Costa Book Awards Names Its Three Short Story Finalists

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Three writers who work in literature and screenwriting are behind the shortlisted trio of works in the 2020 Costa Book Awards.

The three shortlisted authors of the Costa Book Awards’ 2020 short story program are Laura-Blaise McDowell, upper left; Tessa Sheridan, upper right; and Louise Dean

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

Winner Announced January 26
Having named its five category winners last week, the Costa Book Awards continues today (January 13) to work its way through its annual flurry of honors. What’s interesting here is that these are three writers of substantial previous work, each with multiple and considerable past recognition.

costa book awards logoAs we noted last week, a “book of the year” winner will be announced on January 26, drawn from the five category winners already named.

Today’s news reveals the authors of the three short stories, writers who have anonymously been in contention through Friday (January 8). The three short stories were up for a public vote from December 1 but with their authors unidentified.

The winner of the short story award will not be announced, like the “book of the year” winner until January 26. But today, Costa Awards organizers have named the previously anonymous writers, now that the voting period is over.

Those writers have been revealed to be:

  • Louise Dean, “How Adult Conversation Works.” Dean is an author of four published novels, Becoming Strangers, This Human Season, The Idea of Love and The Old Romantic. Indeed, she was longlisted for the (then named) Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2004 for Becoming Strangers, as she was for the Guardian First Book Prize. Dean is also the founder of The Novelry, a writer training program.
  • Laura-Blaise McDowell, “The Lobster Waltz.” McDowell, based in Dublin, was  shortlisted for the Benedict Kiely Short Story Award and was runner-up for the Dalkey Creates Short Story Prize. Two of her stories were longlisted for the Writing.ie Short Story of the Year Award at the An Post Irish Book Awards, with “Balloon Animals” making the shortlist. In 2020, she received an honorable mention for the Cuirt New Irish Writing Prize and her short memoir appeared in the Fish Anthology 2020 as part of the Fish Short Memoir Prize.
  • Tessa Sheridan, “The Person Who Serves, Serves Again.” Sheridan is a London-based screenwriter and director, with short films that have won Cannes’ Palme D’Or and a BBC Award for best short drama. Her audio drama Flotsam was aired on BBC Radio 3.

The author of the story that received the most public votes receives £3,500 (US$4,773) and will be announced as the winner at the Costa Book Awards ceremony which this year will be broadcast on Tuesday 26th January from 7pm on the Costa Coffee You Tube page. The second place and third place writers receive £1,000 (US$1,363) and £500 (US$681) respectively.

Not only can you still download and read the PDFs of each of their stories, but—in one of the Costa’s best moves each year—audio renditions are available, as well. Louise Dean’s story is read by Stephanie Ellyne; Laura-Blaise McDowell’s story is read by Siobhan O’Kelly; and Tessa Sheridan’s story is read by Rachel Bavidge.

All three stories are here. On January 26, the winner of the story competition and the “book of the year” will be announced on the Costa’s YouTube page at 1900 GMT.


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

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

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 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. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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