Category Archives: Awards

Edna O’Brien wins 2011 Frank O’Connor Short Story Award

Congratulations to Edna O’Brien, winner of the 2011 Frank O’Connor Short Story Award.

Since her debut novel The Country Girls Edna O’Brien has written over twenty works of fiction along with a biography of James Joyce and Lord Byron. She is the recipient of many awards including the Irish PEN Lifetime Achievement Award, the American National Art’s Gold Medal and the Ulysses Medal. Born and raised in Co. Clare she has lived in London for many years.

 Articles and reading guides related to Edna O’Brien at the Guardian

Interview with Edna O’Brien in the Paris Review

O’Brien at Faber

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Sean O’Faolain and Hennessy Emerging Fiction Awards

Congratulations to P.G. O’Connor, winner of the 2011 Sean O’Faolain Award for his story The Haggard. Sean O’Faolain Award judge, Ian Wild, said that he chose The Haggard as the winning story because of it’s distinctive voice, original prose, earthy characterisation, compelling storytelling, clever use of recurring motifs and narrative drive.

And further congratulations go to Eileen Casey, winner of the 2011 Hennessy Emerging Fiction Award for her story “Macaw”. Eileen Casey’s fiction has also received The Maria Edgeworth Award, Listowel Writers’ Week Short Fiction Prize and The Cecil Day Lewis Award. To date, her stories have been published in the Moth, Verbal Arts Magazine and the Sunday Tribune, among others.

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The RTE Francis McManus Award

The competition, which was founded to commemorate the writer and broadcaster, Francis Mac Manus, has been a source of encouragement and inspiration to thousands of emerging writers over the years and continues to offer a platform for the best of new Irish writing.

This year’s Francis McManus Award received 810 entries which were eventually whittled down to a shortlist of 25 short stories by panelists Molly McCloskey, John MacKenna and Alan Titley. The three finalists are:

  • Austin Duffy from Dudalk, the Francis McManus Award winner with Orca (read by Diarmuid Murtagh)
  • Patrick Griffin from Kilkenny City, in 2nd place with Platform 17, Grand Central Station (read by Susan Zalouf)
  • Andrew Fox from Skerries, Co. Dublin, in 3rd place with Seven Steps Home – (read by David Croakly)

Congratulations to the finalists for demonstrating that the short story and literary tradition celebrated in Ireland is well and truly alive.

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An interview with Frank O’Connor Award judge, Chris Power

How did you end up judging this competition and what approach are you using? How do you sift through the entries and come to a final decision?

Pat got in touch via my editor at the Guardian. I’ve been writing a series called A Brief Survey of the Short Story for the last few years, which considers a different short story writer each month. When he contacted me my piece on Joyce had just been published. That had the biggest response of any edition thus far, so maybe that’s what brought me to his attention. You’ve made me curious now. I should ask him!

My approach is very simple: to read all the books and then pick the one I think is best. I’m sure that’s the route followed by the majority of people judging a prize. Some prize panels do seem, to outsiders at least, to have some sort of agenda, which often involves, say, reversing the prior character of its winners. The Booker seems to have fallen prey to this a little bit, meaning a book that might have won it in year x won’t even get on the shortlist in year y. That seems unfortunate to me, as the aim of a literary prize should be simply to reward the book the judges think the best of those eligible. But as far as the Frank O’Connor Award goes we were left to journey through the longlist in splendid isolation.

We got together in Cork earlier in the summer and agreed on four books straight away. There were some disagreements on which books should fill the remaining places, but guns stayed holstered and knives sheathed. The resulting shortlist is one I think we’re all very happy with.

What is it you’re looking for in the winning entry at this year’s Cork International Short Story festival?

Nothing more than I hope or wish for from any collection when I begin reading it: compelling, convincing writing that bears, in fact invites, re-reading. I believe that much good and all great writing transcends a reader’s particular prejudices or tastes; while opinions of an artwork are never objective, the quality of certain books is persuasive. They impress themselves on you.

It’s also important, I think, that collections are viewed in their totality. A few of this year’s entries included good stories alongside much less good writing. A successful collection, although it will typically contain certain stories that are more impressive than others, should also have a degree of consistency running through it.

The short story is often overlooked as a genre – do you think there should be more importance placed on short story writing and how could we go about implementing this?

I’d love to say I have an answer to the latter part of your question! Unless you go back to the days of the Saturday Evening Post, when Fitzgerald might earn $4000 for a story (which was, of course, exceptional), I think the short story is perennially overlooked. To the point, in fact, where it’s almost redundant to point it out. I know lots of readers who never even consider reading short stories, much as a lot of otherwise well-read people never read poetry.

But while it’s apparently very difficult to interest publishers in short story collections they do still publish them, albeit in modest numbers. And even then some pretty average, if not flat-out bad, collections make it into print. Short stories are very difficult things to write well, and I don’t see any evidence that there are reams of great collections out there that can’t get published. On the other hand there might be potentially great writers of short stories who don’t even bother, because all the light and heat surrounds the novel. But the problem doesn’t seem to be with the supply so much as the demand.

What do awards like this mean to Irish writers and writers on an international scale?

I’d hope they mean the same to all shortlisted writers and the eventual winners: an increased awareness of their work and a larger audience. I think all literary prizes have some value, but given the short story’s more marginal status it’s all the more important that prizes like this exist. The discussions and disagreements they engender are in many ways just as important as the awarding of the prize itself.

How do you see e-publishing affecting the future of the short story?

As seems to be the case with a lot of people at the moment, I don’t really know. I’m not persuaded by the argument that draws a parallel with iTunes, i.e. that novels are albums and short stories could be songs, and that owners of eReaders are going to download a William Trevor story to read on their morning commute. I agree with Lorrie Moore, who has said that short stories “require concentration and seriousness. The busier people get, the less time they have to read a story.” You can read novels in fifteen minute bursts, she says, but you can’t read short stories like that. That’s very true. The idea it’s a perfect form for readers with little time is completely false.

Do you have a particular favourite short story or short story writer; one that you always return to?

In 1993 I bought two collections, Forty Stories by Donald Barthelme and Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, that sold me on the short story forever. Not long before that I’d read The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber at school, and I often re-read Hemingway – the early stories in particular. It was only years later that I came to read Chekhov, who I believe is the greatest short story writer to have lived. The Russians can’t believe he’s better known for his plays in the Anglophone world, and I agree. I’ve actually resisted reading everything of his because I value there being still more to experience for the first time.

Others I wouldn’t want to be without include Kafka, Borges, Schulz, Gallant, Gogol, Walser, Munro, Carver. This is a very partial list. I could go on and on.

One of the great gifts of short stories is the opportunity they offer, purely in terms of time, to return to them again and again. Thus any list of favourites is mutable, as something that left little impression the first time around might later reveal itself as something else entirely. But I don’t want to cop out of answering the question, so I’ll say that Joyce’s The Dead and Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich are probably as close as you can come to perfection in the form.

Thank you, Chris, for agreeing to this interview and I look forward to finding out the result!

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25 things about me by Susan ‘Brave Beauty’ Zelouf

1. I think I’m gorgeous.
2. My nickname as a little girl was Pants Down, because I’d take them off at the drop of a hat.
3. I used to have a collection of marble eggs that I kept in a brown paper bag.
4. I wish I’d never seen Requiem for a Dream.
5. I’m completely fake and extremely flammable.
6. I am hypersensitive to smell, but like a dog, smells interest me.
7. I’ve been wearing a variation of the same black outfit since I was 12.
8. I have to have a getaway vehicle; my top two skills are riding a bike and driving a car.
9. I only have good-looking friends.
10. My therapist says I don’t have an eating disorder, I just need a personal assistant.
11. I don’t have a therapist.
12. My other nickname as a little girl was Sad Sack.
13. I struggle with depression, although most people who know me or think they do don’t see it.
14. My favorite view is my husband’s face.
15. Most of my family is rabidly Republican, so I must be a changeling.
16. I love to dance more than anything.
17. I go weak in the presence of alpha males.
18. My perfume is a discontinued Givenchy scent first given to me by a celebrated Polish film director, who’d become intoxicated by it back in the day, as he danced with a Playboy bunny after a win at Cannes.
19. I often dream about what my children would’ve looked like.
20. I was a fast baby, and there’s nothing I hate more than being held back.
21. I wear lipstick to bed.
22. I am prone to inappropriate crushes.
23. Included in my funeral playlist: Eartha Kitt singing C’est Si Bon and Jobim’s Waters of March, played and sung by Elis Regina.
24. For my last supper, I’ll have the veal chop and chips at Marco Pierre White’s on Dawson Street, with a glass of Valpolicella.
25. I’m good at just about anything I choose to do, but I’m afraid of greatness.

Susan ‘Brave Beauty’ Zelouf
www.voicetattoo.com
www.zeloufandbell.com

Susan Zelouf will be reading “Platform 17 – Grand Central Station” by Patrick Griffin from Kilkenny City. the second prize story in the RTÉ Francis MacManus Award, on Friday, 16th September at 5pm in The Ballroom, Metropole Hotel, Cork

About Susan Zelouf…

American voice artist, writer and designer Susan Zelouf graduated from the State University of New York, College at Purchase with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts and Film. Miss Zelouf lived and worked in New York, Rome, Los
Angeles and Belfast before settling in Ireland with her husband, furnituremaker Michael Bell. A freelance programme maker and frequent contributor to RTE radio, credits include a weekly slot on The Monday 7.02 Show, Sunday Miscellany, The Arts Show, The Sunday Show, Inside Out, Off the Shelf, Round Midnight, Sound Stories, Another Time Another Space, contributor to the
Prix Italia winning documentary Dreaming of Fat Men, as well as compiling and presenting her own summer series’ – Women in the Spotlight and The Susan and Flo Show. Her documentary Jew was broadcast as part of Tim Lehane’s series Full Duck No Dinner. She’s written for The Living Word, Hi Noon (writer-in-residence), The Irish Times, and the Sunday Miscellany anthology.
Miss Zelouf featured in Crazy Dog Audio Theatre series Big Big Space, animated films and television series’ including Freefonix on CBBC, the radio play The Deathday Party, and narrated The Gates, Bumpwoman, Guitar and Platform 17: Grand Central Station. Her voice may be heard on several film soundtracks and she co-wrote an award-winning horror film. She wrote and produced the musical theatre piece In Bed and Bored at the River Club for the Dublin
Fringe Festival.

As a vocalist, Zelouf has appeared in clubs internationally. Catch her Supper Club set, an eclectic mix with sounds from Bacharach to Bono, ballroom to Brazilian, acapella to Arabic pop.

In preproduction, Intimate Apparel is a blend of song and spoken word, featuring some of the many provocative pieces Susan Zelouf has written for RTE radio over the past several years. She brings these essays on life to life in her new hour-long show; hotels, angels, American football, shopping, magazines, percolators, thecolour red, cactii, swans and marriage, buying art… Miss Zelouf
riffs on the beauty and absurdity of just about anything, and sings to God.

 

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