“I LIKE THIS PRIZE ESPECIALLY BECAUSE IT’S SO INTERNATIONAL. THE VOICES AREN’T COMING FROM A LIMITED CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE…THERE’S A BREADTH OF WIDER EXPERIENCES BY THE WRITERS. THEY’RE CONVEYING SOMETHING, AND I THINK CONVEYING SOMETHING WITH URGENCY.”
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 fifteen 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.
THIS YEAR WE HAVE CONTINUED OUR
2022 COLLABORATIONS WHILE
DOUBLING THE NUMBER OF SPONSORED ENTRIES AVAILABLE
AND ADDING NEW SPONSORSHIP PARTNERS
The Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize adheres to CLMP’s Contest Code of Ethics
– €750 (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: Helter Skelter, The London Magazine, Open Pen, Prototype, Hotel, Kill Your Darlings, Minor Literature[s]
– Participation in Desperate Literature Prize Salons (Salons, no less) at Desperate Literature, Madrid; Burley Fisher, London; Typewronger Books, Edinburgh;†
†Events depend upon availability at host establishment, please read
our eligibility & conditions for more details.
One Shortlisted Winner:
FULL DETAILS OF ENTRY FEES AND DEADLINES BELOW
*to see how the prize is funded, read all the prize details, see entry conditions and to assess your eligibility, please read our eligibility & conditions.
The Civitella Ranieri Foundation,
“Civitella 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, winner of the 2021 Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize
The Georgia Writers’ House
& Tbilisi International Festival of Literature
‘Lightning spat over the Caucasus as my flight came in to land here late at night, lightning that became street-light reflected off a fast-moving river, that became lanterns in ancient gardens, candles over wine, and I couldn’t help thinking, couldn’t help knowing, for once in my life, that all the crackling stuff which usually ran around my head as I wrote was now rolling out in real life. This is the thing I remember from Tbilisi. Like something imagined had come to life, and we were all there imagining it together. I hope I can do it again one day; until then I can only write.’
– DBC Pierre, participant in the TIFL 2016
READ THE PREVIOUS SHORTLISTS BEFORE ENTERING:
Before entering, you can read grab the previously shortlisted stories!
– The 2018 – 2022 pdf whammy: €6 (Fully refunded upon entering the prize)
– The 2021 pdf edition: €2.50 (Fully refunded upon entering the prize)
– 2021 or 2022 print editions: €11 (€2.50 refunded upon entering the prize)
You can also read a selection of shortlisted works from 2018 – 2021 on our ‘Previous Winners’ page.
April 16th 2023
Early June 2023
Mid June 2023 (all shortlisters notified)
Late June 2023 (PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT)
€20 for the first entry
€10 for every further entry
(max. of five entries per person)
In light of the ongoing financial crises pretty much worldwide, we have doubled the number sponsored entries in 2023 to 40 fully-sponsored entries and 60 partially-sponsored entries.
20 40 spaces available for full-fee sponsorship through Desperate Literature
30 60 spaces available for half-fee sponsorship through Desperate Literature
Deadline for application for a sponsored place:
April 1st 2023
Applications will be judged on a case-by-case basis by a member of the team with the support of Spread the Word UK. A further package of sponsored entries have been offered to the following organisations: Cipher Press (10), The Word (5), Spread the Word (10), The Writers’ House of Georgia (3).
For details of how these places are funded and how to apply, 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.
FOR A FULL LIST OF GUIDELINES, SEE OUR ELIGIBILITY & CONDITIONS PAGE
On the 2022 shortlist:
‘Reading these stories made me feel glad for the future of short stories.’
—Anton Hur, 2022 Judge
‘In these rich and vibrant stories, the language surprises and delights. From surreal mouse proposals to the catharsis of visible grief, via the uncertainty of memory and perception, each of these stories creates a new, engrossing reality while shedding light on our own.’
—Natasha Brown, 2022 Judge
From 2019 winner, Francesca Reece
‘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.’
After winning the Desperate Literature Short Prize for Short Fiction, Francesca signed with Charlotte Seymour (then at Andrew Nurnberg Associates). Her first novel, Voyeur, was released with Tinder Press in 2021.
From 2018 winner, Ed Cottrell
‘It really is a fairytale literary prize, and I am immensely proud to be the inaugural winner.’
On the 2021 shortlist selection:
‘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
On the 2020 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, 2020 Judge
‘I was bowled over by the power, inquiry, and humour of these stories. They shine brightly in the mind after reading.’
—Niven Govinden, 2020 Judge
Click here to read quotes from other winners, literary agents, previous judges Claire-Louise Bennett and Eley Williams, and publishers.
The first round of the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize will be judged by the Desperate Literature team: Terry Craven, Charlotte Delattre, Robert Greer, Vesna Maric, Kate McCully, Sita Sharma, 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.*
*For more information about how we select the shortlist, please see our eligibility & conditions page.
Tiffany Tsao is the author of The Majesties and the Oddfits series, as well as a translator of Indonesian fiction and poetry. Her translation of Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s Happy Stories, Mostly was longlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize and awarded the Republic of Consciousness Prize in 2022. She holds a Ph.D. in English literature from UC-Berkeley.
Photo credit: Leah Diprose
Mariana Enríquez is one of the most spellbinding narrators in Latin American literature. Her story collection Los Peligros de Fumar en la Cama (2009) was shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker and was a finalist of the Kirkus Prize. She has been featured in countless anthologies and magazines, inlcuding The New Yorker, Freeman’s, McSweeney’s, Granta UK, Granta en Español, and Asymptote. Her novel Nuestra Parte de Noche won the Herralde Novel Prize in 2019, the Premio Celsius, the Premio Kelvin 505, and most notably, the Premio de la Crítica in 2019.
Photo credit: Nora Lezano
Ottessa Moshfegh is a fiction writer from New England. Eileen, her first novel, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Death in Her Hands, her second and third novels, were New York Times bestsellers. She is also the author of the short story collection Homesick for Another World and a novella, McGlue. Her most recent novel, Lapvona, was released in 2022. She lives in southern California.
Photo credit: Krystal Griffiths
Desperate Literature is grateful to our prize partner, The de Groot Foundation, for sponsoring our winner’s monetary prizes, their stay at Civitella, travel to the Writers’ House of Georgia, editing and more:
We would like to thank our residency providers Civitella Ranieri & The Writers’ House of Georgia:
And we couldn’t offer such wonderful opportunities for publishing without the amazing literary magazines and entities that also offer their support:
We are also incredibly grateful to be able to partner with Spread the Word, Cipher Press, and The Word to offer sponsored places to their communities: