Monday, April 01, 2013

Edge Hill Prize long list and what it shows

Last year, or maybe the year before, the Edge Hill Prize (for a published short story collection) began publishing their longlist. This move is to be welcomed, chiefly and most obviously because it gives publicity, and introduces us, to a larger number of excellent books that may otherwise get no attention whatsoever, but also because it provides us with some measure of the current state of short story publishing. This year the Edge Hill longlist is larger than ever, and it does indeed paint an interesting picture.

It does seem that the locus of short story publishing in Britain and Ireland is now firmly the small presses, and that there are more small publishers than ever in existence producing excellent work. Of the 24 publishers represented on the list, 19 are truly small publishers. It's even more interesting to look at the proportions for the longlisted books: 37 books are listed, but small publishers have produced 29 of those, Salt and Comma being responsible for nine between them. Perhaps another interesting fact is that six of those 19 small publishers - Doire Press, Arlen House, New Island, Stinging Fly, Blackstaff and Lilliput - are Irish, two (Parthian and Old Street) are based in Wales, and another (Freight) is Scottish, reinforcing the notion of the short story as non-conformist.  Perhaps to my own shame I hadn't actually heard of Doire, Freight or Lilliput, or indeed of some of the remaining ten: new to me were the Valley Press based in Scarborough, Route which operates from Pontefract, of all places (I'm prejudiced - I once lived there!), Skylight, Elsewhere, Tightrope (Canadian) and Odyssey (US, I think - they charge for their books in dollars, at any rate). The two I haven't yet mentioned are the northern-based Pewter Rose, and the Bristol-based Tangent.

It's perhaps to be noted, though, that the bigger publishers are still producing short stories - two longlisted books come from Pan Macmillan, and Bloomsbury has fielded no less than three. Interesting, though, that Faber, which one thinks of as the home of literary fiction par excellence, and which has triumphed in this prize in the past (their authors Claire Keegan and Sarah Hall have both been overall winners), appears to have nothing to enter this year (Junot Diaz, the only short story writer they seem to have published this year, failing to be eligible as he's not British-born).

Anyway, many congratulations to those writers on the longlist, and if you'll permit a little indulgence, very special congrats to those on the list I happen to know personally: Carys Bray with Sweet Home (Salt), Nuala Ni Chonchuir with Mother America (New Island), Tania Hershman with My Mother Was An Upright Piano (Tangent), Jackie Kay with Reality, Reality (Pan Macmillan), Adam Marek with The Stone Thrower (Comma), Jonathan Pinnock with Dot, Dash (Salt), Jane Rogers with Hitting Trees With Sticks (Comma) and Tony Williams with All The Bananas I've Never Eaten (Salt) 
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