A new literary talent from Edge Hill University has won a prestigious international writing award.
Mother-of-four and PhD student Carys Bray has been awarded 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: “I couldn’t quite believe it when director of Salt Publishing Jen Hamilton-Emery phoned me to say I had won. My children were racing around the house cheering – it was lovely that they were so pleased for me. Some of my favourite short story collections have been written by previous Scott Prize winners and I’m thrilled to be joining their ranks.”
Being a Scott Prize winner means Carys 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.
Despite her successes in such a short space of time, Carys lacked confidence when she began studying at Edge Hill.
“I was very shy about my writing when I started the MA,” she said. “I felt nervous about people reading my stories and I’d never submitted anything for publication. I hadn’t been at Edge Hill long when tutor Robert Sheppard returned a story to me at the end of a workshop and said, ‘send it off, get it published.’ Not long after, Daniele Pantano did a seminar about literary magazines and encouraged us to submit our work. I decided to take the plunge and it wasn’t long before I had my first publication.”
Carys, from Southport, who is also helping to co-ordinate the Edge Hill Short Story Prize, took about 18 months to write her winning collection, Sweet Home. She credits her time at Edge Hill for being able put together her work.
She explained: “I wrote at least half of the stories in my collection while I was studying at Edge Hill, and many of the other stories grew out of scribbled notes I made during the MA. For me, the best thing about the MA was the way I became part of a community of writers. I was able to receive constructive feedback and I was consistently encouraged to submit my work for publication – it was exactly what I needed.”
Talking about Sweet Home, she said: “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.”