We are delighted to announce the short story and poetry winners of the 2023 Bournemouth Writing Prize.
This year’s competition saw hundreds of entries with many wonderful short stories and poems. Congratulations to everyone who was shortlisted, and especially to those who are listed here.
Bournemouth Writing Prize 2023 Short Story Winner:
皮 Skin by Kwan Ann Tan
Judges Comment: Funny, moving, engrossing and with brilliant characterization and great writing – there were so many moments in this story that I loved. The ending is bold and strange, and shows exciting ambition. An extremely polished and accomplished piece of writing, in which every word earns its keep – I’d love to see more from this author.
Short Story Runners Up:
Good People, Kind People by Jay McKenzie
Judges Comment: A brilliantly realistic story about people and their limitations – the author explores the gulf between how we like to think of ourselves and who we actually are incredibly well. Great descriptive writing, which made it a beautifully visual story. The final line lands incredibly powerfully.
Conversations with foxes by Sarah Humby
Judges Comment: A short powerful story about loss. I loved the strangeness of the fox’s appearance and the way the narrator’s grief is skilfully woven-in and gradually revealed. I loved the spareness and restraint of the writing, in contrast to the depth of emotion – a great example of less being more.
Highly Commended Short Stories:
Alice and the Whale by Ellie Taylor
Judges Comment: A moving exploration of grief with two complementary narratives woven together very skilfully. I particularly liked the way in which the author handles the abstract nature of absence and presence.
We Were Just Kids Ourselves by Rosie Chen
Judges Comment: Written in an immediately arresting tone, there’s a brilliant dark humour to this story of what it feels like to step into someone else’s life. The second person can be hard to pull off but is handled really well here, giving a strong sense of immediacy to the story; great upmarket commercial writing.
The Thirteenth Floor by Richard Hooton
Judges Comment: Dark and slightly chilling, the world of this story leapt off the page. I was really gripped – great storytelling and the voice was strong and well-judged. A brilliant ending.
Bournemouth Writing Prize 2023 Poetry Winner:
A Day At The Beach by Emma Ormond
Judge Comment: I’ve never before judged a poetry competition in which the first poem I read went on to be the winner. But this is the one. ‘A Day at the Beach’ struck me immediately with its confidence, its sure-footedness with line breaks and stanza breaks, faults in which helped to keep some other promising poems off the top spot.
It’s a poem that gives itself over to the reader gradually, disturbingly. It feels planned, paced and purposeful. It suggests itself into the conversation about the climate crisis at a slant angle – bordering on the fantastical but, at the same time, a horrifyingly believable glimpse into the near future. It’s a wry and measured take on the commercialisation of our collective demise, the consumers of rare experiences helpless in the confluence of their own desire and the inexorable machinery of money.
The disruption to the form of the poem as it nears its conclusion feels compelling rather than accidental, the multiple-choice list of feedback options preventing negative feedback, and the final, single-line stanza packs a breath-taking wallop in its brevity.
I’m delighted to have read ‘A Day at the Beach’ and I’m very pleased indeed to award it first prize for a poem in the Bournemouth Writing Prize 2023.
Highly Commended Poems:
The Snowball Stand by Matt Hohner
Judge Comment: I enjoyed meandering along with this poem, really unsure where it was taking me. When it resolves, it does so mysteriously, but there’s a sense of dislocation, or homesickness, that gives the poem an exquisitely painful exit-wound.
the un by Jaz Slade
Judge Comment: It’s an immediately compelling conceit to anthropomorphise a linguistic structure, and then to turn it into such an inexorable, ghoulish creature – it’s time, suffering and death rolled into one horrifying, haunting thing – a really unusual idea well executed.