Pupils from three North West schools have been given an exciting opportunity to judge one of the categories in this year’s prestigious Edge Hill University Short Story Prize.

The unique accolade, now in its fourth year, has three categories: the main literary award of £5,000; the £1,000 Readers’ Prize; and a new award which will reward one of the stars of Edge Hill University’s MA Creative Writing course.

For the first time ever, groups of A-level English students from St John Plessington, Ormskirk School and Xaverian College will choose the winner of the Readers’ Prize. They will use the same list of five diverse writers who have been shortlisted for the UK’s only literary award that recognises a published collection of short stories. They will join the high-profile main judging panel this year including: 2009 winner Chris Beckett, Professor Tanya Byron, writer, psychologist and Edge Hill University’s Chancellor; and Katharine Fry, Trade Buying Manager at Blackwell.

The shortlist is:

  • Jeremy Dyson, The Cranes that Build Cranes, Little Brown
  • Jane Feaver, Love Me Tender, Harvill Secker
  • A.L. Kennedy, What Becomes, Jonathan Cape
  • Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Nude, Salt Publishing
  • Robert Shearman, Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, Big Finish

It is the first time that the University has invited students to judge this category in a bid to engage young people in literature – and particularly the short story genre – in an innovative way.

Prize co-ordinator Dr Ailsa Cox, Reader in Creative Writing and English at Edge Hill University, said: “This is an exciting new element to the Short Story Prize because it makes the competition even more inclusive and it will hopefully extend the genre of literature that pupils are used to reading. It will not only broaden their horizons but it may also encourage them to start writing short stories themselves. You find that most writers are avid readers in their early years and so for the students to be a part of the judging panel in this prestigious competition could be the catalyst which  inspires them to start writing. ”

To build on the success of the competition’s inclusiveness and to help celebrate the University’s 125th anniversary, a new category has been introduced to acknowledge one of the rising talents on the Institution’s MA Creative Writing course. The idea is to open the competition to new stars, encourage this form of writing and help them recognise their creativity as they try to decide ‘what kind of writer’ they are.

Ailsa added: “Uniquely, the Short Story Prize is awarded for collections of short stories, rather than individual narratives, and is open to all genres – from science fiction to literary texts. In the past the short story has been considered the poor relation to the novel which is why it is important to encourage writers to try different styles. The prize shows that it is possible to make a literary career out of writing short stories because people are getting fed up with being offered the same stuff from novels. The short story is a refreshing, electrifying alternative, which our awards highlight.”

The winners of all the categories will be announced in July  at an awards ceremony  at Blackwell Charing Cross bookstore in London who are also sponsors of the award.