Prize Testimonials

On being shortlisted:

“Being shortlisted for the Desperate Literature Prize was a stonkingly delicious experience. I had the opportunity to read my work boisterously in two bookshops in Madrid and London to delighted and receptive audiences. Receiving this affirmation radically changed my perspective on myself as a writer; giving me the faith that there was a readership for the weird and wrangling prose I want and need to create. Having this warm and welcoming space to share my work, and all the concomitant support really mattered. I was deeply moved by the immense care and consideration taken by the entire Desperate Literature team, who tirelessly champion their winning and shortlisted authors, offering them a wellspring of opportunities.”

On receiving The Literary Consultancy assessment:

“I feel deeply grateful and lucky to have received such phenomenally helpful, constructive feedback from my TLC Editor Will Rees, who has attended to my manuscript with such care and integrity.

Writing can be a deeply personal and fraught process; in many ways, it is the closest relationship I have with myself. So to be able to entrust my work with someone who not only recognises what I am trying to achieve; but has the insight and sensitivity to offer the best road forward, is the best possible gift I could receive.

With Will’s immensely detailed and perceptive comments, I feel moved to work on my novel with the attention it deserves; to dedicate a proper space in my life to my writing. This has been an extremely affirming experience and one that spurs me onwards in my journey as a writer – giving me the understanding of what I must do, and all the resources to realise this.

TLC have been incredibly kind and supportive across this process; I felt in entirely safe hands, and am deeply grateful to Nelima and Aki for facilitating such a joyful and important opportunity in my life.”


Annie Hayter – 2022 shortlister


“I like this prize especially because it’s so international. The voices aren’t coming from a limited cultural perspective, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just there’s a breadth of wider experiences by the writers. They’re conveying something, and I think conveying something with urgency.”

Ottessa Moshfegh – 2023 Judge


“[The] Civitella [residency] was beyond anything I could have expected. The castle and the grounds are straight out of a fairy-tale, every window is an entrance to scenery that inspires. But what makes it such an amazing place to go are the people. From musicians, to composers, to sculptors, to poets to novelists all sharing ideas, and their work. It is a space free of judgement. While there you could write a thousand words, write five hundred words, write nothing at all, but you would still leave knowing more about how to create stories then you ever have before. Getting to the point, if you ever have the chance to go there, make it happen. I’m already plotting my next trip.”

Paige Cowan-Hall – 2021 Winner


“I loved reading the shortlist selection which realizes the Desperate Literature team’s ambition to reimagine and diversify contemporary writing. The stories represented are inquisitive, irreverential, critical, and fully committed to their respective creative projects. I’ve never been more hopeful for the future of fiction, and the Desperate Literature Prize plays no small part in this.”

Isabel Waidner – 2021 Judge

“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


“Desperate Literature champions ambitious, original short fiction and, in partnering with like-minded bookshops and publications in multiple countries, offers writers visibility on an international scale. The 2019 prize led me to discover an exciting new literary talent in the winner, Francesca Reece, and her forthcoming debut novel, which was snapped up by a leading UK publisher just a few months later.”

Charlotte Seymour – Literary Agent at Johnson & Alcock


“The 2019 Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize has once again produced a memorable collection of diverse, dynamic short stories. It was a joy to read.”

Claire-Louise Bennett – 2019 & 2020 Judge


“The Desperate Literature Prize keeps going way after the winners are announced. They really continue to champion your work; sending it to agents, putting you in touch with magazine editors, etc. I had so much fun in Madrid meeting the judges, other writers and booksellers and doing a reading in their lovely, packed-out shop. The most thoughtful and fun writing competition I’ve come across!”

Caitlin Ingham – 2018 Runner-up


“The Desperate Literature Prize has to be be unique in its internationalism and focus on new, experimental writing. It was April 1st when I received the call telling me the judges had chosen my story ‘Frailings’ as the winner, which added considerably to the sense of disbelief. I am honoured to have been among such a strong longlist. 

There are very few opportunities of this kind, particularly for writing that is ‘outside the mainstream’ – whatever that really means. I can’t think of a short story prize which offers such a cocktail of artistic and transformative opportunities. Since winning I’ve been invited to give readings in Paris and Madrid and consulted with a major literary agency in the US; I was also a resident writer at Civitella Ranieria Foundation, in a castle in Italy, where I stayed amongst a truly international network of artists and writers. I’ve just found out my story is being translated into Spanish and will distributed at Rizoma film festival. And all this is on top of generous prize money, meetings with fellow writers and publishers, and publication in limited edition booklet, as well as in Structo magazine. 

It really is a fairytale literary prize, and I am immensely proud to be the inaugural winner.”

Ed Cottrell – 2018 Winner


“This brilliant [2019] shortlist celebrates everything that I value in literature — its demands, its affirmations, its possibilities. Linguistically playful, narratively deft: each story demonstrated the ways in which writing’s verve can thrill in the vein and trill on the ear. It was incredibly difficult to find winners: all of the writers’ entries were assured in their teetering, fiery in their freshness and bold in their complexity and should be congratulated and thanked.”

Eley Williams – 2018 & 2019 Judge


“Desperate Literature bookshop are one of the good ones. They’ve supported our weirdness for a long time now, their short-fiction prize was cool last year and looks even cooler this year with a whole range of ace looking stuff for the winner and we think it would be absurd of you not to submit an entry. Let’s face it, it looks worth taking a chance on it just to gain a runner-up spot or, given what’s on offer for shortlisted writers, just to be shortlisted. It’s the all-round cool thing. Quick, write something and submit.”

Vikki and Rich – Dostoyevsky Wannabe 


“For agents, it’s a pleasure when organisers make the effort to get their prizewinning writers’ work in front of you – particularly when it’s worth reading! It’s heartening to see places like Desperate Literature putting their weight behind the writers they select.”

Claire Anderson-Wheeler – literary agent at Regal Hoffmann & Associates