Short story judges have been on campus to decide who should be this year’s winner of the Edge Hill Prize and talk about what makes this genre of writing special to both readers and writers.

Now in its sixth year, this is the only UK only award that recognises excellence in a published collection of stories. It plays a vital role in bringing much-needed attention to this neglected form.

The judging panel this year includes writer and critic Suzi Feay, alongside the 2011 winner Graham Mort, who is also Professor of Creative Writing and Transcultural Literature at Lancaster University; and Professor Rhiannon Evans, former Pro Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University.

Suzi has been writing about books for 20 years at Time Out, the Independent on Sunday and the Financial Times, and is an influential literary blogger.

Talking about the Prize, she said: “Up until a few years ago I actually disliked short stories until somebody accused me of being prejudiced at a competition I was judging. Since then I have started to read them more and when I was asked to be a judge for the Edge Hill Prize I was really keen to get involved. After reading the shortlisted collection I’m converted. It’s great to read such a variety of work and it’s also a good way of discovering new writers too.”

So what makes a good short story? According to the judges it should be written well, have structure, surprise, tension, a sense of voice, an edge and it should take you on a journey.

Graham is very much a fan of the short story and knows how important it is to have this type of prize being a previous winner. He said: “Edge Hill University has done a fantastic job in raising the profile of the short story and has been very influential in bringing this genre of writing very much in the public eye. Its democratic nature is what is so impressive about it because of the sheer ranges of writers and publishers involved. It’s such a strong shortlist this year, which is testimony to the reputation of the prize itself and it’s important to realise the energy and complexity that goes into the process of judging.”

Although the judges all have their own ideas and different tastes, all agreed that they enjoyed the discussions in choosing a final winner.

Rhiannon said: “We all have certain criteria in our own minds, which has made for lively debates, but it has been great to be involved. During my time at Edge Hill the award was still only an idea but it had my full backing and it is now well-established, which is great to see. I’m thrilled that the students also have a direct input in judging this year’s readers’ category, which is a great opportunity for them.”

Dr Ailsa Cox, Reader in Creative Writing and English at Edge Hill University and co-ordinator of the Prize, said: “It’s been a pleasure to listen to such an in-depth discussion of the five collections, each one of them an outstanding achievement for the writer concerned.”

The authors nominated are:

  • A.J Ashworth – Somewhere Else, Or Even Here (Salt Publishing).
  • Tessa Hadley – Married Love (Cape).
  • Sarah Hall – The Beautiful Indifference (Faber).
  • Zoe Lambert – The War Tour (Comma).
  • Rowena Macdonald – Smoked Meat (Flambard).

The recipient of the 2012 award will be drawn from the shortlist of five and will be announced at the awards ceremony on 5th July at the Free Word Centre in London. The winner will receive a cheque for £5,000. An additional Readers’ Choice award of £1,000 is awarded to a writer from the shortlist. A £500 student prize will also be given to one of the stars of Edge Hill University’s MA Creative Writing course.