Sidebottom wins contest with witty literary wordplay

Kay Sidebottom, a PhD student and lecturer at the University of Leeds, has won Shooter’s 2017 Poetry Competition with her poem “Ex Libris”.

Out of almost 500 entries, Sidebottom’s poem won for its witty (literally) literary wordplay and deft, understated style, devoid of excessive sentimentality. Although Sidebottom began writing poetry at the age of six, she had a “thirty year hiatus,” she said in an email, “before being persuaded to start again by a friend.” She is based in Yorkshire and her poems, stories and other writing can be found at

The competition’s runner-up, Robert Kibble, composed an irresistible twist on Robert Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” to inveigh against the current US president in “Ode to a POTUS”. He writes on the side of a “very much less creative day job,” he said in an email, and maintains a blog at He is also on Twitter @r_kibble.

Kibble originally wrote “Ode to a POTUS” for his writers’ group Burns Night party. “Please, America, get well soon,” he quipped.

Sidebottom’s winning poem will appear in Shooter’s forthcoming winter issue, but both poems are also available to read online now at

Shooter’s 2018 Short Story Competition, as well as general submissions for the summer issue, will open for entries in early February.

“Bad Girls” storm summer’s Issue #6

Shooter 6 front cover

Cover illustration by Nevena Katalina

Following a certain campaign gaffe in the run-up to the US presidential election last year (I know, that doesn’t exactly narrow it down), the epithet “nasty woman” – aimed at Hillary Clinton – became something of a rallying cry for feminists and anyone who rejected the sexist status quo promoted by #45.

In keeping with that spirit, Shooter’s “Bad Girls” issue celebrates women who buck convention, reject patriarchal norms, choose fulfilment over conformity, and occupy traditionally male environments. Hitherto, narrative norms have required certain outcomes for female characters, too – and so we also have stories that see antiheroines getting away with things they might not, in earlier eras, have been allowed to do without moralistic retribution on the page.

In our strongest issue yet for non-fiction, several writers focus on striking out to pursue their passions in typically male domains. Emily Wildash follows in the footsteps of solo adventurers in her essay “Women Who Walk Alone”, while Eileen Sutton – an aspiring poker pro – reveals how the chips are stacked against female players in “Poker Girl”. Traveling around the world to Korea, Paola Trimarco explores very different cultural stereotypes of gender in “The Mighty Oak”. Two pieces delve into sexual politics, with Elledee’s lyrical response to her midlife Tinder adventures in “Swipe Right Poetry” and John-Ivan Palmer’s memoir about providing questionable protection to San Franciscan strippers in “Superstition”.

Equally engrossing are the issue’s fictional offerings. Andrea Eaker’s “How Aphrodite Fell in Love and Then Her Husband Ruined Everything” opens the issue with a provocative re-imagining of Greek myth. Elsewhere, authors revel in their bad girls: Jane Dotchin’s schoolgirl reprobate in “Charlotte’s Stockings”; Alex Clark’s snooty aspiring screenwriter (and her politically incorrect tenant) in “An Acquisition”; Tom Tolnay’s nocturnal Ophelia, who takes centre stage in “Ophelia of My Dreams”; Joseph Pierson’s drug addict coming clean in his innovative story “Siege”. In “Respectable”, though Irette Y Patterson’s protagonist caves to pressure to tame her afro hair, she then takes things to righteously defiant lengths.

Even the titles of some of the poems indicate the ways in which Bad Girls exercise their power. “Miranda Chooses” and “Lilith Speaks” suggest that women exercising their basic rights to decide and speak for themselves contradict patriarchal convention. (To be fair, the witches of the latter go to some emasculating lengths that we would advocate only in the realm of fantasy.) Supernatural horror crops up rarely in the submissions, so we were especially happy to award the 2017 Short Story Competition prize to Emma Parfitt for “Baby’s Day Out”, an unexpectedly creepy take on London’s brutal housing market. Literary horror in the vein of Shirley Jackson, Bret Easton Ellis and the best of Stephen King crops up rarely but works so well as metaphor for social ills. We’d love to see more of it.

In the film world, the Bechdel test is well known as a measure for cinematic sexism. It asks whether there are named female characters discussing subjects other than men. There are numerous derivations of this test examining how fictional women are portrayed, such as the “sexy lamp test”, which asks whether female characters could be replaced by sexy lamps without much affecting the story.

In fiction as in life, women should have agency to act, speak and decide their own terms, not solely exist in relation to others: women as individuals in their own right, not just wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters. Of course, sometimes the story is about relationships or sex or parenting, and so revolves around these roles. The point is that in these situations women still need to be depicted as complex characters with a mind, will, personality and life beyond their relation to somebody else.

In this and every issue of Shooter, women will always be accorded the same rights as men. As long as it’s in the context of a compelling piece of writing.

To order an annual subscription or a copy of the “Bad Girls” issue, please visit the Subscriptions page.

Spooky real estate parable wins competition

home auction picThe winners of Shooter’s 2017 Short Story Competition have been announced, with Emma Parfitt scooping the top prize for her supernatural parable about London’s brutal housing market, “Baby’s Day Out”, and Jim Brannin as runner-up for his poignant tale of ageing, “The White Cat”.

Parfitt, an English teacher in Kent by day, has previously written several Young Adult e-books, but in recent years has turned to writing fiction for older readers. Her winning story was the fruit of a creative writing course at the Faber Academy in London.

“At a certain point I couldn’t afford to live in London any more, so I had that experience of being pushed out of the housing market myself,” she said via email, “though not in quite such an extreme manner as in the story.”

“Baby’s Day Out” is a rare hybrid of literary horror, as well as the first ghost story Shooter has published (it will appear in Shooter’s print magazine, the upcoming “Bad Girls” issue, as well as online). Competition readers and Shooter’s editor, Melanie White, enjoyed the way it worked as social commentary as well as an effectively spooky – and unexpected – ghost story. They also lauded the elegant, polished quality of the writing.

“Winning something like Shooter’s competition is so encouraging,” Parfitt said. “It has definitely spurred me on to keep at it and persevere with longer-form work, which can feel much more daunting.” She is currently working on a novel, also in the genre of literary horror, set in London’s financial world.

Jim Brannin’s second-place story, “The White Cat”, focused closely on dilemmas of ageing, with a protagonist who engaged and moved the readers. Brannin, who splits his time between Barcelona and London, has co-authored seven books of non-fiction and published several short stories in literary journals.

Both “Baby’s Day Out” and “The White Cat” can be read on Shooter’s website. The winning story will also appear in Shooter’s summer issue, out soon. For subscriptions or to order a copy of the print edition in advance, please visit the Subscriptions page.

Shooter’s annual Short Story Competition will reopen for entries early next year, while the magazine’s Poetry Competition will open later this summer. Details on how to enter will be posted on the website. ‘Til then, enjoy all winning stories and poems on the Competition Winners page!

Take a trip into Issue #5: Cities


Cover art by Erin Schuetz

In the era of the staycation, travel writing offers a metaphorically transporting way to experience distant realms. With the “Cities” issue, we sought pieces that captured the flavour of a place without sacrificing narrative: more literary than literal guide. The fiction, memoir, reportage and poetry we ended up with convey a strong sense of a particular city (or an imagined one) while keeping character, plot and style to the fore.

We were delighted to find an abundance of captivating pieces that whisk the reader around the world, across Europe, America, Asia, and even into the dystopian urban future. The range among the non-fiction offerings has never been broader, from Emma Rault’s Brit’s-eye-view of LA (“Los Angeles, Seen from a Tree”) to Cheryl Lynn Smart’s impassioned in-depth report on the housing projects of Memphis (“The Bricks”). Judith Roney poetically takes the pulse of Orlando following last year’s nightclub shootings in “<80 BPM”, while Conor Montague depicts backpackers in Gorakhpur with comic flair in “The Integrity of Cockroaches”.

In addition to poems distilling key aspects of Paris and New York, Dundee and Liverpool, of particular note is the winning entry in Shooter’s inaugural Poetry Competition. Miriam Celeste Ramos scooped the prize with “The Long Arm” for its raw energy, surging Beat-style rhythm, and emotional power. Her poem, along with that of runner-up Stephen Williams, also appears online.

Many of the issue’s short stories play with perception as well as place. Paul Blaney’s “A Lisbon Story” seemed a good choice to open the edition given its sharp sense of setting and the kind of questions it raises about identity and invention, opportunities for which cities so frequently present. Sarah Evans, in “The Architecture of Emotion”, reflects her main character’s inner turmoil in London’s outer landscape. Dave Wakely’s “In the Gut” also elegantly explores heartache, this time in the Maltese capital of Valletta, while the protagonist in P W Lewis’s “A Tale of Two” becomes mired in a murky world of art and infidelity in Vienna.

Culture clash emerges as another common theme. Máire Cooney’s Glaswegian schoolgirl has trouble adjusting to Edinburgh life in “Nobody Said Anything”. A stint teaching English in Hong Kong shatters the main character’s illusions in Joshan Esfandiari Martin’s “Charmed Lives”. And not just culture but survival clashes loom in Malachi King’s “The Waters of Michigan”, when two post-apocalyptic survivors roam an unnamed city, dreaming of a better place.

When cities become visions of hell, what idyll beckons with greatest allure? The country.

To order a copy, please visit the Subscriptions page.

Submissions open for Issue #6: Bad Girls

While we wait for the “Cities” issue to return from the printers, writers can sharpen their pencils and flex their fingers in preparation for the summer issue’s theme: “Bad Girls”.


Illustration by Arthur M. Doweyko:

As the peerless Rebecca Solnit writes in the London Review of Books about the US election, “One got the impression that any power a woman had was too much, and that a lot of men found women very scary.” In line with the kind of women feared by patriarchy, Shooter seeks literary short fiction, non-fiction and poetry featuring not the Playboyesque, video-game, comic-book notions of Bad Girls, but defiant women who speak up and act out. We want to read about convention-defying antiheroines and unapologetic badasses who carve their own path. Give us the antics and mishaps of adventurers, intrepid souls and challenging contrarians, but make sure these characters are surprising and complex rather than reductive and cartoonish. Non-fiction that deals with topical feminist issues and women in male-dominated environments is particularly welcome. As usual, we prefer poetry that inclines to the observational rather than experimental end of the spectrum.

Please read the Submission Guidelines for information on how to submit. Writers may send one prose piece (between 2,000 and 7,500 words) and/or up to three poems to by April 2nd, 2017, for inclusion in the summer issue.

Submissions are also open for Shooter’s 2017 Short Story Competition, which carries a slightly later deadline of April 16th, 2017, with no restrictions on theme. Please go here to read more on how to submit to the competition – we look forward to reading your work!

Ramos wins Poetry Competition

Miriam Celeste Ramos has won Shooter’s inaugural Poetry Competition with “The Long Arm”, a free-verse poem that impressed the contest’s readers with its raw energy and emotional power.

Ramos, a New Yorker living in London, said she originally wrote the poem to be performed aloud – fitting for verse with a strong voice and insistent, Beat-style rhythm. In addition to poetry, Ramos has written fiction, films and essays; more about her work can be found at As the winning entry, “The Long Arm” appears in Shooter Issue #5 (to be released next week), as well as online here.

A humorous poem, “B&Q Blues” by Stephen Williams, finished second in the contest and also appears online. Williams writes comic poetry and teaches secondary school English in North Yorkshire; he maintains a poetry website at

All winners from Shooter’s short story and poetry competitions can be found on the Competition Winners page. The 2017 Short Story Competition will open for submissions next week (along with submissions for Shooter’s summer issue), and the Poetry Competition will return in August – stay tuned for further details!

Read winning stories online

If you’re looking for a little late summer diversion, both the winner and runner-up of Shooter’s 2016 Short Story Competition are now available online for your reading pleasure.

Ka Bradley’s winning tale, “Examination for Empathy, Sympathy, Emotion (ESE) 004”, appeared on the website in conjunction with the launch of Issue #4: Technology, in which the story also appeared. The competition runner-up, Laura Lamb’s “The Collector”, is posted exclusively on Shooter’s website.

Inventively framed and immediately absorbing, “Examination for Empathy, Sympathy, Emotion (ESE) 004” zeroes in on the minutiae of a miserable commuter experience, with darkly humorous, razor-sharp observation. “The Collector”, a whimsical and imaginative fable, depicts the unusual way a man manages to conquer his fear of public speaking.

These winning stories exhibit different literary strengths and styles, but both amount to the kind of work that Shooter seeks to champion: original ideas and execution, beautifully wrought language, an intriguing premise, compelling characters and, fundamentally, writing that appeals to both the head and the heart.

You, the reader, can play an important role in helping to support these new writers by sharing links to their work on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, and, if you like what you read, please feel free to leave comments. Our next story competition will open in January 2017 but, until then, we hope you’ll enjoy these winning tales from our inaugural contest!