2020 Short Fiction/University of Essex Prize


After receiving almost 800 entries from over 35 countries, the shortlist and longlist are here!


The following 10 stories are now with headline judge Jon McGregor. While the competition continues to be judged “blind”, we can reveal the titles of our shortlist:


A Sea or A Whale

Edit History

Finding Lunar Harper


Larva, Nymph, Imago

Restorative Meeting

Shades of an Imperial City

The Basket

The Retreat

The Visit



Ten further stories made it to the very last stage before the shortlist, so a particular well done to the authors of:


A Stirring of the Old Hooligan In Me

Black Boy Winnings

Final touches

Little Voices


The Island

The Reluctant Parcel

The Traps

The Vilina Vlas Hotel

What Poets Do


We will announce our Winner and Runner-up by mid-June.



We are delighted to announce the relaunch of our internationally-renowned competition, now in affiliation with the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex. The shortlist judge in 2020 will be the acclaimed short story writer and novelist Jon McGregor.


The 2020 Short Fiction/University of Essex Prize awards the winner with £500 and publication at Short Fiction; the runner-up is awarded £250 and publication. 

Please enter via our Submittable link after reading the following competition rules.


  1. Dates: The Prize is open for entries from 1 January 2020. The deadline for receipt of entries is 31 March 2020 (23:59 BST).

  2. Language: All entries must be in English.

  3. Geographical restrictions: There are no geographical restrictions on entry: while the Prize is UK-based, all writers – within and outside the UK – are welcome to enter.

  4. Length: The maximum length of submissions is 5,000 words, not including the title. There is no minimum length. There are no restrictions on genre, style, theme, or subject, but entries should be prose fiction – not poetry or memoir.

  5. Entry fee: There is an entry fee for each story submitted (though see Free entries, below). In the final month, March, the entry fee will be £9. To encourage early submissions, the fee for entries submitted in January and February will be £7 – the discounted fee will apply until 29 February 2020 (23:59 GMT). Payment is made through the Submittable portal for the Prize. At the time of entry, writers can opt to pay a supplement of £1 to subsidise a free entry for a writer in more difficult circumstances.

  6. Free entries: Twenty-five free entries are available to writers for whom the fee would be a barrier to entry. To request one, please email shortfictionjournal@gmail.com. These are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and you do not need to give us detailed information about your circumstances. Free entries will be judged blind, the same as paid entries. 

  7. Blind judging: Entries will be read and judged anonymously; entrants’ names and contact details should only appear on the entry form and not anywhere on their stories/manuscripts. The stories/manuscripts must be free of all personal information about the author. This includes age and address.

  8. Entry format: Entries should be in a standard 12pt font and double-spaced, unless the form of the story demands otherwise. Entry is online-only, via Submittable. Entries sent to our normal submissions email address will be discarded.

  9. Multiple entries: Writers may enter as many stories as they like; each separate story requires a separate entry fee.

  10. Simultaneous submissions: Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but please withdraw your entry via Submittable as soon as possible if the story is accepted for publication elsewhere, in print or online (including self-published, ebook, magazines, journals, audio, websites, blogs, social network sites), or broadcast.

  11. Age restriction: Entrants must be 18 years old or over on the closing date.

  12. Corrections: No corrections or alterations can be made after receipt of an entry.

  13. New work only: Entries must be entirely the work of the entrant and must never have been previously published, in print or online (including self-published, ebook, magazines, journals, audio, websites, blogs, social network sites), or won a prize in another writing competition. Any entry found to have been plagiarised will be disqualified.

  14. Judging process: Each entry will be read by two members of a diverse panel of experienced short story readers. A shortlist, announced in May 2020, will then be forwarded to the Judge, Jon McGregor, who will select the winner and runner-up for final announcement in June 2020. The panel’s and Judge’s decisions are final and no individual correspondence will be entered into. 

  15. Prizes: £500 will be paid to the overall Prize winner. The runner-up will receive £250.

  16. Publication: The winner and runner-up will be published online at Short Fiction journal. Acceptance of the 1st or 2nd prize implies agreement for the relevant story to be published online. The shortlist will be considered for publication. Shortlisted individuals will be contacted about this by email after the winner and runner-up have been announced.

  17. Results: Entrants will not be contacted individually about the competition results unless they are selected for the shortlist.

  18. Rules acceptance: Entry implies an acceptance of these rules. Entries that fail to comply with the entry rules and requirements may be disqualified. 

We look forward to reading your entries!




LiFTS are specialists across literature, screen and stage. We are an interdisciplinary department with expertise in English literature, drama, creative writing, journalism, film and screen media. Our courses are taught by leading academics, writers, film makers and journalists, and allow you to follow specialised pathways or to combine your interests across subject areas. Literature was one of the founding subjects at the University of Essex and since the department's inception in the 1960s under the poet Donald Davie, it has built its reputation on scholarly and critical achievements across English, comparative and world literature.


Jon McGregor is the author of four novels and a story collection. He is the winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literature Prize,

Betty Trask Prize, and Somerset Maugham Award, and has twice been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He is Professor of

Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham, where he edits The Letters Page, a literary journal in letters. He was born in

Bermuda in 1976, grew up in Norfolk, and now lives in Nottingham.