Feast or famine of 2019 story comp winners

The winners of the 2019 Shooter Short Story Competition naturally share a high degree of literary accomplishment, elegance and resonance. Less expectedly, they both play with feast-or-famine themes in their respective post-Brexit and marital scenarios.

Jenny Booth, a writer and English teacher from Leeds, won the 2019 award for her story “Another Country”, which conjures an ominous post-Brexit world in which stark consequences emerge for rich and poor. She has previously published short fiction in Prole, Litro, Orbis, and elsewhere, and is currently working on a collection of short stories set in Yorkshire.

The runner-up, Rajasree Variyar, depicts a family strained by denial and anorexia in “Lucky Buddha”. Variyar, who was born in Bangalore, India, and grew up in Sydney, Australia, is currently based in London and juggling a job in insurance with a Creative Writing degree at the University of East Anglia.

Both stories are available to read on Shooter’s website via the links above, and “Another Country” will also appear in Shooter’s forthcoming Identity issue. To order a copy (our 10th issue!) or to subscribe, please visit the Subscriptions page. In the meantime, massive congratulations to our 2019 winners!

Animal instincts, domestic strife dominate “Rivalry” issue

Shooter 9 Cover

Cover art by Cindy Fan

It’s commonly said that there can be no drama without conflict.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the theme of Rivalry – with its associations of competition and tension between opposing forces – has given rise to one of our most compelling issues yet. More unexpected, perhaps, are some of the contexts in which writers found inspiration.

Animals feature repeatedly, in some cases owing to the elemental contest between predator and prey. Nick Norton in “The Goat and the Bridge” weaves an offbeat fable about a goat who resists tradition to overcome a loathsome foe. Eleanor Matthews presents another parable, this time featuring an unconventional ménage à trois between a husband who’s a little too fond of his pig, and his pragmatic – and hungry – wife. In “The Bird Club”, Gordon Gibson portrays the antagonistic exertions of obsessive bird-watchers. One of the issue’s two non-fiction pieces, Australian writer Alexandra O’Sullivan’s “Throwing Stones”, explores the equestrian rivalry between two school friends, interweaving literary analysis of childhood classics that shed light on fraught youthful friendships.

The issue’s opening story, “As Well for the Coowe Calfe”, may allude to matters bovine, but there the animal associations end. Josephine Warrior’s historical fiction, like many other pieces in the issue, revolves around romantic tensions: between husband and wife (Samuel Pepys and his bride, in Warrior’s tale); spouse and lover (Patrick Mondaca’s “Bathsheba Wears Prada”); girlfriend and other woman (Philippa East’s “Kraken”). Also in the domestic realm, a father’s jealousy over his wife’s attention to their children leads to an unbearable silence in Sarah Evans’ “The Long Sulk”.

The odd one out in this edition, as far as the thematic context goes, is Maryah Converse’s memoir “Trust on the Nile”, which contrasts her experience of Jordan versus Egypt while working in the region as a Peace Corps volunteer. The differences between the two countries set up a rivalry inside her mind, and Converse provides some fascinating cultural insights as she unravels her internal responses.

Another treat within the current issue (and in keeping, coincidentally, with the subject of marital tension) is the result of the 2018 Poetry Competition. The best poems were so strong on this occasion that we awarded the top prize to two poets: Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, for “The Butterfly and the Stone”, and Rowena Cooper, for “A Divorcee Talks Through Block Universe Theory”. Both merge innovative structures with challenging ideas, producing multilayered poems that bestow themes of intimacy and marital strife with a sense of timelessness. As they happen to have a lot in common, I think you’ll see why it was difficult to choose between the two. Consequently, they’re our first joint winners, and in addition to both poems appearing in the print edition, you can read them online. The competition’s elegant runner-up, “African Night” by Isabella Mead, is also presented on our website.

Conflict may drive drama, but satisfying stories also require resolution. We might heed the real-life counsel of one of the issue’s characters when considering how to heal a breach. Samuel Pepys, in his seventeenth-century diary, observes, “Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody.” If some of the characters in this issue fail to resolve their rivalries, may Shooter at least entertain you well before commending you to your supper.

To order the Rivalry issue or sign up for an annual subscription, please visit the Subscriptions page.

Submissions open for “Identity”

While we wait for the Rivalry issue to return from the printers, writers might like to look ahead to the theme for our summer (10th!) issue, which will be Identity.

We’re looking for stories, essays, reported narratives and poetry on anything to do with the sense of self, whether personal or cultural. What defines someone – character, actions, associations, appearance? Why is identity important? What happens when it’s threatened? We particularly seek content that addresses topical issues of gender, sexuality, race, nationality, religion and occupation but, as ever, the theme is open to wide interpretation.

For anyone with stories outside that theme (and keen to reap a rather larger cash reward), Shooter’s 2019 Short Story Competition is also open for entries. The winner will collect a £500 prize, with publication online and in the summer issue, while the runner-up receives £100 and online publication.

Deadline for both general and competition submissions is April 21st. Please visit the Submissions or Competition pages for guidelines on how to submit. We look forward to reading your work!

Cooper, Clough win Poetry Competition

Rowena Cooper and Elisabeth Sennitt Clough share first place in the 2018 Shooter Poetry Competition for imaginative poems with strong ideas, precise language and transporting imagery.

Cooper’s poem, “A Divorcee Talks Through Block Universe Theory”, draws on the concept of permanent past and present time to endow a scene of marital separation with much greater perspective. Cooper, who lives in Oxford, was commended in the 2017 Winchester Poetry Prize, and is currently working on a poetry collection about love, consciousness, and neolithic art. Her first play, After Aulis, will be performed at this year’s Brighton Festival after debuting at Stratford-upon-Avon last year.

Clough’s poem, “The Butterfly and the Stone”, employs a mystical tone and natural imagery to illuminate another marital relationship, this time in a context of intimacy. Clough has published several poetry collections – the most recent, At or Below Sea Level, recommended by the Poetry Book Society – and has published poetry in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018, The Rialto, Poem, Mslexia, Wasafiri, Magma, The Cannon’s Mouth and Stand. She also edits The Fenland Reed, an East Anglian poetry magazine.

Isabella Mead came runner-up in the competition for her poem “African Night”, with its elegant depiction of walking home in a remote landscape. Mead spent two years as a teacher trainer in a Rwandan village before returning to the UK to work at The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and The Story Museum in Oxford. Her poetry was highly commended in the 2016 Bridport Prize, longlisted in the 2017 National Poetry Competition, and commended in the 2018 Cafe Writers competition.

All of these poems appear on Shooter’s website, but the joint winners will also be published in the forthcoming print edition of the magazine (issue #9: Rivalry) in a few weeks’ time. Congratulations to all three poets, and if you wish to see the winning poems laid out rather more accurately than WordPress templates allow, please do subscribe here to order the print edition!

TLS features Shooter in Journals issue

TLS Shooter teaserWe’re delighted that the Times Literary Supplement this week chose to include Shooter in its annual issue covering notable literary journals. Please buy a copy to read Katie Mennis’s review in full, which focuses on the recent “New Life” and “Dirty Money” issues, or read the teaser here.

She writes: “For A. L. Kennedy, a short story is ‘small in the way a bullet is small’. Shooter … calls to mind not only Kennedy’s exhortation to ‘hit [the] reader and blow their fucking head off’ but also ‘Chekhov’s gun’, the principle that every element of a story must be necessary.”

With that in mind, writers still have two weeks in which to fire bullets, not blanks, for the “Rivalry” issue (deadline November 11th) or the 2018 Poetry Competition (November 25th).

Dirty Money, competition winners, next theme & more

Shooter 8 front cover page

Cover art by Youheum Son

Money gets a bad rap. Clichés suggesting its powers of corruption abound: The root of all evil. Filthy lucre. Mo’ money, mo’ problems. (When it’s Notorious BIG, money also gets a good rap.)

Contributors to Shooter’s latest issue, themed Dirty Money, hone in on the dangers of materialism, precarious circumstances for US immigrants, con artistry, dodgy bankers, and dodgier Russian currency deals. Some characters experience spiritual conversions; others meet violent (or vile) ends. The approaches to the theme are diverse, but all of the stories and poetry in the summer issue merge thought-provoking insight with compelling narrative entertainment.

The summer issue also features the 2018 Short Story Competition winner: Sophie Revell’s “Poetic Justice”. Revell’s story breaks from the issue’s thematic constraints, as well as structural conventions, to play with the notion of authorial obligation and bring her characters to life in an innovatively mind-bending way. Her cross-fertilisation of screenplay and short story formats struck us with its refreshing originality, and we whole-heartedly appreciated the feminist aspect of her piece as well.

The competition’s runner-up, “A&E” by James Beaumont, is also available to read online here. We enjoyed his tale’s twin perspectives, about an encounter on a train journey that leads to a pleasantly satisfying conclusion.

Following hot on the heels of our story competition, the second half of the year is dedicated to the poets. Our 2018 Poetry Competition is now open for entries; further details can be found at www.shooterlitmag.com/poetry-competition.

Finally, the theme for the winter 2019 issue will be Rivalry, so sharpen your pencils along with your claws and get writing!

To subscribe to Shooter or to order individual issues, please go to www.shooterlitmag.com/subscriptions.

 

Issue #7 births “New Life”

For a theme as uplifting as “New Life”, the Winter 2018 issue drew an awful lot of stories about dead babies.

Given the preponderance of childbirth horrors in Shooter’s submissions pile, the stories and poems in the issue that addressed this subject had to work extra hard to stand out from the rest, offering something imaginatively unique or handling such emotive matter with deft control. Stuart Snelson’s opening story, “Home-birthed Monsters”, counts among the former, while “Little Bean” by Anton Rose leavens parental disappointment with a comic twist.

Two short non-fiction pieces – “Little Peanut, Little Monkey” by Kyleen Russell and “Flores” by Yasmina Floyer – share poignant perspectives on parental challenges and loss. Among the poets, Amanda Quinn’s opening prose-poem “From the Stories I Never Got to Tell” sounds a hopeful note, as does Victoria Richards’ “You Won’t Remember Any of This”. Julia Webb captures the bittersweet edge of parental love in “Celebrate” and, in “Multplication”, Anna Forbes handles profound grief with a delicate touch.

Departing from birth and children, Laurinda Lind contemplates post-marital reinvention in her poem “Redress”, while Lori Anne Gravely conjures the traveler’s experience of new places in two African poems, “On Waking in a New Room” and “Transfiguration”. For some light relief, the winner of Shooter’s 2017 Poetry Competition, Kay Sidebottom, engages in some witty (literally) literary wordplay in “Ex Libris”.

Plenty of the prose writers approached the “New Life” theme in a more indirect manner. In our fiction-packed issue, Nick Norton (“The Opening”) and Austyn Wohlers (“Hothouse Bloom”) depict characters seeking fresh starts, trying to build new lives with varying degrees of failure. New life for Raoul Colvile’s couple in “A Rat in Stockholm” will come – perhaps – as a result of an unconventional proposal, while the hitchhiker in Amanda Yskamp’s “Hitch” seeks it by running away.

Radovana Jágriková’s “Becky in Vanilla” and Tom Startup’s “The Child Snatchers of Estacruz” (also our first-ever piece of historical fiction) explore the dark territory of child abduction, where characters seek to renew life through the fetishisation of youth. Finally, in a structurally inventive piece, Uschi Gatward plays with the idea of evolving identity in “Biography”.

My own interpretation of the theme has occurred largely off the page during the last six months, while tending its living embodiment alongside the issue. My infant daughter’s coos, gurgles and cries – including the daybreak screams punctuating the writing of this introduction – have provided a fitting soundtrack during the editing phase but, for your sake, I wish you a rather more peaceful reading experience.

Cover art by Anita Salemink. To sign up for a subscription or order a copy of the “New Life” issue, please go to https://shooterlitmag.com/subscriptions