Davy Byrnes short story competition returns

Former winner Anne Enright among judges for €15,000 prize

Anne Enright celebrates winning the first Davy Byrnes short story award in 2004. The author, who went on to win the Man Booker Prize in 2007 for The Gathering, is  one of three judges for the 2014 award, along with 2012 Impac award winner Jon MacGregor and Yiyun Li, winner of the Guardian First Book award

Anne Enright celebrates winning the first Davy Byrnes short story award in 2004. The author, who went on to win the Man Booker Prize in 2007 for The Gathering, is one of three judges for the 2014 award, along with 2012 Impac award winner Jon MacGregor and Yiyun Li, winner of the Guardian First Book award

Mon, Sep 23, 2013, 15:50

The Davy Byrnes short story award returns for the third time next year. With a prize of €15,000 for the winner and €1,000 for each of five runners-up, it is Ireland’s biggest short story competition.

The panel of judges is made up of Booker Prize winner Anne Enright, Impac winner Jon McGregor and Yiyun Li, winner of the Guardian First Book award.

Enright won the 2004 Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award with her short story, Honey, before going on to win the 2007 Man Booker Prize for The Gathering. Richard Ford judged the 2009 competition. It was won by Claire Keegan with Foster, which was subsequently published in the New Yorker and in book form by Faber and Faber.

Enright said: “The Davy Byrnes Award is given to a story that has the writer’s name removed, the judges of the prize have been more international than local and the prize money is substantial. These three things meant the world to me when I won in 2004, a time when I felt washed up on the shores of the Irish boom. The short story yields truth more easily than any other form, and these truths abide in changing times. As a writer turned judge, I am looking for a story that could not have been written any other way; that is as good as it wants to be; that is the just the right size for itself.”

Fellow judge Yiyun Li is the author of two collections of stories: A Thousand Year of Good Prayers, which won the inaugural Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, and Guardian First Book Award; and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl.

“What I look for in a short story, to borrow from Tolstoy: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ There are stories written like happy families, which one reads and forgets the moment one puts them down. But the stories that belong to the category of unhappy families, they can do all kinds of things: they touch a reader, or leave a wound that never heals; they challenge a reader’s view, or even infuriate a reader; they lead to a desire in the reader’s heart to be more eloquent in his ways of responding to the story yet leave the reader more speechless than before. A good story is like someone one does not want to miss in life.”

Jon McGregor, who won the Impac Dublin Literary Award in 2012 for his third novel, Even The Dogs, said. “I’m both thrilled and slightly daunted to be taking part in judging the Davy Byrnes Award this year. Thrilled, because it’s a prize with an astounding track record of unearthing great talent and excellent stories; the previous judges have clearly had a very sharp reading eye. Daunted, for pretty much the same reasons. There’s a lot to live up to. What I look for in a short story is a kind of intensity of purpose and a clarity of expression; something which holds my attention and rings clearly in my reading mind. For me, this is mostly something in the voice on the page; something in the control of the syntax, which immediately puts me in the world of that story. If it’s there, it usually kicks in within the first few lines; after that, it’s just a matter of seeing whether the writer can really keep it up.”

The competition is organised by The Stinging Fly, Ireland’s leading literary magazine, in association with Dublin UNESCO City of Literature. It published the six shortlisted stories from 2009 in the collection Davy Byrnes Stories. The competition is open to all Irish citizens and to residents of the 32 counties. Entries close on February 3rd, 2014, and the winners will be announced next June. See stingingfly.org for details.