Celebrate what truly matters


POWERS SHORT STORY COMPETITION:The Powers Short Story Competition is back and this year’s winner will have their story published and walk away with a cheque for €10,000

READERS, IT’S TIME to get writing again as we launch the second Powers Short Story Competition in The Irish Times Saturday Magazine. Your task is simple – write a short story of no more than 450 words and you could win €10,000 and the chance to get published in an anthology of short stories to appear later this year.

When Powers first approached The Irish Times with the idea of running a short story competition a year ago, the then Saturday Magazine editor Patsey Murphy could hardly have known what she was letting herself in for. “Here’s an invitation,” she told readers, “to hark back to a more mellow time. What we are looking for is a perfectly-formed short story.”

It turned out that there were a lot of them out there – 3,342 to be precise. They flowed into our email and arrived by the sackful in the post, right up to the deadline. (This year only email entries will accepted.) The final tally was whittled down to 40, and finally to one – a heartfelt tale of a young man’s memories of his father – which scooped the €10,000 prize for Jane Burns from Co Meath.

The idea for the short story competition has its origins in a successful advertising campaign run by Powers in the 1980s. The ads featured stories that were heavy on dialogue, and generally featured a quaint pub and a glass of amber liquid – the mighty Powers. The series of framed advertisements can be seen today in Peter’s Pub in Dublin, where the copywriters for the campaign often gathered, and where they borrowed the barmen’s names for the stories.

This year, we’re looking for the same formula – a 450-word story that best encapsulates the theme – Celebrating What Truly Matters. You can write about just about anything – love, friendship, a special person or place, a moment that changed your life, an episode that mattered, something that makes you happy or sad, furious or philosophical. The story doesn’t have to hark back to the past – we’d prefer stories about the here and now, exploring what truly matters to us in 2012. Remember to stick to the word count. “In a good short story, every word has its place, nothing is wasted and there is no room for unnecessary diversions,” says best-selling author Sheila O’Flanagan, who calls the short story a “quick fix of creativity”.

Be creative, be bold, but above all be brief. In other words, give us your best shot.

The closing date is April 17th. Entries will be judged by a panel including Orna Mulcahy, editor of the Irish Times Magazine, Róisín Ingle, Eileen Battersby, Bernice Harrison, Shane Hegarty, Gary Quinn and Madeleine Lyons.


The winner of last year’s Powers Short Story Competition, Jane Burns from Dunboyne in Co Meath, has given writing workshops, set up a writers’ group and enrolled in a Masters in digital humanities at TCD – all since winning the Powers prize.

The former librarian and mother of college-going twins, Burns wrote her story – about a son’s relationship with his father – during a creative-writing course at NUI Maynooth.

Having her story including in Celebrating What Truly Matters – the Powers Irish Whiskey Collection gave her the confidence, she says, to set up a writing group and to give creating-writing classes at Malahide Castle.

The native New Yorker, who settled in Ireland with her Irish-American husband 22 years ago, says she based her story on the relationship between her husband and his father.

“I’m amazed at the number of people who read the story and told me that it made them think of this or that. People seem to be able to relate to it.”


The winner of the 2012 Powers Irish Whiskey Short Story Competition, along with approximately 40 shortlisted stories will be published in an anthology, Celebrating What Truly Matters – the Powers Irish Whiskey Collection, which will be available later this year.

Last year’s anthology was widely distributed and raised more than €21,000 for the Irish Hospice Foundation.

The money raised will go towards a Nurses for Night care service. This facility enables patients with conditions other than cancer to access a night-nursing service that allows them to remain at home during their last days and in some cases, facilitates their choice to die at home. Night time can be a vulnerable time for patients and families, with few services available to them. This service maintains the continuity of care that the patient has experienced during the day, supported by the palliative home-care team and surrounded by family. In order to fund this service in 2012 the Irish Hospice Foundation must raise €325,000.

How to write a short story: advice from some of Ireland' finest writers

To coincide with the competition, in the coming weeks a number of our best writers including Claire Kilroy and Kevin Barry will be giving their advice to would-be writers.

Here Maeve Binchy,a supporter of the Irish Hospice Foundation, offers her tips to short story writers

1. Something must change in a short story. Something must happen. It can’t end with everyone being exactly the same as when it began. Readers expect to go on some kind of a journey. Take them there.

2. You must know how it is going to end before you start. We have all spent years of our life meandering hopelessly through writing short stories hoping to find the end. The story could go on for ever unless you know where it’s heading.

3. You can’t have too many characters in a short story, there just isn’t time to introduce them. Think of it as a play with a small cast. Not too much description or detail. Concentrate on what happens or how moods change.

4. Pretend someone has asked you to describe your short story in one sentence. If you can’t do that, it often means that it’s too complicated. Or that you haven’t thought it through.

5. Make your characters interesting: make them people that you’d want to know more about. It’s a bad idea to write about boring people, dull folk or wordless creatures. Readers can yawn very easily: try not to give them any excuse to yawn at your story.

6. Write what you know. That way you won’t get caught out. I tried very hard to write a short story about revenge. I’m not good at revenge, I’m too lazy. It was a failure. Similarly, I don’t write about high fashion, banking or group sex.

7. Read other people’s short stories not to copy them or steal them but to see what works. Try William Trevor, Alice Munroe, Jane Gardam and Roddy Doyle. You will learn what works well. Don’t get depressed, just write your own.

8. Remember if you are Irish or live in Ireland you have a headstart. People love telling stories and listening to them.

9. Sorry for sounding like a school teacher – old habits die hard – but if you don’t start now and try one, you will never know whether you can write a short story. They don’t write themselves you have to start them and finish them.

10. You are halfway there already.

Terms & conditions

For your chance to win €10,000, submit your short story (400 - 450 words) to irishtimes.com/powers Your story should reflect the theme “celebrating what truly matters”. Postal entries will not be accepted. For full terms and conditions, go to irishtimes.com/powers. Closing date is 11.59pm on April 17th, 2012.