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This year’s prize was judged by Belinda McKeon. McKeon’s debut novel Solace won the Faber Prize and was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Her essays and journalism have appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian and the Paris Review. As a playwright, she has had work produced in Dublin and New York, and is currently under commission to the Abbey Theatre. She lives in Brooklyn and is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Rutgers University. 
With thanks to Circle of Misse for the second prize of a week-long writing retreat at their house, which rests on the banks of the Thouet River, a tributary of the Loire.  

1st prize (€3,000) Nightjar by Georgina Aboud

‘This story of a woman dealing with the aftermath of her sister’s murder on a tiny, often stranded island is immensely powerful because of the author’s instinct for form. An assured narrative spine – the unfinished composition of the lost sister – runs through the story, but with such subtlety and grace that many other elements are allowed to develop with richness and depth: the islanders’ isolation and what it does to them; the difficult reality of the protagonist’s relationship with her damaged parents; the deliciously slow and wary progress of a love affair. A shimmering, unnerving creation which surfaces in the mind over and over, long after reading.’

Much of Aboud’s working life has been spent in international development, focusing on gender, climate change and food security. She observed elections in Kosovo, Macedonia and Ukraine during the Orange Revolution, collaborated with forest and mountain communities in India and Colombia, worked on briefing papers in Bangladesh and pulled pints in Peru. She now lives in Brighton, where she is working on a novel and a screenplay.
‘This is seriously the best news I’ve had all year,’ says Aboud. ‘I am completely made up.’

2nd prize (a week at Circle of Misse plus €250 stipend) In the Orchard by Faith Merino

‘The nieces of Saint Miguel Ponce de Leon – not yet officially canonised, but surely soon – live with his useless legacy and with the two small boys whose existence it is their job to safeguard. This is a story of ripely unfurling menace and of the clashing desires of two women, living together in a parched, indifferent place. The mystery and terror of childhood, and of children as incomprehensible beings, is darkly evoked in writing which draws its strength from the strangeness and unlikeliness it is not afraid to entertain.’ 

The winner of
The Jabberwock Review’s Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize for Fiction and the recipient of a Writing By Writers fellowship, Faith’s short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Jabberwock Review, Calliope, and Open Windows III. She lives in Sacramento, California with her husband, two young sons and two unscrupulous dogs. 

3rd prize (€1,000) The Giantess Bathsheba by Owen Booth

‘Audacious as a fairytale, boundless as a myth, this story somehow manages to charm through all its savagery and darkness. The giantess of the title is a strongwoman - a very, very strong woman - paraded around the country by her obnoxiously god-fearing owner; her job is to make him money by winning fights with the men who insist on pitting themselves against her. A teenage girl travels with them, as unfree as the giantess and just as strong in her own way. Much happens in this tale and nothing happens; the inevitable comes pounding through. But the muscular inventiveness and the clear-headedness of the writing keep the reader gripped in unexpected and compelling ways.’

Owen Booth’s short stories have appeared in The White Review, Gorse, Hotel, Spur and 3AM Magazine, among others. He won the 2015 White Review Short Story Prize. He is currently finishing a comic/experimental novel but doesn’t want to jinx it. He is on Twitter as @owenbooth.
All three stories are published in the autumn 2017 issue of The Moth, available to purchase here.


Commended stories

Whistle Stop by KT Sparks 
KT Sparks is a farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Her short fiction has appeared in Word Riot, Citron Review, Jersey Devil Press and WhiskeyPaper, is upcoming in Jellyfish Review and was recognized in the New Millennium Writing Awards. Her novel, Four Dead Horses, took first place in the 2017 James River Writers’ Best Unpublished Novel Contest and will be excerpted in the September issue of Richmond Magazine.
Lara by Bonnie Etherington
Bonnie Etherington is from New Zealand but spent most of her childhood in West Papua and Darwin, Australia. She currently lives with her husband and cat just north of Chicago in the USA where she is a PhD student in English at Northwestern University. Her first novel, The Earth Cries Out, was published by Penguin Random House NZ in March 2017.
Swimming Pool by Emily Vizzo 
Emily Vizzo is a California-based writer. Her essay ‘A Personal History of Dirt’ was honoured as a notable essay in Best American Essays 2013, and she was selected for inclusion within Best New Poets 2015. Her chapbook GIANTESS is forthcoming in 2018 from YesYes Books and her novel is represented by Frances Goldin Literary Agency in New York.
Mantis by Julia Armfield
Julia Armfield is a London-based writer with a Masters in Victorian Art and Literature. In 2016 her short fiction was included in the anthology The Book of Unwritten Rules, published by Studio 28. She has also had short fiction published in The Stockholm Review and Analog Magazine and has had her plays performed at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in Islington. She can be found on twitter @JuliaArmfield

Nuala by Claudia Lambert
Claudia Lambert writes short stories and poems. Her creative writing was published some years ago in a CD Rom anthology of short stories and poems entitled Walkabout. This year after too long an absence, she is returning to creative writing, with the hope of building up to writing a novel. She was shortlisted for the Escalator 2017 Award offered by the Writer’s Centre in Norwich.