Want to get your writing published? Enter the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize!

When Rob Greer isn’t editing, contributing to publications, writing or performing poetry, he’s judging prizes. Hate speaks to the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize co-founder about his favourite entries from last year, the importance of promoting new writers and why you should apply. For more information on how to submit your writing, visit the Desperate Literature website.


What is the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize, and how did you get involved?

The Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize is an international prize for innovative short fiction based out of the bookshop Desperate Literature in Madrid, but with partners in London, Paris, New York, and a few other places. It's currently in its second year, and submissions of up to 2000 words are open until February 14th.

What are the goals of the prize?

The aim of the prize is to give as much support and development to as many writers as possible at an early stage in their writing careers. Traditionally with literary prizes the format is to have cash prizes for the winners and runners-up, but we found from our research that what people wanted was more visibility and access to what seem to be an impenetrable industry - by which I refer to publishing and the process of becoming a published author. So on top of cash prizes for our winner and runners-up, the winner also wins a stay in one of the most amazing artist residencies in Europe (the Civitella Ranieri residency in Italy) and a consultation with a literary agent, while all of our shortlisted writers are published in a nice riso printed collection by us, invited to read at events in Paris, Madrid and London, and we also partner with 5 literary journals who will be publishing various pieces from our shortlist throughout the year. On top of this, this year we have partnered with Casa Ana in Andalucia, who will be offering another residency to their pick of the remaining shortlist.

How did you get involved?

I got involved as I worked in the bookshop for a year and a half up until January 2018, and we conceptualised and launched the prize out of the bookshop when I was there in 2017. The prize is the brainchild of Terry Craven, Charlotte Delattre, Emily Westmoreland and myself. We all lived either in the back of, above, or very close to the shop at the time, and every week amazing writers would come through, stay with us, do an event and then leave, so originally it was an attempt to build on this incredible and exciting literary community that we had in Madrid.

Inside Desperate Literature. Photo Andrea Dorantes Otero.

Inside Desperate Literature. Photo Andrea Dorantes Otero.

Why should people apply?

Fundamentally we are four people who really give a shit about promoting new writing, and wherever you come in the shortlist we're going to try and give you as many opportunities and as much exposure as possible. We got some amazing feedback last year not just from the writers that made the shortlist, but also from literary agents, and from publishers that we really love and respect... This year we've tried to take on board what we learned from last year's prize, and to make the experience better for the writers. Everything is about giving as much opportunity to the writers as possible really.

To read testimonials from people involved last year, go here.

What kind of writing are you looking for?

The prize is open to all genres and styles, but I think that as a four we favour the experimental, the bold, the brave etc. Anything that feels vital really. We're also big fans of an old-fashioned ripping yarn, however.

Who will be judging?

The four of us that co-ordinate the prize judge the first round of submissions, where we whittle the stories down into a shortlist, which we then pass over to our judges panel, who pick the winners.

The judges panel this year comprises of:

  • Eley WIlliams, whose collection Attrib. and Other Stories (Influx Press) won both the Republic of Consciousness Award and James Tait Black Award last year

  • Claire-Louise Bennett, author of the collection Pond (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

  • Sam Riviere, author of various collections of poetry and fiction (mainly through Faber and Test Centre)

Basically, we've managed to get some of our favourite contemporary writers to judge this year, and we're not quite sure how we managed it.

First Prize winners can enjoy a week long residency at the  Civitella Ranieri Foundation  in Umbria.

First Prize winners can enjoy a week long residency at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbria.

What are the prizes?

1st place: €1000, a one week stay in the Civitella Ranieri artist residency in Italy, and a consultation with a New York literary agent who works for Foundry Literary + Media

2nd and 3rd place: €250

All shortlisted writers:

– Will be published in a truly smashing, limited edition Risograph booklet published by ourselves truly and launched at the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize Salon, Madrid

– Publication in 3:AM, Structo Magazine, Helter Skelter, The London Magazine, and The Second Shelf  (women only)

– Participation in Desperate Literature Prize Salons (Salons, no less) at Desperate Literature, Madrid; Shakespeare and Company, Paris; Burley Fisher, London; and The Second Shelf, London (women only)

– Limited edition prints by Ruda Studio

– Participation in the Rizoma Film Festival.

One shortlisted winner:

– Will be selected for a week’s residency at Casa Ana, Andalusia, as part of their Creative Writing Programme.

What were your favourite entries from last year?

So many, the judges were pretty unanimous about Ed Cottrell's story "Frailings", but I also really loved the work of Caitlin Ingham, Georgia Hazelgrove and Betsy Porritt... the level of originality of pretty much all of the writers was astounding though, and it's been a joy to see more work from them being published elsewhere since.

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