Fish Anthology 2019

Fish Anthology 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9956200-1-8

Fish Anthology 2018 –

Billy O’Callaghan ~ Short Story
Marti Leimbach ~ Short Memoir
Sherrie Flick ~ Flash Fiction
Ellen Bass ~ Poetry

Read an excerpt from winning short storyClippings  by Helen Chambers

Read winning flash story The Chemistry of Living Things  by Fiona J Mackintosh

Read an excerpt from winning memoir – What Was Once A City by Marion Molteno

Read winning poem Vernacular Green by Janet Murray



by Clem Cairns

(This book is an anthology of the winning entries from the Fish Short Story, Short Memoir, Flash Fiction and Poetry Prizes. The final short-lists were judged by Billy O’Callaghan, Marti Leimbach, Sherrie Flick and Ellen Bass, respectively. My thanks to them, to our sposors Sue Booth-Forbes of Anam Cara and Anne Hunt of Casa Ana and to the team of Fish readers who made the short-lists. Not least, thanks to all of the 4,500 writers who submitted their work and made this Anthology possible.)

All of us who read books, we love to be swept away into another world. It can be a pure pleasure to read the day away or the weekend, or your whole damn life. If, having read a piece of literature, you have been edified in some way, or have altered the way you see something, it’s not just a bonus, you’ve won a trophy. Good literature could be defined by the trophies that it awards.

Like many a genuine work of art, a good story or poem will try to answer a question, will reach a little into the unknown and pull some undiscovered or unrealised thing into the light. Sometimes the ‘seeing’ can be an uplifting feeling, sometimes uncomfortable. But whether the trophy is a delight or uncomfortable to hold, it’s an award to be coveted.

From the collection of great writing uncovered in this Anthology, trophies will be awarded by different pieces, depending on the reader’s perspective. My personal trophy-shelf has been greatly added to. I hope yours will be likewise.











Helen Chambers

Herr Siegfried Ottmar


Thiva Narayanan



Janet Smith Moore

Cranberry Sauce


Emma Seaman

Ginger Snaps


Linda Edwards

Drive All Night


Alan S Falkingham

He Writes


Travis Elsum

Hope is the Thing With Feathers


Georgina Eddison



Georgina Eddison

Psittacus Erithacus


Percy Herbert





The Chemistry of Living Things


Fiona J Mackintosh



Gail Anderson

Walrus Brings the Dominoes


Laura Mahal



Shannon Savvas



Johanna Ellersdorfer



Julian Stanford

The Last Limner of Peterborough Town


Guinevere Glasfurd

Always Wear a Safety Helmet


Paul Hale

Her Troubled Mind’s Reflection


Darren Moorhouse

In a Nomad’s Land


Craig Kenworthy





What Was Once A City


Marion Molteno

Where the Track Forks Left and

Where the Track Forks Right


Jane Fraser



Ruth O’Shea

Banbridge Lass


Wendy Breckon

Midwife’s Daughter


Saffron Marchant



Pauline Cronin

The Logic Of Blue Pyjamas


Fiona Montgomery

Without Breaking The Air


Christina Sanders



Paul McGranaghan



Deborah Martin





Vernacular Green


Janet Murray

Our Liberator, Dead


Raymond Sheehan

Someone Said


Dennis Walder



Partridge Boswell

Ode to The Girls Who

Deserved What They Got


Ash Adams

Past Rivermills


Gabriella Attems

Jesus in a Teacup


Karen Ashe

Approaching Gria


Ann M Thompson



Caroline Bracken

Father’s Day


Pat McCutcheon









by Helen Chanbers

September 1976

‘Julia – do you want to come and make something in my shed, while Mummy’s asleep?’ says Tilly. Tilly’s shed! I’m never allowed in Tilly’s shed.

‘Yes please, Tilly!’ I jump up and take hold of her cool hand with its big fingers, bigger than Mummy’s, her chunky ring too large for me to hold on properly.

Then I remember Daddy. ‘Making stuff’s for babies,’ I tell her. ‘I’ll wait here until Mummy feels better.’ I let go of Tilly’s hand, and Tilly stands up even straighter and taller.

‘Suit yourself, madam,’ she says. ‘I’m going out into my garden, so you can come if you want.’

I still want to see in her shed. I don’t think Daddy would mind me seeing in Tilly’s shed.

I follow her outside. The air feels cool and free. Tilly’s a gardener and she has a beautiful, enormous garden. Mummy likes it too, and smiles a secret smile each time we come here. I told Daddy about Tilly’s lovely garden and how much Mummy likes it but he frowned. I don’t think he likes it.

‘When I’m out here, I collect bird feathers I find lying around,’ says Tilly, unlocking the padlock on her shed with a tiny key from her trouser pocket. Tilly doesn’t wear pretty skirts and dresses like Mummy. Tilly always wears trousers with pockets, good for keeping things in, she says.

Inside, the shed smells just like Daddy’s shed, but it’s bigger and tidier. There are shelves and shelves of plastic tubs and bottles. Hanging from hooks on one wall are garden tools, which Tilly says I must never touch unless someone helps me. She rubs them with a rag to clean them when she’s finished using them, she says. She doesn’t rub her fingers though, I can tell. There’s always dirt under her nails. Mummy says it’s good dirt because it’s earth from the garden. If I get dirt under my nails, Mummy makes me use a nailbrush. She should make Tilly use one too.

Tilly pulls a chair over to the workbench and turns it round the wrong way so I can climb up to kneel on it and reach. She fetches down an enormous plastic tub with the word ‘feathers’ written on it. All the tubs have neat labels and lids and Tilly lets me write my name on an empty one. My writing goes downhill, not neat like hers, but she doesn’t say anything about it like Daddy does.

‘Yours, and no one else’s,’ she says, and smiles. ‘You can keep your treasures in it.’

Tilly knows I’ve got some things on my bedroom windowsill. Sunflower seeds left over from a packet we planted in the spring, a tiny fir cone and a stone with a hole in it, called a hag stone, says Tilly, to keep the witches away. Daddy called her a witch.

I open the ‘feathers’ tub. There are tall, stiff brown-and-white-striped feathers, tiny soft fluffy ones (‘from the bird’s tummy,’ says Tilly) and some little blue ones with black lines. I gasp, it’s such a bright blue.

‘Those are from a jay,’ says Tilly. ‘They fly into my garden sometimes. Aren’t they lovely?’

‘Can I use them?’

‘Use any you like, Julia. Here’s some twine.’ She hands me a ball of twine. It means dirty, rough string for the garden. I’ve used twine before.

‘Twine,’ I say again. I like that word.

‘What would you like to make? An Indian headdress for Let’s Pretend?’

I like Let’s Pretend, but I’m too grown up. I shake my head, and clump the feathers into a big ball. ‘I want to make a new bird. A bird that can really fly, and sing.’

Tilly laughs. ‘OK, Julia. Shall I help?’

She gives me big garden scissors and lets me cut the twine myself, and helps me tie tight knots. It doesn’t look much like a bird, but it has a head and a body. Tilly says to look for twigs to make its legs, and shows me how to pull out feathers at one end to make a tail. We just need to give it a beak, and Tilly gets a tiny bud. She lets me cut it with special garden scissors called secateurs, then I have to wipe the blades away from me with the oily rags.

We take the bird outside to show it the garden. I hold it out on my hand so it can flap its wings. ‘It’s going to fly up to Mummy’s bedroom window,’ I say, ‘and it’ll sing a beautiful song to make her headache go away.’

‘What a thoughtful girl you are,’ says Tilly, smiling. ‘Mummy will love that.’

Just then, the telephone rings inside the house, an angry sound like wasps.

‘I’d better get that,’ says Tilly, ‘in case it’s your father again.’

I do want it to be Daddy because I miss him, and I don’t want it to be him, because then there might be another argument. Tilly strides inside, and I whisper to my bird, telling it to fly up to Mummy and make her better and happy. It flaps and then it flies, first in small circles, then upwards, higher and higher, higher than the roof, higher than Mummy’s window. I’m frightened it might go too high and get lost.

Tilly is striding over the lawn, her face red and screwed up. ‘Well madam. You’ve got your own way again. Your Dad’s coming to get you tomorrow, because you told him you wanted him to. Isn’t that what you wanted? You’re going home, like it or not, he says.’

‘What about Mummy? Is she coming home too?’ I say.

Tilly frowns some more and shrugs. ‘I don’t know.’

And my bird, my lovely bird to make Mummy happy, has stopped flying and has fallen out of the sky and the feathers are spread all around, drifting like snow. I rush around to pick them all up. I shove the feathers into my ‘Julia’ tub, quickly, before Tilly sees what I’ve done with my bird. I rub my tears away.

‘You’re not crying, are you?’ she says, when I come out of the shed.

‘No,’ I say.

But we both know that Mummy will cry when Daddy comes, and I feel sad all over again.



The Chemistry of Living things

by Fiona J Mackintosh

The blue ones make me dream of thistles, make me loop-de-loopy, shaking bubbles from my wrists. The big yellow ones are slow-witted and tip me into drenching sleep at unexpected hours. The white diamonds have a certain easy charm, but it’s the tiny silver ones I like the best. In my cupped palm they roll like mercury balls, but in my head they fizz and dazzle, splintering into gaudy reds and greens. They’re the reason I can glide above the broken glass, put a soft hand on my husband’s shoulder as he tells our guests another story and nods to me to bring the coffee and dessert. Smoke coils beneath the lamp, softening the light. The faces round the table seem familiar, but I don’t know who they are, the men with bristled hair, the women oiled and shiny with cat’s-eye glasses and wet teeth. Mouths open, voices bourbon-loud with the looseness of late evening. The noise pulls close around my head like curtains as I rinse the dirty plates and spear a perfect sprig of mint in every peach sorbet. Against the backsplash, the pill bottles gleam, and I promise-touch each one for later. You and you and you. Through the window, just beyond the house-thrown light, a young deer stares at me with deep, black eyes. I see its dappled hide, a white stripe on its haunch that may or may not be a scar. I know at once it’s come to lure me out into the dark and unfamiliar, onto bleak, untrodden ground. I press my hands five-fingered on the window, and, when I wipe away the cloud my breath has made, the deer has gone like it was never there at all.



What was Once a City

Marion Molteno

The alarm goes off. I startle awake – hotel room, Nairobi, still dark outside. It’s scarcely four hours since I sat beside the pool, idle late-night chat with a man I had met just a few hours earlier, who said – like a dare – ‘If you’re coming, we have to be at the airfield before dawn.’

I asked no one’s permission. How could I? It was near midnight, our local office was closed, and the regional director who is supposed to be responsible for me is in Ethiopia. They’re all preoccupied with the drought response; I’m an encumbrance. I read it in their eyes – ‘Head Office sends us this new Education Advisor to nursemaid through her induction while we’ve got real work to do.’ They’re supposed to be getting me on a plane to Hargeisa – northern Somalia – but it doesn’t happen. The places go to more important people, who know what they’re doing.

Back in Head Office the idea of Hargeisa had seemed manageable. The fighting is basically over, they said. The town is reduced to rubble but people are rebuilding and want help getting schools going again. But instead of being there I’ve been sitting uselessly by the side of the hotel pool, listening in on the chat of the seasoned humanitarian workers, women with tense shoulders, men perched on bar stools, legs splayed out, all flown in for R&R – Recuperation and Rehabilitation, ‘So we don’t go crazy,’ one said. Last night the talk was of negotiating with a rebel army in Uganda – unreal while we sat in idle comfort, water rippling in the breeze, tropical plants waving, waiters bringing another round of drinks.

Gordon was taking a (patronising) interest in my inexperience. Bronzed, confident, logistics manager in our Mogadishu office – and here’s a naive woman to impress with his tough old-emergencies-expert talk. ‘They used to call Mogadishu the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Now it’s just a hell-hole. They got rid of a dictator and got something worse. Anarchy.’

I knew nothing about working in insecure places; needed to learn. As coolly as if offering me another drink he said, ‘Forget Hargeisa, could be weeks before you get in. Come to Mogadishu. I’m going tomorrow. I’ll take you.’

Despite myself, I found his chutzpah appealing. This morning I’m not so sure.




Vernacular Green

 by Janet Murray

(i.m Howard Hodgkin1932-2017)


Hodgkin sees common green

in privet, grass, chestnut husks

blown horsetail, chickweed

crushed under baby’s toe

scum on ponds―pond weed.


Not silver olive, willow spinning

green or white, imported

rhododendron, clunking monkey

puzzle tree. Exempt montbretia’s

erect leaves, circling


fiery tiger flowers, but if he glimpses

luminous green on the wing-tip

of an escaped parakeet, exposed

by pallid vernacular green, which

hides fairy wings sometimes,


in this moment he speaks

Indian green where a greener green

can be unleashed, somewhere between

emerald and jade, a brush dipped

in feathers round a teal duck’s eye.



Fish Books

Fish Anthology 2023

Fish Anthology 2023

… a showcase of disquiet, tension, subversion and surprise …
so many skilled pieces … gem-like, compressed and glinting, little worlds in entirety that refracted life and ideas … What a joy!
– Sarah Hall

… memoirs pinpointing precise
feelings of loss and longing and desire.
– Sean Lusk

What a pleasure to watch these poets’ minds at work, guiding us this way and that.
– Billy Collins


Fish Anthology 2022

‘… delightful, lively send-up … A vivid imagination is at play here, and a fine frenzy is the result.’ – Billy Collins
‘… laying frames of scenic detail to compose a lyric collage … enticing … resonates compellingly. … explosive off-screen drama arises through subtly-selected detail. Sharp, clever, economical, tongue-in-cheek.’ – Tracey Slaughter

Fish Anthology 2021

Fish Anthology 2021

Brave stories of danger and heart and sincerity.
Some risk everything outright, some are desperately quiet, but their intensity lies in what is unsaid and off the page.
These are brilliant pieces from bright, new voices.
A thrill to read.
~ Emily Ruskovich

Fish Anthology 2020

Fish Anthology 2020

I could see great stretches of imagination. I saw experimentation. I saw novelty with voice and style. I saw sentences that embraced both meaning and music. ~ Colum McCann


Fish Anthology 2019

These glorious pieces have spun across the globe – pit-stopping in Japan, the Aussie outback, Vancouver, Paris, Amsterdam and our own Hibernian shores – traversing times past, present and imagined future as deftly as they mine the secret tunnels of the human heart. Enjoy the cavalcade. – Mia Gallagher

Fish Anthology 2019

Fish Anthology 2018

The standard is high, in terms of the emotional impact these writers managed to wring from just a few pages. – Billy O’Callaghan

Loop-de-loopy, fizz, and dazzle … unique and compelling—compressed, expansive, and surprising. – Sherrie Flick

Every page oozes with a sense of place and time. – Marti Leimbach

Energetic, dense with detail … engages us in the act of seeing, reminds us that attention is itself a form of praise. – Ellen Bass

Fish Anthology 2017

Fish Anthology 2017

Dead Souls has the magic surplus of meaning that characterises fine examples of the form – Neel Mukherjee
I was looking for terrific writing of course – something Fish attracts in spades, and I was richly rewarded right across the spectrum – Vanessa Gebbie
Really excellent – skilfully woven – Chris Stewart
Remarkable – Jo Shapcott


Fish Anthology 2016

The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.

Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco

Sunrise Sunset

€12  (incl. p&p)   Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Read Irish Times review by Claire Looby Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination.  An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, […]

Fish Anthology 2015

Fish Anthology 2015

How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
– Carmen Bugan.

Fish Anthology 2014

Fish Anthology 2014

What a high standard all round – of craft, imagination and originality: and what a wide range of feeling and vision.
Ruth Padel

I was struck by how funny many of the stories are, several of them joyously so – they are madcap and eccentric and great fun. Others – despite restrained and elegant prose – managed to be devastating. All of them are the work of writers with talent.
Claire Kilroy

Fish Anthology 2013

Fish Anthology 2013

The writing comes first, the bottom line comes last. And sandwiched between is an eye for the innovative, the inventive and the extraordinary.


Fish Anthology 2012

A new collection from around the globe: innovative, exciting, invigorating work from the writers and poets who will be making waves for some time to come. David Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Shields and Billy Collins selected the stories, flash fiction, memoirs and poems in this anthology.


Fish Anthology 2011

Reading the one page stories I was a little dazzled, and disappointed that I couldn’t give the prize to everybody. It’s such a tight format, every word must count, every punctuation mark. ‘The Long Wet Grass’ is a masterly bit of story telling … I still can’t get it out of my mind.
– Chris Stewart


Fish Anthology 2010

The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.


Fish Anthology 2009 – Ten Pint Ted

I sing those who are published here – they have done a very fine job. It is difficult to create from dust, which is what writers do. It is an honour to have read your work. – Colum McCann


Fish Anthology 2008 – Harlem River Blues

The entries into this year’s Fish Short Story Prize were universally strong. From these the judges have selected winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue. – Carlo Gebler


Fish Anthology 2007

I was amazed and delighted at the range and quality of these stories. 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. – Michael Collins


Fish Anthology 2006 – Grandmother, Girl, Wolf and Other Stories

These stories voice all that is vibrant about the form. – Gerard Donovan. Very short stories pack a poetic punch. Each of these holds its own surprise, or two. Dive into these seemingly small worlds. You’ll come up anew. – Angela Jane Fountas


All the King’s Horses – Anthology of Historical Short Stories

Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber


Fish Anthology 2005 – The Mountains of Mars and Other Stories

Literary anthologies, especially of new work, act as a kind of indicator to a society’s concerns. This Short Story collection, such a sharp and useful enterprise, goes beyond that. Its internationality demonstrates how our concerns are held in common across the globe. – Frank Delaney


Fish Anthology 2004 – Spoonface and Other Stories

From the daily routine of a career in ‘Spoonface’, to the powerful, recurring image of a freezer in ‘Shadow Lives’. It was the remarkable focus on the ordinary that made these Fish short stories such a pleasure to read. – Hugo Hamilton


Feathers & Cigarettes

In a world where twenty screens of bullshit seem to be revolving without respite … there is nothing that can surpass the ‘explosion of art’ and its obstinate insistence on making sense of things. These dedicated scribes, as though some secret society, heroically, humbly, are espousing a noble cause.
– Pat McCabe


Franklin’s Grace

It’s supposed to be a short form, the good story, but it has about it a largeness I love. There is something to admire in all these tales, these strange, insistent invention. They take place in a rich and satisfying mixture of places, countries of the mind and heart. – Christopher Hope


Asylum 1928

There are fine stories in this new anthology, some small and intimate, some reaching out through the personal for a wider, more universal perspective, wishing to tell a story – grand, simple, complex or everyday, wishing to engage you the reader. – Kate O’Riodan


Five O’Clock Shadow

I feel like issuing a health warning with this Fish Anthology ­ these stories may seriously damage your outlook – Here the writers view the world in their unique way, and have the imagination, talent, and the courage to refine it into that most surprising of all art forms ­ the short story. – Clem Cairns.


From the Bering Strait

Every story in this book makes its own original way in the world. knowing which are the telling moments, and showing them to us. And as the narrator of the winning story casually remarks, ‘Sometimes its the small things that amaze me’ – Molly McCloskey


Scrap Magic

The stories here possess the difference, the quirkiness and the spark. They follow their own road and their own ideas their own way. It is a valuable quality which makes this collection a varied one. Read it, I hope you say to yourself like I did on many occasions, ‘That’s deadly. How did they think of that?’ – Eamonn Sweeney


Dog Day

Really good short stories like these, don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. – Joseph O’Connor


The Stranger

The writers in this collection can write short stories . . . their quality is the only thing they have in common. – Roddy Doyle


The Fish Garden

This is the first volume of short stories from Ireland’s newest publishing house. We are proud that fish has enabled 15 budding new writers be published in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing many of them in print again.


12 Miles Out – a novel by Nick Wright

12 Miles Out was selected by David Mitchell as the winner of the Fish Unpublished Novel Award.
A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.


Altergeist – a novel by Tim Booth

You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.


Small City Blues numbers 1 to 51 – a novel by Martin Kelleher

A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.


The Woman Who Swallowed the Book of Kells – Collection of Short Stories by Ian Wild

Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?


News & Articles

Fish Anthology 2024

Fish Anthology 2024 LAUNCH

11th June 2024
Monday 15th July at 6:30 Marino (Old Methodist) Church Bantry, West Cork, Ireland FREE ENTRY   The Launch of the Fish Anthology 2024 is being held in this charming old methodist church. Many of the authors published in the Anthology will be reading from their work, so come along to get a sample of  the […]

Poetry Prize 2024: Results

15th May 2024
  Winners Short-list Long-list     Here are the winners of the Fish Poetry Prize 2024, selected by Billy Collins, to be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. Below you will find short biographies of the winners and the Long and Short Lists. From all of us at Fish we congratulate the poets whose poems […]

Short Story Prize 2023/24: RESULTS

10th April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   On behalf of all of us at Fish, congratulations to all of you who made the long and the short-lists.  Apologies for the delay in this announcement. The 10 winners will be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. The launch will be during the West Cork Literary Festival, Bantry, Ireland – […]

Flash Fiction Prize 2024: RESULTS

10th April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   From all of us at Fish, thank you for entering your flashes. Congratulations to the writers who  were short or long-listed, and in particular to the 11 winners whose flash stories will be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. The launch will be during the West Cork Literary Festival, Bantry, Ireland […]

Short Memoir Prize 2024: RESULTS

1st April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   On behalf of all of us at Fish, we congratulate the 10 winners who’s memoir made it into the Fish Anthology 2024 (due to be launched in July ’24 at the West Cork Literary Festival), and to those writers who made the long and short-lists, well done too.  Thank you to Sean […]

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