After a very strong and truly international competition which attracted 780 entries from over 40 countries, here are the final results of the 2021 Short Fiction/University of Essex International Short Story Prize, judged by Irenosen Okojie, Naomi Booth and James Canton


Winner: ‘She’s a Tank, a Battalion, a Banyan’ by Avrina Prabala-Joslin

               2nd Prize: ‘A bird is fluttering somewhere in me’ by Pnina Shinebourne

3rd Prize: ‘Maldonado’ by Nicholas Petty


‘Fata Morgana’ by Paul Duffy

‘Fermi Problems’ by Som-Mai Nguyen

‘I Love Mrs Hanratty’ by Marc Joan

‘Try the Door’ by Alex Griffin


Main prize LONGLIST

‘Clout’ by Kieran Toms

‘Sack’ by Ali Roberts

‘The Absent and the Dead’ by Mike Kilgannon

‘The Desert Swimmer’ by Richard Strachan

‘The Documentarians’ by Elizabeth de la Forêt

‘The Life and Sulphurous Death of Theo D’ by Wayne Connolly

‘Volcano Music' by Jeremy Galgut

LiFTS Wild Writing Prize Winner: ‘Cephalopod’ by Claire Carroll  
LiFTS Wild Writing Prize Runners-up:
‘Cantlos’ by Millie Margretta
‘Just Another Sado Sea Shanty’ by Nicholas Petty
‘One Road Out’ by Anna Robinson

LiFTS Wild Writing Prize SHORTLIST

‘A Mountain, Three Houses’ by Elizabeth Baines

‘Maybe the Birds’ by A J Ashworth

‘The Return to Nature’ by Chris Reid 

‘The Sanctuary’ by Katie Oliver

Massive congratulations to this year's winners, and all the long- and shortlisted writers, whose stories we loved.

Avrina Prabala-Joslin, a south-Indian writer living in Berlin, says: ‘She’s a Tank, a Battalion, a Banyan is the most intimate story I've written so far, a painfully beautiful reckoning guided by a kind omniscient narrator. Of all the stories I've written, this is the one I want read – widely and wildly – and winning the Short Fiction/University of Essex International Short Story Prize 2021 will give the story that. Isn't that something!’ 


Thanks to the sponsorship of the Department of Literature, Film, Theatre Studies, Creative Writing and Journalism at the University of Essex (LiFTS), Avrina Prabala-Joslin receives £500, while £250 goes to 2nd-Prize winner Pnina Shinebourne for her story ‘A bird is fluttering somewhere in me’. The 3rd Prize of £100 is for Nicholas Petty’s ‘Maldonado’.

LiFTS is awarding a further £500 for ‘Cephalopod’ by Claire Carroll, winner of this year's special Wild Writing Prize for nature, environmental or climate crisis fiction, and is also offering Wild Writing Masterclasses for all four writers recognised in the Wild Writing Prize category.

LiFTS offers an MA in Wild Writing: Literature, Landscape and the Environment, so the masterclasses are a fantastic opportunity as a prize for these writers to access the department’s expertise not just in short story craft but also across psychogeography, creative non-fiction and writing about nature, climate change and the environment.

Wild Writing Prize Judges Naomi Booth and James Canton chose the top four from an extremely strong shortlist of eight in this category, and had this to say about their process: ‘We were looking for stories that were original, innovative and fresh; that had a sense of the wild, a deft delving into nature and humankind’s place in the natural world – with a notion that many would frame, if subtly, our current state of being in an era of climate emergency. We were so impressed by the quality of the shortlist that emerged. They were all extraordinarily exciting stories: salient, vivid, and extremely well written. We chose as the winner a piece that we felt captured, in beautiful prose, the exquisite strangeness of animal life as well as our complex human relationships – that rendered the most intimate human relationships newly strange, and the strange animals of the ocean as newly intimate.’

Claire Carroll, the Somerset-based writer whose entry won the Wild Writing Prize, says: ‘Cephalopod is taken from a series of short stories written in response to the climate crisis, so the vision of the Wild Writing category really resonated with me. I’m absolutely thrilled to have won, and excited to see this award paving the way in platforming writers of nature and environmental and climate crisis fiction.’ 

Look out for details of our 2022 competition toward the end of this year!