Dr. Fiona Ennis, one of our shortlisting judges for the Write by the Sea Short Story Writing Competition gives us the inside track

Dr. Fiona Ennis lectures in English Literature at South-East Technological University, Waterford. She has won the Molly Keane Creative Writing Award and was one of the winners of the 2021 Fish Short Story Prize. She was also awarded second place in the US-based ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Competition. She has also been shortlisted for other international awards such as the Bristol Short Story Prize, the Aurora Prize for Writing and the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award. Her fiction has been published in anthologies and journals.

Fiona, what advice would you have for anyone thinking of entering the competition?

Well, firstly, I’d recommend that they enter! Your story could be the one that wins! Next, I know it sounds basic, but it’s important to follow the rules. It’s such a pity when entries have to be disqualified because they exceed the word count. It can be difficult to trim a short story so that it fits within a prescribed word count, but it’s necessary to give yourself a chance of your entry going forward. One thing that can be helpful in this regard is reading your work aloud. It can help you to identify any words that are not completely necessary for the story.  Reading your work aloud is a good thing to do anyway, as it can help you with the rhythm of your sentences. Also, any word that you stumble over, your reader will stumble over too.

Have you any other tips?

When trying to win a short story prize, it’s important to remember that a story should be compelling. Some stories have beautiful writing, for example, but the story might need more development. In some cases, there may be technical errors, such as slips in point of view, so it’s important to read over work carefully with aspects like that in mind. It’s a pity also when a short story, which is otherwise well-written, has a weak ending. However, the longlist will have a number of strong stories that don’t progress to the shortlist, and it’s important to bear in mind that just because your story doesn’t land in this competition, it doesn’t mean that it won’t do very well in another competition. All writers experience rejection, so put your work out there!

Why is it a good idea for writers to enter short story competitions?

Short story competitions are a wonderful way to get your work noticed. Consider writers like Claire Keegan, for example, who has won many such awards, including the Davy Byrne’s Short Story Award and the Francis McManus Short Story Competition. Competitions like Write by the Sea are anonymous, so you know you are being judged solely on your work. Also, in the effort of submitting to a competition, you usually hone a piece, which is not simply good for that story, but useful in terms of improving your writing craft.

Write By The Sea says… Entry to our Writing Competitions closes on 4th June 2023. We would be delighted to receive your entries in any or all of our four categories: Short Story, Poetry, Flash Fiction and Memoir/Personal Essay. We have €3,200 worth of prizes to share with the winners. The competition is a wonderful showcase for the work of emerging and established writers. See https://writebythesea.ie/writing-competitions/

for further information and for the rules. And one final word of advice – enter early to avoid the last-minute rush and then relax and look forward to the announcement of the longlist!