Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Debut authors dominate shortlist for Frank O'Connor award
Four out of six collections nominated for this year's short stories award are by first-time writers
Richard Lea writing in the guardian.co.uk,

The year of the debutant continues with today's announcement of the shortlist for the 2009 Frank O'Connor award with four of the six shortlisted authors nominated for debut collections. Notable casualties from the 57-strong longlist for the world's richest award for a collection of short stories include Kazuo Ishiguro, Ali Smith and James Lasdun.

The Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah said she had been "going around with a rather demented grin on my face" ever since she heard that her debut collection, An Elegy for Easterly, was on the list.
"I still can't believe I am on the shortlist ahead of all those excellent writers," she said. "It is too bizarre. At this rate, I may just start to be believe that I actually know what I am doing!"
She is joined on the list for the €35,000 (£30,000) award by three more debutants: the American Wells Tower for Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, the Malaysian Shih-Li Kow for Ripples and Other Stories, and Simon Van Booy for Love Begins in Winter. Philip O Ceallaigh appears on the shortlist with his second collection of short stories, The Pleasant Light of Day, while Charlotte Grimshaw, nominated for Singularity, is something of a veteran in this context, with two novels and a previous collection of short stories to her name.
The writer Vincent McDonnell, one of the judges for the 2009 award, pronounced himself pleased with the quality of the entries, showing that the short story was in "reasonably good health".
"There are some new voices on the scene as well," he added, "which is healthy."
He said there had been no "conscious decision" to favour debut authors, and was unaware of the preponderance of debut writers on the shortlist. While an unknown voice might stand out among the work of familiar writers, he continued, "that particular question didn't really crop up. Some of the collections from new writers were very strong indeed."

Shortlisted authors must commit to attending the award ceremony, which has been the culmination of Cork's annual Frank O'Connor International short story festival since 2005 – though McDonnell rejected the suggestion that a willingness to travel influenced the make-up of the shortlist.
Previous winners include Yiyun Li, Haruki Murakami, and Jhumpa Lahiri, who jumped to victory directly from the longlist last year after judges decided it would be a sham to place any other writers on a shortlist beside her.
The 2009 winner is due to be announced on 20 September 2009.
Check out the website here.

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