From class to Costa: graduate’s short story up for top award

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A tale which was started in a creative writing class at Goldsmiths is in the running for the Costa Short Story Award 2015

The work by Niall Bourke, who completed his MA Writer/Teacher last summer, is among six nominations for the the £3,500 prize.

The work “Gerardo Dreams of Chillies” tells the story of a Mexican market trader. Niall, 34, from Kilkenny in Ireland, currently teaches at St Michael’s College in Bermondsey after recently completing his MA.

And he admitted that his time at Goldsmiths was key to the entry – as well the piece even being finished.

He said: “Getting the nomination was quite a surprise - I only threw in the story on the off chance because the competition was free to enter. I never thought I'd actually be shortlisted! I found out in November but couldn't tell anyone, so that was kind of agonising (in a nice way).

“I started the story in creative writing class I took at Goldsmiths in the first semester of the MA.

"Were it not for the creative space the MA provided and the guidance and encouragement of the excellent tutors on the course I mightn't have even finished it, let alone sent it off to a competition."

Bourke is the second Goldsmiths alumni to be nominated for one of this year’s Costa awards, with former student and teacher Kate Miller shortlisted for the 2015 Costa Poetry Award.

Last year saw Goldsmiths’ Honorary Fellow Ali Smith win the Costa Novel of the Year for her work How To Be Both – just weeks after it won the Goldsmiths Prize 2014

Goldsmiths graduate Niall writes both poetry and short fiction, and has been published in a number of journals and magazines including The Galway Review, Prole, Southbank Poetry, Roadside Fiction, Holdfast Magazine and The Irish Literary Times.

In 2015 he was longlisted for The Short Story competition and shortlisted for The Over The Edge New Writer Of The Year Award in both the poetry and prose categories. He is currently working on his first novel.

The winner of the Short Story Award is chosen by the public after a secret online vote. The six shortlisted stories are posted online without the authors’ names – with their identities only revealed once the voting has closed.

Among those shortlisted for the Short Story gong - including a playwright, a part-time gym-instructor, and a previous finalist -is Rupert Thomson, an award-winning novelist whose book The Insult, published by Bloomsbury in 1996, was included in a list approved by musician David Bowie in his "Top 100" recommended reads.

The remaining nominated writers are Annalisa Crawford for "Watching the Storms Roll In"; Danny Murphy for "Rogey"; Peggy Riley for "The Night Office"; Erin Soros for "Fallen"; and Rupert Thomson for "To William Burroughs, from His Wife".

The award, established in 2012, is open to applicants aged 18 or over, who may or may not have published other works, for a single, previously unpublished English-language short story of up to 4,000 words.

Judged independently of the Costas' five-category system, the public were asked to vote for their favourite of six shortlisted short stories, without knowledge of the authors' identities after downloading them to read or listen to on the Costa website. The vote closed on 13th January.

The winner of the £3,500 prize will be announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony on 26th January. Runners up will receive £1,000 and £500 for second and third place respectively.

The six-story shortlist was selected by a panel of judges comprising author Raffaella Barker; Richard Beard, director of the National Academy of Writing; Fanny Blake, novelist, journalist and books editor of Woman & Home magazine; Sarah Franklin, founder of Short Stories Aloud and senior lecturer in publishing at Oxford Brookes University; and Simon Trewin, an agent at William Morris Endeavor.