Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize 2022

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.

Along with recent additions of
an increased winners package, a second residency,
a spot at the Georgia literary festival
and more sponsored entries

In 2022 we have added a long-form manuscript assessment
and one-hour ‘writers surgery’ with The Literary Consultancy

You’ll obviously still get published in a limited edition book collecting the shortlisted pieces.

Lastly, thank you to everybody who has entered and is interested in entering our prize.
The proceeds are the reason we have survived these past years and continue to survive Covid-19!

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


First Prize:

– €1500
– A week’s residency at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation
– A consultation with a Literary Agent Charlotte Seymour from Johnson & Alcock
– A manuscript assessment and follow-up meeting with a literary editor from The Literary Consultancy

Runner-up Prizes:

– €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, Gorse, 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;†

†Covid-dependent, please read
our eligibility and conditions for more details.


One Shortlisted Winner: 

– Will be offered a spot at the Tbilisi International Festival of Literature, along with a 10 day residency at the Writers’ House of Georgia for a 10-day residency. A travel stipend of €400 will be provided


*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,

“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



Before entering, you can read grab the previously shortlisted stories!

– The 2018 – 2021 pdf whammy: €6 (Fully refunded upon entering the prize)
– The 2021 pdf edition: €2.50 (Fully refunded upon entering the prize)
– The 2021 print edition: €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 15th 2022
23:59 GMT + 1 (Madrid vermouth hour)


June 1st 2022


June 15th 2021 (all shortlisters notified)


€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.

20 spaces available for full-fee sponsorship through Desperate Literature
30 spaces available for half-fee sponsorship through Desperate Literature

Deadline for application for a sponsored place:
April 1st 2022


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: 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.





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 was signed to Andrew Nurnberg Associates. Her first novel, Voyeur, is forthcoming 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 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.

Natasha Brown is the author of Assembly, which was published by Hamish Hamilton in 2021 and shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize and the Books are My Bag Readers Award. Assembly is published by Little, Brown in the US, as well as in 17 foreign languages. She developed Assembly as a 2019 London Writers Awards awardee in the literary fiction category. She has worked in financial services since 2011, after studying maths at Cambridge University.

Anton Hur was born in Stockholm and has translated books by Kyung-Sook Shin, Hwang Sok-yong, Sang Young Park, Bora Chung, and others into English. He has won the PEN/Heim and Pen Translate grants for his translations and judged the 2021 National Translation Award for Prose. He resides in Seoul.

Photo credit: Krystal Griffiths

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. She lives in southern California.

Joanna Walsh is a multidisciplinary writer for print, digital and performance. The author of eight books, her publishers include Semiotext(e), Bloomsbury and Verso. She also works as an editor and teacher. She is a UK Arts Foundation fellow, and a Markievicz Awardee. She founded and ran #readwomen (2014-18), described by the New York Times as ‘a rallying cry for equal treatment for women writers’.