UK Costa Book Awards Names Short Story Finalists

In News by Porter Anderson

A separate competition from the main category and overall award, the Costa Book Awards Short Story program uses public voting to choose its winner.

costa book awards

Image: Costa Book Awards

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Stories Available in Both Text and Audio
As the world industry’s various awards programs go into high gear for 2020, we reported earlier this month on the UK’s Costa Book Awards‘ category winners in what is—in that program’s cycle—the 2019 competition.

Today (January 15), the program is naming the three finalists in its short story award—the winner of which is decided annually by public vote.

During the public vote, which closed on Friday (January 10), readers and listeners did not know the names of the three authors in contention.

The author of the story that receives the most public votes will be announced as winner and is to receive £3,500 (US$4,560) at the Costa Book Awards ceremony, set for January 28. A second-place showing pays £1,000 (US$1,302) and third place £500 (US$651).

The shortlist of three stories was selected by a panel of judges comprising Sarah Franklin, founder of Short Stories Aloud and Senior Lecturer in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University; Radio 2 Book Club producer Joe Haddow; literary agent Simon Trewin; and authors Adele Parks and Kit de Waal.

De Waal was, herself, a finalist for the Costa Short Story Award in 2013, and was named FutureBook Person of the Year.

Shortlisted 2019 Costa Short Story Award Writers
  • Anna Dempsey for “The Dedicated Dancers of The Greater Oaks Retirement Community”
  • Kerry Hood for “The Dog Friend of Dastardly”
  • Iain Rowan for “Birds of the Mountain”

The judges also have the option to “highly commend” up to six additional entries. This year, the judges chose the following three stories for commendation:

  • “Not Contagious” by Haleh Agar
  • “A Guide to Household Infestations” by Edward Hogan
  • “Inside the Box” by Lydia Vincent

And the short story competition is interesting, not only for the public vote that selects its winner but also for the fact that the stories entered into the program are unpublished. Each entry must not be longer than 4,000 words and must be written in English by an author who is 18 or older. That author must have held his or her primary residence in the UK or Ireland for the past three years.

Publishers and agents are allowed to submit unpublished entries on behalf of authors. Each entry is judged anonymously, its author’s name unknown, so that unpublished authors’ work may at times be considered alongside an unpublished work by a well

Completely separate from the main Costa Book Awards program—which will also name its overall winner on January 28—the short story competition can, of course, lead to publication by raising the visibility of a work and/or its author. The 2013 winner, Newcastle-based writer and poet Angela Readman, published her debut short story collection, Don’t Try This At Home, in 2015, a work published by the house called & Other Stories. Readman’s latest collection of poems, The Book of Tides, was published by Nine Arches Press at the end of 2016.

A former prison manager, Avril Joy from Witton-le-Wear in Bishop Auckland took the inaugural award in 2012 and has since published an ebook, From Writing with Love.

Previous winners include:

  • Caroline Ward Vine (2018)
  • Luan Goldie (2017), whose debut novel Nightingale Point was published by HarperCollins last year
  • Jess Kidd (2016), an author of three novels, most recently Things in Jars published in April
  • Daniel Murphy (2015)
  • Zoe Gilbert (2014)

Readers can go to the short story page here for information on each of the three shortlisted authors as well as links for downloading and reading their short stories as well as for listening to an audio edition of each.

Dempsey’s short story is read by Stephanie Ellyne, Hood’s story is read by Mandy Weston, and Rowan’s story is read by Constantine Gregory.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Costa Book Awards is here, and more on publishing awards in general is here.

An earlier version of this story had inaccurate dating for the public vote because the press agency issuing the material did not make those dates available to the news media.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.