A new literary talent from Edge Hill University has been shortlisted for a prestigious international writing award.
Mother-of-four and PhD student Carys Bray has been nominated for the Scott Prize for Short Stories, an annual prize for a first collection of short stories by a single author.
Carys, who won the MA category of the Edge Hill Short Story Prize in 2010 and has had stories published in various journals and magazines, said: “It’s so exciting for me to be shortlisted for this international prize. It’s a great honour and I’m keeping everything crossed.”
Her collection, Sweet Home, took about 18 months to write the stories though it took several attempts to start.
“It began when I was about nine and I spent hours writing Famous Five inspired adventures starring myself and other members of Mr Gibb’s Year 5 class,” said Carys. “It almost began when my older children were toddlers and I bought a notepad which I optimistically took it with me when I worked night shifts in a children’s home. But it began in earnest when I started my MA in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University. Some of the stories began as coursework assignments, some as competition entries and I wrote others purely because it gave me pleasure to write them. After my MA I continued writing until I had enough material to edit and organise into a collection.
“The driving element of the book is a preoccupation with family, and with the things that go wrong, and right, when people live together. I remember during my childhood there was a sign in the hallway of my parents’ house which said, ‘No Other Success Can Compensate for Failure in the Home.’ It took me a long time to realise that every home is full of failures and successes, and that failure is not always bad; it’s just a side-effect of trying. While my collection explores a variety of dark familial ‘failures,’ I hope it is also funny and ultimately optimistic.”
Carys, from Southport, had to deal with a number of challenges in her life when she was writing the collection. One of her four children was struggling with late development issues, she was trying to renovate their decrepit house and, having recently left the strict Mormon faith of her childhood, she was coming to terms with the loss of the community and friends she had grown up with.
She said: “But wonderful things were also happening. I was finally managing to organise my life to include time to write, I was beginning to feel happy with what I was writing, and it was incredibly exciting to be part of a writing community and to make new friends with shared interests. I started blogging about writing and at the end of 2010 I began to help co-ordinate the Edge Hill Short Story Prize.
“My tutors, Ailsa Cox, Robert Sheppard and Daniele Pantano, encouraged me to submit stories to journals and magazines, something I’d never done before; and people seemed to like them. And now I’ve been nominated for this prize, which is wonderful.”
Carys, who praises her husband and family for their support throughout her writing is now working on a PhD and a novel, which is about family, doubt, faith, grief and an absent miracle.
She said: “Writing is a part of my daily routine. I write standing up in the kitchen, at the dining room table, sitting on the sofa and occasionally at my new desk which still seems almost too nice to clutter.”
The Scott Prize winners will be announced in April and will receive synchronous publication in paperback in the UK and Australia and in paperback in the USA by Salt and will be issued with a standard publishing contract from Salt.