2007 FISH ANTHOLOGY
Foreword by Michael Collins.
When Fish invited me to be a judge on their annual Fish Short Story Prize competition, I agreed with a sense of foreboding. This was a wholly new facet of the wild and woolly business which is writing and publishing and earning a living through word-craft. As a professional writer it can be difficult enough to see the course and plot of a story, to plan and manage the complex structures, the inter-relationship of character and language and emotion. What, I wondered, could one expect from such a strange and varied source as the international family of writers which make up what must surely be the largest writing group in the world, the Fish Authors?
Fish has well over 12,000 registered Authors (Apparently!), a huge rainbow of writers from all over the world; of different ages, backgrounds, psychologies and interests; each one, I suspect, driven by that consistent itch that all writers feel, the need to write. Painters paint because they can, but writers write because they must, and it has been fascinating to see the wide range of ideas and approaches that arose in the short-list for the Fish Short Story Prize, from all those Fish Authors scratching their own personal itch. As a short-story writer myself, I understand exactly how tough it can be to create a powerful and convincing jewel of a story in just a few thousand words. I was amazed and delighted by the range and quality of the stories I read. Every one of them was interesting, well-written, beautifully crafted and, as a short-story must, every one of them focused my attention on that very curtailed tableau which a short-story necessarily sets before us.
The judging for the Fish Short Story Prize is completely blind. All we get is a story and a reference number. We know nothing of the Author.
We don't know:
Who they are.
Where they are from.
What they have done in their lives.
Not even their sex!
Only their story tells their tale.
I was delighted therefore to learn that the winning Author (Number 1397!) was my Irish kinswoman Kathleen Murray, from Dublin . My fellow judges agreed pretty much unanimously that this little gem was the very best from a very good bunch. I am not going to distract you from reading it by telling you why this one rose to the top of our minds, but it is a unique idea beautifully handled and a complex concept laid out with utter simplicity of tone and voice. I strongly commend it to you.
That is not in any way to detract from the rest of the Fish Short Story Prize winners. I loved Lane Ashfeldt's Dancing on Canvey (No 112), and its wonderful Sound Sculptures and creative dyslexias. It nearly won the main prize, and it did win the Short Histories Prize, so it has to be very good.
The rest too are absolutely fascinating in their own ways. Vanessa Gebbie's Words From a Glass Bubble (No. 821) is very, very Irish - the tale of a bereft mother and a talking Virgin Mary in a snow-globe - though Vanessa, it appears, is from Sussex !
The two excellent stories I read from The Fish-Knife Award, Gilt and Honeysuckle and Cat's Piss are about as different as two stories can be, and I can absolutely see why the Fish-Knife judges decided they couldn't split them.
Rush of Water by Merryn Glover, tells the sad tale of a Nepali girl, Phulmati, and is one of a series of stories in the Anthology, remarked upon by my fellow judge, Fiona Kidman, which together comprise something which takes us through almost every stage of a young girl's coming of age. As you read through the anthology you will see this theme repeated several times.
Talking with the third judge, Fish Managing Editor - Clem Cairns, he told me that there is almost always a theme amongst the winning stories, something he discussed in the Foreword to last year's Anthology. This year that theme was definitely "coming of age."
I have not yet read the Anthology in its entirety. I have not yet read even one of the One-page stories, but I am very much looking forward to seeing how all the stories I have read fit in with the huge variety of material in this book. I will be at the Award Ceremony and I look forward also to meeting all those Fish Authors who have helped to create what must surely be a unique experience for them, and which has certainly been a unique, and uniquely challenging, experience for me.
Fish have thanked me many times for agreeing to be one of their judges. I would like to thank them for providing me with a totally new viewpoint from which I can observe my own craft. Enlightenment comes in many strange and unexpected disguises .
Bellingham WA .
The Fish Anthology 2007 - A Paper Heart is Beating, A Paper Boat Sets sail
A Paper Heart Is Beating, A Paper Boat Sets Sail - Kathleen Murray
Dancing on Canvey - Lane Ashfeldt
A Villain's Tale - Keith Souter
Gilt - Orlaith O'Sullivan
Honeysuckle and Cat's Piss - Ewan Gault
The Island Grows On Me - Tim Lenton
Skaters - Patricia Middleton
Words From A Glass Bubble - Vanessa Gebbie
Rush of Water - Merryn Glover
That Sweet May Morning - Zöe Sinclair
A Journey To The Sun - Jo Campbell
Luz - Martin H. Bott
On The Concourse - Al Lee Wyer
The Nucker Hole - Stuart Tallack
Always Read The Label - Antonia Fenton
Waking the Princess - Carys Davies
Rookie Of The Year - Paul Byall
Where - Debra Shulkes
Normal Service Will Be Resumed Shortly - Linda Evans
Knoxville , 1899 - Jessie J. Ellis
Insignificant Gestures - Jo Cannon
A Goose Of A Swan - Margaret Mulvihill
Helena J. Ginsburg (1980 - 2007) - Julie Koh
Caye Caulker Tides - Marc Phillips
The Morning We Started to Leave - Kimball Ann Richards
Everywhere Was Water Once - Wayne Price
Body Beautiful - Claire Anderson-Wheeler
The Medical Glance - Leslie Patterson
Calling Fruits and Vegetables - Richard Holeton
Philosophy - Nancy Burke
Man In Ultramarine Pajamas - Lily Mabura
Air Cowboys - Polly Nelson
Two Brothers - Vicky Grut
The Caravan - Janey Runci
Shapes - Rosemarie Rose
Cerulean - Stuart Tallack
A Festive Holiday Photo - Susan Keith