Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize

We are so proud to announce the winner and runners-up to the 2020 Desperate Literature Prize for Short Fiction
Angela Finn’s story takes the first place:

‘An affecting account of the breakdown of family life, whose ‘notebook’ form is used to give authenticity to the peculiar attrition of a mother’s mental state by her husband’s abandonment of her. This is a harrowing and true record of the cruelty and injustice that still defines so many aspects of private female experience’ Rachel Cusk

About the shortlist selection:

‘I thoroughly enjoyed reading these submissions, which surprised me with their honest poise, their integrity, and their understated adherence to the values of literature. In the hands of some of these writers, the story form was brought to bear on the modern scene in new and astute ways.’ – Rachel Cusk

‘I was bowled over by the power, inquiry, and humour of these stories. They shine brightly in the mind after reading.’   Niven Govinden

The DL reading team is happy to say that this year’s entries have been the strongest yet,
and so we’re chuffed as hell to announce a truly excellent LONGLIST
for the Desperate Literature Prize for Short Fiction 2020:
A Pursuit     Allergies     Another Cemetery Visit
Artists Open House: A Horror Story     Bottles     Decommission
Excerpts from a Pale Blue Notebook with Silver Stars*     Gallery Invigilator Ghost Alphabet     Goodness and the Tiger     Helgoland / Flügge
Hellmouth Parade     Ctrl + h     I Really Wish You Hadn’t Done That     Look Up!     Mapping Chillies     Mortar     Next Week     Omar’s Ashes     Phenotypes     Roving     Seville is Oranges     The New Viral Sensation     The Waste House     Tide Turner     Year of the Pig     You Can’t Come Home


You can also snag the .pdf editions of
Eleven Stories 2018 – 2019

€2.20/book or
€5 including  the 2020 edition

**All sales are split with the authors**


Awarded for an original work of short fiction under 2000 words


The aim of the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize is both to celebrate the best of new short fiction and to give winners the most visibility possible for their writing. That’s why we’ve teamed up with fourteen different literary and artistic institutions to offer not only a cash prize and writing retreats but to ensure that all our shortlisters have the opportunity to be published in multiple print and online journals, have their work put in front of literary agents and perform in multiple countries.

Last year we produced the beautiful booklet Eleven Stories 2019, which you can see below.

This year we’ve just added more to the kitty.

The Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize adheres to CLMP’s Contest Code of Ethics

First Prize:

– €1000
– A week’s residency at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation
– A consultation with a Literary Agent from Andrew Nurnberg Associates

Runner-up Prizes:

– €500 (two prizes available).

All Shortlisted Writers:

– Will be published in a truly smashing, limited edition book published by ourselves truly and launched at the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize Salon, Madrid
– Publication with one of our partner journals: 3:AM, Helter Skelter, The London Magazine, Open Pen, Prototype, Hotel, Gorse, and The Second Shelf  (women only)
– Participation in Desperate Literature Prize Salons (Salons, no less) at Desperate Literature, Madrid; Burley Fisher, London; Typewronger Books, Edinburgh; and The Second Shelf, London (women only)
– Participation in the Rizoma Film Festival.


One Shortlisted Winner: 

– Will be selected for a week’s residency at Casa Ana, Andalusia, as part of their Creative Writing Programme.*


*before entering, please read our eligibility and conditions to see how the prize is funded, prize details, entry conditions and to assess your eligibility.


The Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Italy.

“It’s hard to think of a more inspiring place than Civitella – a medieval castle turned artists residency, and a rare place that is absolutely international in its cultural outlook, yet rooted in the Umbrian countryside and history.”

– Ed Cottrell, winner of the 2018 Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize



Click here to read quotes from other winners, literary agents, 2019 judges Claire-Louise Bennett and Eley Williams, and an indie publisher 




15th March 2020
29th March 2020
Midnight GMT + 1 (Madrid vermouth hour)


May 6th 2020


May 20th 2020


€20 for the first entry
€10 for every further entry
(max. of five entries per person)


We are happy to announce a sponsored entries scheme for under represented writers or writers suffering from financial hardship.

10 spaces available

Deadline for entry:
31st December 2019


Applications will be judged on a case by case basis by a member of the team with the support of Spread the Word UK. Desperate Literature has also extended upto 10 spaces for writers working through Spread The Word. For details of how these places are funded, please see our eligibility & conditions page.



– The Desperate Literature Short Fiction prize is awarded to an original work of fiction under 2000 words
– Translations are accepted, but the prize is awarded to the original writer, not the translator
– Submissions are anonymous
– Stories should be submitted in .pdf format upon payment of the entry fee, without mention of the author or translator name within the document.



“The Desperate Literature Prize changed everything for me. It gave me a platform to get my writing out there and to meet so many interesting, talented people. The prizes are just ridiculously good but the whole experience – the events in Madrid, Paris and London, getting published in Eleven Stories, all of it – was unforgettable.”

Francesca Reece – 2019 Winner

We’re also very excited to announce that after winning the Desperate Literature Short Prize for Short Fiction, Francesca was signed to Andrew Nurnberg Associates and has a novel forthcoming.




The first round of the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize will be judged by the Desperate Literature team: Terry Craven, Charlotte Delattre, Robert Greer and Emily Westmoreland. As soon as we have a shortlist, we’ll hand it over to our shortlist judges who will then pick the winner and runners-up.

Photo credit: Siemon Scammell-Katz

Rachel Cusk was born in 1967 and is the author of eight novels: Saving Agnes, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The TemporaryThe Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, The Lucky Ones, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award, In the FoldArlington Park, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, The Bradshaw Variations and Outline. Her non-fiction books are A Life’s WorkThe Last Supper and Aftermath. In 2003 she was chosen as one of Granta‘s Best of Young Novelists.

Claire-Louise Bennett‘s short fiction and essays have been published in several publications including The Moth and The Irish Times. She received the inaugural White Review Short Story Prize in 2013. Her first book, Pond, was published in 2016.

Photo credit: Dan Lepard

Niven Govinden is the author of five novels, including Black Bread White Beer, which won the Fiction Uncovered Prize, and All the Days and Nights, which was longlisted for the Folio Prize and shortlisted for the Green Carnation Prize. His latest book This Brutal House (Dialogue Books) was shortlisted for the 2019 Gordon Burn Prize.

Photo credit: Krystal Griffiths

Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Her first book, McGlue, a novella, won the Fence Modern Prize in Prose and the Believer Book Award. She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World. Her stories have been published in The Paris ReviewThe New Yorker, and Granta, and have earned her a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, the Plimpton Discovery Prize, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction; My Year of Rest and Relaxation, her second novel, was a New York Times bestseller.