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Short Story Winners

Short Story (8000 words max): Winners

Top 4 Short Story Entries

All the comments below are from our judge, Remy Ngambije.

1st place: 2The Two Things Bassie Knows” by Clayton Bradshaw-Mittal (USA)

“The Two Things Bassie Knows” juggles trivia competition, fluid sexuality, and the looming nature of death masterfully. It is highly amusing in parts, keenly observant in others, and wonderfully entertaining throughout. It is a really good exploration of what people are willing to put up with for company and companionship. This was my top story throughout the readings. I really think it offers something different to all of the others which felt…overcooked! This one had the sensation of street food: chopped up, fried up quick, and served piping fucking hot. And, man, it was funny. Like, genuinely funny.

2nd place: Demons & Monkeys by Tamako Takamatsu (JAP)

“Demons And Monkeys” navigates the point of collision between tradition and modernity using a marital tale set in Japan. Its language is tight, its plot hints at the enormity of history and the clash of cultures pushing against each other. But it is its careful descriptions of a Japanese husband and wife that really makes the story sing off the pages. What I think works in this story is the marriage and the conflict between husband and wife. She is, I think, the more interesting character between the two. I mean “I am the daughter of samurai” is a killer line (it should be the title, I think). But, really, this was an enjoyable short story.

3rd place: “Dick and George” by Terry Watada (CAN)

“Dick And George” follows two Japanese-Canadian cousins—both children of immigrants—through their migration around Canada, the advent and conclusion of the Second World War, and the gradual assimilation into Canadian society. At its core, painful losses punctuate the passage of time; in its telling, an epic story of cultural assimilation and all of its attendant struggles comes to the fore. This was a really good story about migration. Even if I think Canada is the most meh of places for stories; I am yet to encounter one that really gets my blood boiling.

Highly Commended: A Resurrection in Soap by Matthew Hurt (MEX)

“A Resurrection In Soap” is an interesting take on the artist’s desire for self-actualisation, to transcend the medium that brings them fame, and to carve an independent identity. It has a tightness to it that is enviable—the way the writer carves this narrative from the rest of the storytelling canvas is skillful and the reading experience is fresh and rewarding. I think this one deserves a mention because it was well-written and explored the monotony and comfort of being a soap actor well.

Congrats to the winning writers.

The Plaza Short Story Prize (5000 words max) is judged by Vanessa Onwuemezi. ENTER NOW. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 30th April 2024.

The NEW Plaza Flash Fiction Prize (1000 words max) is open to enter. Judged by the brilliant David Gaffney. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 31st March 2024.

Short Story (8000 words max): Shortlist

Top 10 Short Story Entries
(titles listed in no particular order)

One Last Mad Chance

The Two Things Bassie Knows

Appetite

Saturday Afternoon in the Museum of Thought

Dick & George

Sashimi

A Visitation of Glory

Johnny

Demons & Moneys

A Resurrection in Soap

Congrats to the 10 writers who made the long list.

The announcement of the winners will happen on the News page next week. So, pop back to see which stories made the final cut. 

The NEW Plaza Flash Fiction Prize (1000 words max) is open to enter. Judged by the brilliant David Gaffney. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 31st March 2024.

Sudden Fiction Winners

Top 4 Sudden Fiction Winners

General comments from judge Angela Readman:-

Sudden Fiction involves much more than a short word count, the finest seem to jolt us awake and lure us to another place. I read the shortlist several times and was struck by the variety.

Often the stories had a dreamlike quality, from the fascinating world inside an ice cream man’s head in The Book of Naps, to the nursery rhyme cleverly utilised by The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon. Likewise, The Painting uses the repetition of the word genius to tell a wonderfully paced fantastical tale that makes us consider art and our attitudes towards artists.

In a different vein, the folk horror of The Halfman and the Catfish is a haunting fable about human nature that left me wondering about the mysterious half man.

Other writers preferred realism. The Door to Father’s Den is a family story elevated by the innocent perspective, simple joys and dreams of the girl who opens the door. The titular character in Not for Maggie wears her heart closer to their sleeve, we can’t help wanting to know more.

The story Gravity makes lost love a contemplation into distance and the weight of things building over time. Seven Ages of a Bathroom Cabinet also offers a reflection on time, a life skilfully drawn through small objects that mean more than their shelf life. The Jar is a deeply relatable story where a simple object takes on greater significance than its parts. In Surviving the Predictable, a game snakes of ladders becomes a delightful reminder of what it is to be human.

It wasn’t easy to pick a winner. Each story had its merits, many intrigued me, all deserved to be shortlisted. I allowed the stories to sit after I’d read them a few times and ultimately chose stories I kept thinking about afterwards, stories that made me remember sudden fiction is anything but sudden, great stories stay with us for years.

First Place
The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Cheryl O’Brien (UK)

The fantastical imagery of the children’s rhyme provides a startling contrast to a much darker tale. This felt like a story that could be told no other way, it offers no easy answers but asks questions about the function of imagination at a rattling pace.

Second Place

Not for Maggie by Alan Sincic (USA)

The beginning of this story felt like a seduction, the rhythm is stunning. I kept thinking about Maggie later, all the things that weren’t for her, I wondered what was. She was utterly vivid yet remained a mystery to me. A beautiful glimpse of the human condition.

Third Place

The Door to Father’s Den by Kelli Short Borges (USA)

I loved the structure of The Door to Father’s Den. The series of micros shows a girl moving through stages of her parents’ dissolving marriage. It’s difficult to write happy endings, yet the details sold me. I finished this story and found something rare in fiction, I felt hope.

Highly Commended

Seven Ages of the Bathroom Cabinet by Sue de Feu (Jersey, UK)

An impeccably structured story, as soon as I started reading I knew I was in safe hands. A whole life in so few words, beautifully done.

Congrats to the winning writers. The Top 10 stories will be published in The Plaza Prizes Anthology 2 this October.

The NEW Plaza Flash Fiction Prize (1000 words max) is open to enter. Judged by the brilliant David Gaffney. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 31st March 2024.

Sudden Fiction (1500 words max): Shortlist (Top 10)

Top 10 Sudden Fiction Entries
(titles listed in no particular order)

The Book of Naps

Not For Maggie

The Painting

The Jar

Gravity

The Halfman & The Catfish

The Door to Father’s Den

7 Ages of a Bathroom Cabinet

The Dish Ran Away With the Spoon

Plum Jam

Congrats to the 10 writers who made the long-list. These stories will be published in The Plaza Prizes Anthology 2 this October.

The announcement of the winners will happen on the News page next week. So, pop back to see which stories made the cut. 

The NEW Plaza Flash Fiction Prize (1000 words max) is open to enter. Judged by the brilliant David Gaffney. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 31st March 2024.

Short Story (8000 words max): Long List

Top 20 Short StoryEntries
(titles listed in no particular order)

One Last Mad Chance

The Two Things Bassie Knows

Appetite

Saturday Afternoon in the Museum of Thought

Arguing With Trains

Dick & George

The Milky Way

Sashimi

A Visitation of Glory

Johnny

The Claim

The Illusion

Every Good Tree

Demons & Moneys

A Resurrection in Soap

Renewable Guy

Best of Three

Birth Mother

Alton

Bowie on Amsterdam

Congrats to the 20 writers who made the long list. The overall standard of entries was good. There were 138 entries in total (including Bursary and 50% Discounted categories).

The announcement of the shortlist of 10 will happen on the News page next week. So, pop back to see which stories made the cut. 

The NEW Plaza Flash Fiction Prize (1000 words max) is open to enter. Judged by the brilliant David Gaffney. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 31st March 2024.

Sudden Fiction (1500 words max): Long List (Top 20)

Top 20 Sudden Fiction Entries
(titles listed in no particular order)

Sunken Palace

The Book of Naps

Not For Maggie

The Painting

The Jar

Gravity

The Halfman & The Catfish

The Door to Father’s Den

7 Ages of a Bathroom Cabinet

The Dish Ran Away With the Spoon

Outside Cafe Roussillon

Seven Seconds

Bread and Butter

Banquet Night

What Lurks Within

Plum Jam

Watercolor Lake

The Time it Takes to Fall Again

Hallucination at Dawn

A Brown Envelope

Congrats to the 20 writers who made the long-list. The overall standard of entries was fair. There were 124 entries in total (including Bursary and 50% Discounted categories).

The announcement of the shortlist of 10 will happen on the News page next week. So, pop back to see which stories made the cut. 

The NEW Plaza Flash Fiction Prize (1000 words max) is open to enter. Judged by the brilliant David Gaffney. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 31st March 2024.

Poetry (20 lines max): Winners

Winning Poetry Entries
(titles listed in reverse order)

All the comments below are from our judge, Rory Waterman. The Plaza Prizes really appreciate his support and expertise.

‘A poem has to be the most powerful thing you can say in the shortest space possible’ – so said Charles Causley, one of my favourite poets of the last century, though he rarely wrote very short poems, it must be said. Neither do I, though I love them, at least in theory. As Simon Armitage has put it, ‘The short poem, at its best, brings about an almost instantaneous surge of both understanding and sensation unavailable elsewhere’.

It’s intriguing how many of the poems that came to me were towards the competition’s upper line limit of 20 lines, though I don’t know what to say about that, other than that I would’ve liked to see a higher proportion of exceptionally short, resonant poems. Perhaps the very notion of a competition implies that pithier pieces are likelier to be thrown out. In any case, several of the poems I received were powerful little works of compression and inference, and the very best did indeed bring about an almost instantaneous surge of understanding and sensation. Very few were experimental, in the usual conception of that word, but several poets proved themselves to be pleasingly and often successfully innovative.’

Highly Commended (4th) – ‘How Every Day Begins’ by Jenny Pollak (AUS)

‘The first part of this two-part poem is a thoughtful but terse analysis of impetus – ‘the dog’s impetus to follow the stick. The tiny caterpillar, / which knows it must keep eating until something happens, / but doesn’t appear to know anything about flying.’ The second part, a monostich, turns this into apparent ars poetica, ‘In which the trick is learning how to put all of it into one sentence.’ I find this entirely alluring, but I can’t quite get to the heart of it: why would this all need to be in one sentence?’

3rd prize – ‘Rocking Chair Song’ by Julie Sheridan (SCO)

‘This is a loose, empathetic villanelle: ‘Rock back and forth on the brink of light. / If I promised you more it would be a lie.’ The setting is a safe house for girls in Guatemala; the poem is not in the slightest patronising, though of course it runs the risk of such an unfounded accusation, particularly as it leaves us to make our own minds up – a very unfashionable thing to do, but often the only way in which a poem can really nourish: ‘I could rewrite the lines of your lullaby, / say when the bough breaks the thunder will stop / but we both know that it would be a lie.’ Beautiful, with meaningful line-breaks.’

2nd prize – ‘Tiddlers’ by Mike Farren (ENG)

‘This is a vivid anecdotal poem, full of sentiment without toppling into sentimentality. ‘The net is the brightest green I’ve ever seen’, it begins – in apparent hyperbole, until we realise the speaker is a child of six, filtered through an adult’s sense of innocence and experience. The poem ends with a poetic staple – the child’s life is all ahead of it – but this is nicely undercut: the hemlock that ‘smells of wee’ is of course toxic, as the adult surely knows; ‘we’ve all our lives to catch’ the fish, but we don’t really.’

1st prize – ‘The Bat Cave’ by Paul McMahon (IRE)

‘This really is a beautifully evocative little poem. The first sentence rolls on and on, meaningfully and energetically enjambed (‘she / disappeared’, ‘blinded / in sunlight’ – from her perspective, suddenly), and the simple second sentence conclusively answers it, as suddenly as the cave seems to conclude the argument. Or does it? The final image is beautiful, but also forbidding: is this a portent? When I first read this poem, I liked it tremendously, but wondered whether there was enough to it – then it stayed with me, and I thought more and more about that ending and all it could mean. I wanted to read it again, and again. And that is why it wins: it is, conclusively, at least for me, so much more than the sum of its little parts.’

Well done to those poets who made the final cut. They will receive their prizes at our 2024 awards ceremony and their poems will be published in The Plaza Prizes Poetry Anthology in October 2024, along with all those on the shortlist.

The NEW Plaza Poetry Prize (60 lines) is open to enter. Judged by Tim Liardet. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 29th Feb 2024.

Poetry (20 lines max): Shortlist (Top 10)

Top 10 Poetry Entries
(titles listed in no particular order)

Rocking Chair Song

Tiddlers

Sunrise Run Club

Native Title

In Comic Relief

Turned

How every day begins (your whole life)

The Old Milking Cow

The Bat Cave

Swan’s Wings

Congratulations to those talented 10 who made the shortlist.

The announcement of the winners will happen on the News page next week. So, pop back to see which poems made the final cut. 

The NEW Plaza Poetry Prize (60 lines) is open to enter. Judged by Tim Liardet. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 29th Feb 2024.

Poetry (20 lines max): Long List (Top 20)

Top 20 Poetry Entries
(titles listed in no particular order)

Death Hasn’t Touched You Yet

How Do You Measure Almost

I Saw a Grasshopper Poo

In the Bathroom

The Newsagent, The Gardener, and The Railwayman

Rocking Chair Song

Tiddlers

Sunrise Run Club

Native Title

In Comic Relief

Turned

No Guarantees in a Truth

How every day begins (your whole life)

The Old Milking Cow

The Bat Cave

Lunch

Sandwiched

Swan’s Wings

The thing under my seat

Willingness to be seen

Congratulations to those talented 20 who made the long-list. The standard of entries was really high, lots of brilliant work. There were 604 entries in total (including Bursary and 50% Discounted categories).

The announcement of the shortlist of 10 will happen on the News page next week. So, pop back to see which poems made the cut. 

The NEW Plaza Poetry Prize (60 lines) is open to enter. Judged by Tim Liardet. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 29th Feb 2024.

SFF: First Chapters: Winners

Top 4 SFF: First Chapters
(titles listed in ascending order)

Sorry for the slight delay in posting. We were waiting on permissions to name the winners on the News page.

All the comments in quotation marks below are from our judge, Ben Clark, Director of The Soho Agency.

Highly Commended: Smile When I Wake by Laura Stephens

Smile When I Wake is a very well-written literary mystery, reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro. With a character-driven plot, it stands out from other dystopian science fiction (that often focus on the moral, political, environmental etc. impact of developing tech) in turning the lens to the psychology and struggles of the ordinary person. Full of intrigue and suspense, it wonderfully subverts common themes of life after death, second chances, and of course, love and relationships, against the subtle and well-developed backdrop of a realistic, near scientific future (in which the world isn’t ending – hooray!).’

3rd place: Mazurka by Robert Tateson

Mazurka was a really fun pitch to read. The concept of nano carbon turning into a black-market commodity is both clever and frighteningly realistic – it’s a smart play on eco-anxiety and a fun way to play with the ‘what if’s’ about our carbon future. The world the characters live in is brought to life by the writing and the anchoring to beautiful, remote places around the world. I particularly enjoyed the science elements and would love to see that developed further. With such a strong, clean concept – the writer could elevate their writing by reducing narrative elements to those only essential to story development or world-building, and focusing more acutely on character development.’

2nd place: A Carnival Ago by Sherry Cassells

‘This is a really interesting approach. The writing is vivid and gorgeous, it is the beating heart of the novel. It is literary in tone, cleverly conveying the claustrophobia and menace of the asylum from page one. The author also does well to create suspense and intrigue, leaving the reader with page-turning questions. Who is Alice? What is the White asylum? Who is the protagonist and why he is there? There is a true sense of their oppressive surroundings and the psychological impact this is having on the characters.’

1st place: Twice Gallowed by Alex Emms

Twice Gallowed was the clear winner. It’s a very original take on intergalactic science fiction – the pitch lures you in immediately. The writing was excellent – the world-building, tethered to the Wild West, made the science fiction elements feel grounded, rich, and believable. The characters truly leapt off the page – you could really see the interactions dancing behind your eyes and the emotions felt raw and immediate. I even had sympathy for an immortal bounty hunter, which is no small feat. The story runs smoothly and you often forget your reading – this is set up really well with the main character dying in the opening pages. A really original opening. It feels visceral and like an interesting world is quickly established. Reminded me in part of Stephen Kings Gunslinger series.’

Congrats to all the winners. They will be presented with their prizes and certificates at our awards ceremony in 2024. The winner gets a mentoring session with Ben Clark in the New Year.

Thanks to all those who entered. We can’t make this opportunity to discover new talent and get new writers published without your help.