Literary supernova Kevin Barry has been named the winner of the Edge Hill University Short Story Prize 2013.
The Irish writer, who has recently won a string of major literary awards, also picked up the Readers’ Prize, judged by Edge Hill Creative Writing students, at an awards ceremony tonight (4th July) at Waterstones Piccadilly, London for his collection Dark Lies The Island, published by Jonathan Cape.
Receiving both the first prize of £5,000 and the £1,000 Readers’ Choice Prize, Kevin said: “I feel bad that I’ve actually won two prizes. Maybe I’m not always the most humble child in the room but with such talent on the shortlist I feel very close to humble tonight. My thanks to Edge Hill University for keeping this important prize going. The short story should be kept to the fore as it’s such an important genre of writing – we need stories in our lives”.
“For me the short story is my first love. When I started out in journalism I always felt that there was a murky part in my brain that I wasn’t using, and that’s when I started to write short stories. I think that the genre has become more popular in recent years, particularly as more people are reading online, so they want more intense reads and the short story fits this perfectly – long may it continue.”
Born in Limerick, Kevin spent much of his youth travelling, living in 17 addresses by the time he was 36. He lived variously in Cork, Santa Barbara, Barcelona, and Liverpool before settling in Sligo, purchasing and renovating a run-down Royal Irish Constabulary barracks. His decision to settle down was driven primarily by the increasing difficulty in moving large quantities of books from house to house.
He started out as a journalist for a local paper, going on to do freelance work, columns and sketches for Glasgow’s Sunday Herald, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Times and The Guardian.
After leaving journalism to write fiction, Kevin published his first collection of short stories, There Are Little Kingdoms, which won the 2007 Rooney Prize for Literature. Most recently, his genre-busting novel, City of Bohane, scooped the 2013 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and he was also last year’s Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award winner.
He says it has been a “long hard road” but his own self-belief, self-discipline and determination are finally paying off.
Offering words of advice to other writers he said: “Work hard, always make sure you finish everything you start, I think that’s critical. And try to write when you’re still half asleep in the morning as writing comes from the same place as dreaming.”
Judge Sarah Hall described Kevin as a “master of all” and congratulated him for his “outstanding power and range” and for creating “convincing worlds of the natural and unnatural”.
The other writers on this year’s shortlist were: Dublin-born Emma Donoghue, best known for her Booker short-listed novel, Room (2010); Adam Marek, who won the 2011 Arts Foundation Short Story Fellowship and was shortlisted for the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award; Jon McGregor, who was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Prize in 2010 and 2011 and is also an IMPAC prize-winner; Jane Rogers, the award-winning author of The Testament of Jessie Lamb, who was a finalist in the BBC National Short Story Competition 2009; and Lucy Wood with her debut collection Diving Belles.
Dr Ailsa Cox, Co-ordinator of the Prize and Reader in Creative Writing and English at Edge Hill University, said: “Ours is the only UK award that recognises excellence in a published collection of short stories and each year the number and quality of the submissions is growing. 38 books were entered this year, both debut collections and work from some of our most highly acclaimed fiction-writers. Extending the shortlist from five to six titles has not made the judges’ job any easier, but Kevin Barry is a deserving winner, joining Colm Tóibín and Claire Keegan as the third Irish winner of the Edge Hill Prize.”
The judging panel included Sarah Hall, 2012 prize-winner for The Beautiful Indifference, alongside Scottish author and literary critic Lesley McDowell and Jim Lee, Regional Buyer at Waterstones.
This year’s winner of the Edge Hill University MA Creative Writing category went to Jenny Barrett, who received a prize of £500. The new Jo Powell BA Prize of £500 went to Saffron Palmer.