisted for The Story Award in the US. She has also been a judge for the IMPAC literary prize 2011 and for the BBC Short Story Award 2011. The contemporary novelist has been called one of the most gifted British writers
- Sarah Hall. The multi award-winning writer from Cumbria is the author of Haweswater, which won the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel, a Society of Authors Betty Trask Award, and a Lakeland Book of the Year prize. She has been featured in The Times 100 Best Books of the Decade and this is her first collection of short stories.
- Zoe Lambert. The Manchester-based writer lectures on the creative writing MA at Bolton and Edge Hill universities. She was the founder of cult Manchester literature night, Verberate, and is a member of the board of the North West Short Story Network. She is also finishing her first novel and is an active campaigner for the rights of asylum seekers.
- Rowena Macdonald. Growing up in the West Midlands, after graduation, she lived in Montreal working as a waitress, bartender, life-model and cleaner. She now lives in London and works at the House of Commons. Her stories have appeared in anthologies published by Serpent's Tail, Roast Books and The Do-Not Press. She has won two Asham Awards, the 2010 Exeter Writers competition and the 2008 Writers Inc competition. This shortlisted first short story collection is based on her experiences waitressing while in Montreal.