“We Irish have an obsessive need to tell stories” – Madeleine Keane
“You’re looking for someone who can make an entire world in 2,000 words” – Vincent Woods
“The familiar world around us suddenly looked very strange”– Danielle McLaughlin
RTÉ has received a record number of entries, over 4000, to this year’s RTÉ Short Story Competition, one of Ireland’s longest established and most significant literary prizes, in honour of Francis MacManus.
Previously open to postal entries only, the competition opened to online entries also in late March in response to Covid restrictions. By the closing date in May, 4073 entries had been received– far surpassing the 2,300 submissions received for last year’s competition.
“Definitely, lockdown is a factor in these very strong numbers”, said Sarah Binchy, producer of the RTÉ Short Story Competition. “People who might have always thought about entering, suddenly had the time to write. Then, being able to submit online makes it that bit easier to enter, particularly for contestants abroad. We’ve had entries coming in from Irish writers in all four corners of the globe, which is great to see. It’s impressive to see such focus and creativity on the part of all these entrants, whether in Ireland or abroad, at a time of great stress and anxiety in the wider world.”
The panel of three judges met on Friday 3rd July to begin the process of shortlisting the stories to a final 10 nominees which will be produced for radio, and announced in early September. The shortlist of 10 stories will be announced in early September on rte.ie/writing, and a virtual awards ceremony in RTÉ will follow later that month, where the top three prize winners will be announced.
This year’s judges are: editor, lecturer and journalist, Madeleine Keane; award-winning short story writer and previous prize-winner of the RTÉ Short Story Competition, Danielle McLaughlin; and writer and broadcaster, Vincent Woods.
Previous prize-winner and judge for 2020, Danielle McLaughlin, says: “This competition offers writers a great opportunity to reach such a large audience. And at a time when the familiar world around us suddenly looked very strange and inspired so many people to write stories, it really is wonderful for those writers to think that the story they have written at the kitchen table, maybe over several months, and invested so much in has the opportunity to be listened to by so many people all over the country.”
The overall winner will receive €3,000, while €2,000 and €1,000 will be awarded to the second and third place prize winners respectively. A further seven runners-up will receive €250 each. All 10 short stories in the shortlist will be broadcast in a season of new writing on RTÉ Radio 1 in the autumn and will feature in an RTÉ podcast. The top three prizewinning stories will also be published on thejournal.ie, and all 10 stories will subsequently be published on rte.ie/culture.
The RTÉ Short Story Competition has been championing new talent for decades with the winning and shortlisted short stories being produced for radio broadcast and voiced by some of Ireland’s most talented actors of the stage and screen. In recent years these have included Peter Hanly, Ali White, Emmet Kirwan, Cathy Belton, Ingrid Craigie, Denis Conway, Andrew Bennett, Caitríona Ní Mhurchú, Kathy-Rose O’Brien, and many more.
Free to enter, the RTÉ Short Story Competition is open to anyone over 18 living on the island of Ireland, or living abroad who holds an Irish passport. Next year’s competition will open for entries in spring 2021.
About the RTÉ Short Story Competition
A competition for original short stories for radio was first established in 1986 in memory of Francis MacManus (1909-1965), the Kilkenny-born novelist, biographer and former Head of Talks and Features at Radio Éireann. Since its establishment, the competition has been a launching pad for many writers who have gone on to receive national and international acclaim, including Claire Keegan, Molly McCloskey, Anthony Glavin, Danielle McLaughlin and Nuala Ní Chonchúir.
The RTÉ Short Story Competition in honour of Francis MacManus is produced by Sarah Binchy.
About the judges
Danielle McLaughlin’s short story collection, Dinosaurs on Other Planets, was published in 2015 by the Stinging Fly Press. Her stories have appeared in the Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, Southword, and The New Yorker and have been broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4. In 2019, she was a Windham-Campbell Prize recipient, and won the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award. Her first novel, Retrospective, will be published in 2021.
Vincent Woods is a writer and broadcaster whose plays include At the Black Pig’s Dyke, Song of the Yellow Bittern and A Cry from Heaven; and for radio, The Leitrim Hotel, The Gospels of Aughamore and Broken Moon. Poetry collections are The Colour of Language and Lives and Miracles. Recent publications include Leaves of Hungry Grass: Poetry and Ireland’s Great Hunger (Quinnipiac University Press) and Borderlines (with Henry Glassie). Awards include the Stewart Parker Award for Drama and The Ted McNulty Award for Poetry. He has scripted and presented many arts programmes and documentaries on RTÉ Radio 1. He directs the Iron Mountain Literature Festival in Leitrim. Vincent lives in Dublin and is a member of Aosdána.
Madeleine Keane is an editor, lecturer and journalist. She was educated at UCD and Trinity. She joined the Sunday Independent in 1988 and has been its Literary Editor for the last 18 years. She regularly writes about books, arts and travel. She has broadcast on tv and radio about books and publishing and presents at literary festivals and events. She lectures on writing at UCD and the Irish Writers’ Centre.