SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED FOR THE 2018 SUNDAY TIMES EFG SHORT STORY AWARD
18th Mar 2018
American writers have swept the board in the six-strong shortlist for the 2018 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, which includes five women and one male author. Three of the six shortlisted stories have been previously published in The New Yorker. At £30,000 for the winner, this is the world’s richest and most prestigious prize for an English-language single short story and regularly attracts some of the finest literary talent from around the world. Past winners and shortlisted authors have included Junot Diaz, Hilary Mantel, CK Stead, Emma Donoghue, Madeleine Thien, David Vann, Colum McCann, Anthony Doerr, Edith Pearlman, Petina Gappah, Elizabeth Strout, Yiyun Li and Ali Smith.
The six shortlisted writers and the titles of their short stories are:
DO-OVER – Curtis Sittenfeld
F.A.Q.S – Allegra Goodman
HERMAN MELVILLE, VOLUME 1 – Victor Lodato
LIFE ON EARTH – Molly McCloskey
PEANUTS AREN’T NUTS – Courtney Zoffness
THE METAL BOWL – Miranda July
One of the great strengths of the award has always been the mix of well-known and previously unknown names on its shortlists, helped by the prize’s tradition of ‘blind’ reading until the longlist stage. 2018 is no different and sees the emergence of an exciting new voice in Courtney Zoffness, who has yet to publish her first book, whilst more established names are represented by Allegra Goodman, the author of five novels and two collections of short stories, and writer and filmmaker Miranda July, whose collection of stories, ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’, has been published in twenty-three countries. Molly McCloskey has published both fiction and non-fiction and has combined a career in writing with working in the field of international development. The bestselling author of ‘Sisterland’, Curtis Sittenfeld, will publish her debut collection of short stories ‘You Think It, I’ll Say It’ (from which her shortlisted story Do-Over is taken) in May 2018, while US writer Victor Lodato returns to the shortlist for a second consecutive year. His novel, ‘Edgar and Lucy’, was recently published in the UK.
Now in its ninth year, the Prize retains its reputation for thought-provoking themes. The stories in this year’s shortlist tackle the subjects of pornography, the abuse of power and Trumpism. In Miranda July’s story, The Metal Bowl, a woman’s inner life is animated by the memory of an amateur poronographic shoot she did in her youth, while Courtney Zoffness’s story explores the relationship between a high school student and her over-attentive tutor who is arrested for sexual predation. In Victor Lodato’s Herman Melville, Volume 1, a young homeless woman must fend for herself in a small Oregon town, while Allegra Goodman’s story F.A.Q.s explores the ambivalence and longing that college-aged children feel towards their parents. Curtis Sittenfeld’s story, Do-Over, describes the moment two old classmates meet shortly after the presidential election of Donald Trump, while Molly McCloskey’s story Life on Earth, set in Washington DC, tells the story of a brief affair between two people at opposite ends of the jostling political spectrum.
Reflecting upon the short story form, the shortlisted writers offer fascinating insights into the creative process. Courtney Zoffness says ‘as a literary writer who values diction and cadence as much as drama, I love working in a form that not only embraces such close attention to language, but depends on it.’ Miranda July relishes the way in which a short story ‘lends itself to experimentation and risk-taking’, while Curtis Sittenfeld stored up short stories for over a decade, revisiting the form in the summer of 2016. She says, ‘I returned to stories and I fell in love all over again with writing them – and with how bracing they can be.’
The judging panel for the Award has always been strong – past judges include AS Byatt, Sir Richard Eyre, Nick Hornby, Will Self, Sarah Waters and Sir Melvyn Bragg. This year’s is one of the most impressive yet and comprises esteemed short story writer and novelist Tessa Hadley; broadcaster and author Mark Lawson; critically acclaimed author and short story writer Petina Gappah; and journalist and bestselling novelist Sebastian Faulks. Andrew Holgate, Literary Editor of The Sunday Times, completes the line-up.
‘The lovely thing about a short story prize is that they’re short, so you can really get to discuss the stories in such detail: beginnings, endings, dialogue, rhythm, form. And of course judging the Sunday Times prize we had no idea who had written the stories, so no preconceptions: just the raw real thing, a reader’s encounter with the writer’s words on the page. Some passionate debates, a few regrets (probably everyone has one story which stayed on the longlist) but actually lots of consensus too. And we’re all delighted with our shortlist, each story so distinctive, intelligent, vividly alive.’
‘Looking up from our deliberations and realising that all six writers on our shortlist were American was a shock, but throughout the process we have simply been concerned with discovering the very best stories, and we’re very proud of the exceptional quality – and breadth – of this year’s shortlist. Writers from 40 different countries and every continent entered this year’s award, and there was a record of 810 eligible entries. The prize goes from strength to strength, and this fine list of six stories is proof of its reach and power.’
The winner will receive £30,000, and the five other shortlisted writers will each receive £1,000. The winner will be announced at a gala dinner at Stationers’ Hall in London on Thursday 26th April. The shortlisted stories will be published for readers on this site, one a day from Monday 19th March.