The prestigious Edge Hill Short Story Prize has attracted a record number of entries, with interest from a wide range of mainstream publishers and independent presses.

A diverse range of writers from the literary world have entered their work in the 2012 awards.

Now in its sixth year, it is the only UK only award that recognises excellence in a published collection of short stories and has attracted established names competing alongside relative newcomers for the £5,000 main prize and £1,000 Readers’ Prize.

The long-list of 31 writers includes: Edna O’Brien, doyenne of Irish writers and winner of last year’s Frank O’Connor prize; Robert Shearman, a previous Readers’ Prize winner, who also writes for Dr Who; London-based Hanan Al-Shaykh, one of the leading contemporary women writers from the Arab world; and Welsh author Robert Minhinnick, shortlisted for this year’s Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award.

Prize co-ordinator Dr Ailsa Cox, Reader in Creative Writing and English at Edge Hill University, said: “This is the biggest and most eclectic long-list we’ve ever had, with a fantastic mix of voices and styles. Clearly, writers and their publishers are recognising the significance of this prize, unique in the British book world.

“The variety is matched by the very high standard of so many of these collections.  It is going to be very hard to winnow out a short-list of only five. I’m delighted that our own students at Edge Hill will be judging the Readers’ Prize this year because they are the prize-winning writers of the future.”

The shortlist will be revealed in May and the winners announced at an awards ceremony on 5th July at the Free Word Centre in London.

The judging panel this year includes the 2011 winner Graham Mort, also known as one of contemporary poetry’s finest practitioners, alongside writer and critic Suzi Feay, and Professor Rhiannon Evans, former Pro Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University.

The prize has three categories:

  • The main literary award of £5,000. A panel of judges will choose the winner from a short-list of five collections to be announced in May.
  • The £1,000 Readers’ Choice, chosen from the same shortlist.
  • A £500 student prize, which will reward one of the stars of Edge Hill University’s MA Creative Writing course.

Names on the long-list are as follows:

  • Nina Allan – The Silver Wind (Eibonvale). A regular contributor to Interzone and Black Static, and was short-listed for the 2010 British Fantasy Award in the Short Fiction category.
  • Hanan Al-Shaykh – One Thousand and One Nights (Bloomsbury). The Lebanese novelist, short-story writer and playwright, is one of the leading contemporary women writers in the Arab world. Some of her wok has been banned in parts of the Middle East.
  • Gaynor Arnold – Lying Together (Tindal Street Press). The former social worker was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2008 and the Orange Prize for Fiction 2009.
  • A.J Ashworth – Somewhere Else, Or Even Here (Salt Publishing). A prize-winning writer and this debut collection of short stories also won Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize 2011.
  • Neil Campbell – Pictures from Hopper (Salt Publishing). He has had numerous short stories and poems published in magazines.
  • Charles Christian – This is the Quickest Way Down (PROXIMA Publishing). He is the founding editor of Ink Sweat & Tears.
  • Stanley Donwood – Household Worms (Tangent Books). He is known for his close association with the British rock group Radiohead, having created all their album and poster art.
  • Catherine Eisner – Listen Close To Me (Salt Publishing). Her fictions have appeared regularly in a number of UK literary journals and she is an Associate of the Royal College of Art.
  • Stuart Evers – Ten Stories about Smoking (Picador). A former bookseller and editor, he now writes about books for the Guardian, Independent, New Statesman, Time Out and many other publications.
  • Orfhlaith Foyle – Somewhere in Minnesota (Arlen House). The writer and poet was born in Nigeria to Irish missionary parents. Living there as well as Kenya and Malawi has had a profound effect upon her writing.
  • Sue Gee – Last Fling (Salt Publishing). An acclaimed novelist and controversial winner of the 1997 Romantic Novel of the Year Award.
  • Tessa Hadley – Married Love (Cape). She reviews regularly for the London Review of Books and the Guardian and was short-listed for The Story Award in the US. She has also been a judge for the IMPAC literary prize 2011 and for the BBC Short Story Award 2011.
  • Sarah Hall – The Beautiful Indifference (Faber). The multi award-winning writer has been featured in The Times 100 Best Books of the Decade.
  • Beda Higgins – Chameleon (Iron Press). The part-time nurse won first prize in the Mslexia Short Story Competition in 2009 and her work has been included in various anthologies and collections.
  • Nigel Jarrett – Funderland (Parthian). The Welsh freelance writer and former newspaper reporter is a winner of the Rhys Davies Prize for short fiction.
  • Dave Jeffery – Campfire Chillers (Dark Continents Publishing). He is best known for his zombie novel Necropolis Rising, which has gone on to be a UK number one Bestseller.
  • Fred Johnston – Dancing in the Asylum (Parthian). The writer, journalist and musician from Galway is also the founder of the Western Writers Centre.
  • Zoe Lambert – The War Tour (Comma). The Creative Writing lecturer at the University of Bolton is finishing her first novel and is an active campaigner for the rights of asylum seekers.
  • Stuart MacBride – Twelve Days of Winter: Crime at Christmas (Harper Collins). The Scottish writer is most famous for his crime thrillers.
  • Rowena Macdonald – Smoked Meat (Flambard). This first collection is based on her experiences waitressing while travelling in Montreal.
  • Felicity McCall – A Pitying of Doves (Guidhall Press). This is the first short-story collection from the Irish journalist and award-winning playwright, screenplay writer and novelist.
  • Alan McCormick – Dogsbodies and Scumsters (Roast Books). A Writer in Residence with InterAct, a charity providing fiction readings for stroke patients, his stories have been widely published.
  • Erinna Mettler – Starlings (Revenge Ink). After working at the British Film Institute for 13 years she decided to start writing in between raising a family and is now studying for her MA.
  • Robert Minhinnick – The Keys of Babylon (Seren). The Welsh poet, essayist, novelist and translator has also been short-listed for the Sunday Times Short Story Award 2012.
  • Jim Mullarkey – And (DoirePress). The runner-up in the 2003 Galway Cúirt Poetry Festival has recently facilitated creative writing workshops for adults with learning difficulties.
  • Courttia Newland – A Book of Blues (Flambard Publishing). The rapper and music producer is a British writer of Jamaican and Bajan heritage who was short-listed for the 2010 Alfred Fagon Award and long-listed for the 2011 Frank O’ Connor Award.
  • Edna O’Brien – Saints and Sinners (Faber). Once banned in Ireland, the Irish author now has a string of awards under her belt and won the country’s 2011 Frank O’Connor prize for this short story collection.
  • Cassandra Parkin – New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing). An up-and-coming writer and winner of Salt Publishing’s 2011 Scott Prize.
  • David Rix – Feather (Eibonvale). A British writer in the areas of ‘Horror’ and modern Magic Realism/Speculative Fiction.
  • Robert Shearman – Everyone’s Just So, So Special (Big Finish). He is best known as a writer for Doctor Who and has been previously short-listed for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize.
  • Simon Kurt Unsworth – Quiet Houses (Dark Continents Publishing). The British writer of supernatural fiction was nominated for a 2008 World Fantasy Award and his work has been published in a number of anthologies.