Costa Short Story Award 2020: identities of three finalists revealed

13 Jan 2021 -

  • Winner decided by public vote and will be announced at the Costa Book Awards virtual ceremony on Tuesday 26th January
  • All-female shortlist includes a Palme D’Or-winning screenwriter/director, a former Man Booker-longlisted author and a multi-nominated Irish short story writer
  • Five additional stories highly commended by judges
  • Watch the Costa Book Awards ceremony from 7pm on Tuesday 26th January here

Costa Coffee is today revealing the names of the three writers shortlisted for the 2020 Costa Short Story Award.

Established in 2012, the Award – run in association with the Costa Book Awards but judged independently of the main five-category system – is judged anonymously i.e without the name of the author being known throughout the process.

It is open to both published and unpublished writers for a single, previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words by an author aged 18 years or over and written in English.

This year’s shortlisted writers are:

Louise Dean for How Adult Conversation Works: Louise Dean, based in Kent, is the author of four published novels Becoming Strangers, This Human Season, The Idea of Love and The Old Romantic. She was the winner of the Betty Trask Prize in 2004, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Prize and IMAP and the winner of Le Prince Maurice Prize in 2006. She is the founder of the worldwide writing school The Novelry.

Laura-Blaise McDowell for The Lobster Waltz: Laura-Blaise McDowell lives in Dublin and holds an MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including Still Worlds Turning, an anthology of new Irish writing from No Alibis Press. In 2019, she was shortlisted for the Benedict Kiely Short Story Award and was runner-up for the Dalkey Creates Short Story Prize. Two of her stories were longlisted for the Short Story of the Year Award at the An Post Irish Book Awards, with Balloon Animals making the shortlist. In 2020, she received an honourable mention for the Cuirt New Irish Writing Prize and her short memoir appeared in the Fish Anthology 2020 as part of the Fish Short Memoir Prize. She is currently working on a short story collection.

Tessa Sheridan for The Person Who Serves, Serves Again: Tessa Sheridan is a London-based writer with tentacles in film, audio and screenwriting. Her short stories have won the Chester Prize and appeared in two published collections to date, and many more lurk on her laptop. As screenwriter/director, her short films have won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and the BBC Award for Best Short Drama, and her feature film scripts have won major development awards. Her audio drama ‘Flotsam’ was broadcast on BBC Radio 3. She’s currently completing another screenplay and has begun work on her first novel, a psychological thriller.

The author of the story that received the most public votes receives £3,500 and will be announced as the winner at the Costa Book Awards ceremony which this year will be broadcast on Tuesday 26th January from 7pm on the Costa Coffee You Tube page. The second place and third place writers receive £1,000 and £500 respectively.

The shortlist of three stories was selected by a panel of judges comprising Sarah Franklin, founder of Short Stories Aloud and Senior Lecturer in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University; Radio 2 Book Club producer Joe Haddow; literary agent Simon Trewin; and authors Adele Parks and Kit de Waal, herself a finalist for this Award in 2013.

The judges also had the option to highly commend up to six additional entries.  This year, the judges chose the following five stories for commendation:

  • The Hunt by Niall Bourke
  • Little Palm Tree by Frances Browner
  • Refuge by Aislinn Kelly-Lyth
  • 24 Hours in You & Me by George Rennison
  • Higher Ground by Susan Swan

Previous winners include: Anna Dempsey (2019), a writer and teacher based in London, who won with her first piece of short fiction and is currently completing her debut YA novel; Caroline Ward Vine (2018), a former magazine publisher from Kent; Newham-based primary school teacher Luan Goldie (2017), whose debut novel Nightingale Point was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 and whose second novel, Homecoming, was published in August 2020; Jess Kidd (2016) from Richmond in Surrey, the author of two adult novels and one children’s book, Everyday Magic, published in February 2020; former headteacher Daniel Murphy from Stirling in Scotland (2015) and writer and PhD student Zoe Gilbert (2014) from Sydenham Hill, South East London.

2013 winner Angela Readman, a Newcastle-based writer and poet, has had two collections published – a story collection (Don’t Try This at Home, 2015) and poetry collection (The Book of Tides, 2016) – and her first novel, Something Like Breathing, was published in March 2019. Inaugural winner from 2012, Avril Joy – a former prison manager and now full-time writer from Witton-le-Wear in Bishop Auckland – has since published an ebook, From Writing with Love.

The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland. It also, uniquely, recognises the most enjoyable books across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – published in the last year.  Originally established by Whitbread PLC in 1971, Costa Coffee announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s prestigious and popular book prize in 2006.