Australian Nikki McWatters wins €3,000 Moth Short Story Prize

‘The language and descriptive powers of the author suggest a great talent,’ says judge John Boyne

The winner of this year’s Moth Short Story Prize is the Australian writer Nikki McWatters, for Yellow Belly, chosen by John Boyne “for its careful juxtaposition of childhood innocence with the darker sides of family life”. “The language and descriptive powers of the author suggest a great talent,” says Boyne, the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

McWatters has worked in television acting and drama teaching, and also holds a law degree, but her writing career took off when her memoir, One Way Or Another: The Girl Who Loved Rock Stars, was shortlisted for a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award. Her new young adult novel, set in Europe during the witch hunts, is being released in November, and she is currently writing a novel set in Ireland.

“It came as a very welcome surprise to learn that I’d won The Moth Short Story Prize,” said McWatters. “I have a deep respect for John Boyne’s work so it was an extra honour to have had my story chosen by him.”

The second prize goes to Sheila Armstrong for Puddles. Armstrong is from the west of Ireland but now lives in Dublin. She has been nominated for a Hennessy Award and contributed to Young Irelanders, a short story collection published by New Island. Boyne was moved by the intensity of this story. “The sense of pain that lingers over a single street is highly effective.”

The third prize goes to Kelly McCaughrain’s The Hummingbirds, commended by Boyne for its lightness of touch and skill with dialogue. McCaughrain, who lives in Belfast, was shortlisted for the Times/Chickenhouse Children’s Fiction Prize and her first young adult novel, Flying Tips for Flightless Birds, will be published by Walker Books next year.

The Moth Short Story Prize is open to anyone, regardless of their publishing history. Previous winners include Paul Lenehan, whose December Swimmers was shortlisted for the Irish Short Story of the Year Award in 2015, alongside stories by Colm Tóibín, Donal Ryan, Colum McCann, John Boyne and Kevin Barry.

McWatters will receive €3,000, Armstrong will spend a week at Circle of Misse writers' retreat in France, and Kelly McCaughrain will receive €1,000. All three stories appear in the autumn issue of The Moth, available to purchase online at themothmagazine.com and at Easons and select bookshops.

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