Fish Anthology 2020

Fish Anthology 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9956200-3-2

Colum McCann ~ Short Story
Tania Hershman ~ Flash Fiction
David Shields ~ Short Memoir
Billy Collins ~ Poetry

Read an excerpt from winning short story25:13  by Tracey Slaughter

Read winning flash story Morning Routine by Kim Catanzarite

Read an excerpt from winning memoir – Buck Rabbit  by Noelle McCarthy

Read winning poem Father  by Peggy McCarthy

Lockdown Prize

Introductory Note

by Colum McCann

Every February, in my job as a creative writing teacher, I read literally hundreds of short stories from people all over the world. I know that at some stage I’m going to make a mistake. It’s natural. Maybe I just can’t see the one line or one paragraph embedded in the story which suggests that a promising writer is embedded in there. Maybe I bring my own preconceptions to the text. Maybe I don’t have the range to hear the music of the text. But undoubtedly I will get it wrong somewhere along the line. That’s one of the reasons why I am a little reluctant to judge literary competitions: they are a wonderful forum for a new writer, but they have limitations. And so I’m always torn when I get asked to judge. The most promising voices to me might have already been sidelined. Or I might overlook something myself. I might not be able to see through my own preconceptions.  

I have been the beneficiary of awards in the past and I know how they can kickstart a career. In particular, in judging this prize, I was looking for talent that would possibly last. Voice was very important to me. Style. And then story.  

I feel a certain guilt about aiding and abetting a Literature Olympics because in truth there is no gold, silver or bronze. There were many fabulous stories in the final batch that came my way. 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. And in the end that was why 25:13 came in what we call first place: it has the music and it has the intention. It has all the landmarks of a true writer. I expect we will hear great things from the author. So too with Oh Bend Your Backs! and I think a little time in the editing room could really sharpen this voice into a Kevin Barry-like maestro. And there was something very genuine and earnest and well crafted about Fearfully and Wonderfully. And yet all the stories had something wonderful in them …

Keep writing, keep reading, keep creating. And rage on …






Tracey Slaughter

Oh Bend Your Backs!

John Mulkeen

Fearfully and Wonderfully

C S Mee

A Letter from the North

Donna Brown

Statue of the Future Martyr

Stephen Flanagan

Little Wren

Rosie Cowan


Sheila Armstrong


David Munro

The Sorry Business

Róisín McPhilemy


Bruce Meyer




Morning Routine

Kim Catanzarite


Mary McClarey

Bog People

Anne Cullen


Claire Powell

Recipe for Disaster

Jan Kaneen

Reclining Nude

Stella Klein

The Abnormal Normal – Belfast 1970

Jennifer O’Reilly

The Other Flight of Icarus

James Wise

When you look down the throat of a doll

there’s nothing inside

Rosie Garland

Throwing Cockerels

Alan Passey




Out For a Duck

Paul McGranaghan

Six Feet Away

Shamini Sriskandarajah

My Pawn Gently Sleeps

Shamini Sriskandarajah

Corporate Fallout

Lee Nash


Julia Travers

Leaving this Lockdown

James Allan Kennedy


James Allan Kennedy

Fran Lebowitz is not happy

Emma Gallagher

Lost Connection

Jennie Ensor


Gráinne Murphy


Rachel Parry


Ash Adams

a measurement of silence in

one hundred words

Rosaleen Lynch




Buck Rabbit

Noelle McCarthy

Inner Core

Miki Lentin

The Road to Salamanca

John Martin Johnson

Roman Quartet

Tom Finnigan

Catch Me If You Can

Julia Motyka

Brief Notes to My Brother’s Other Sisters

Lisa K Buchanan


Phil Cummins


Laura-Blaise McDowell

Leg Man

Alan McCormick

What Are Young Men to

Rocks and Mountains?

Maán Jalal





Peggy McCarthy

Some pleasures

Vanessa Lampert

Wild and Alone

Susan Musgrave

Shoegazers’ Companions

Allen Tullos

Dead Ant, Dead Ant!

Michelle North-Coombes

Edisto Island, May 2019

Celeste McMaster

The Taking of Caravaggio

Bill Richardson

My Glacial Erratic

Leah C Stetson

On Reading Ecclesiastes 5 at

St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral

Angela Long

The Mothers and My Mother Tongue

Geoff Burnes




by  Tracey Slaughter

It is raining out on the field today when I get back from the hospital, and I find myself smiling, as if I called it up. I stand at the ranchslider that squares my lounge off with the turf and watch the downpour chasing off the onlookers. There are mothers out there who’ve thought to bring shelters, staked out a shanty claim of plastic on the sideline, parka’d up the younger kids. They’ve squatted in spiny pop-up deckchairs pre-game to guarantee their view is prime. Those mothers fight the longest. They’re still in place when a rush of umbrellas heads off, the deluge whirling from their red and white panels. Everything club-coloured, chillybins and snap-backs, pvc ponchos and first-aid kits, bumping in retreat along the flooded green sod. In the end it’s just me and those mothers, huddled in resistance beneath their branded tarps. Watching the team still stumbling the muck, as the sky proves no one can hope to stop it.

When Ryan was a child we had to rush him to hospital. I remember, the walls were lemon then too, and the frieze was a march of ducklings, grins of goofy fuzz with blue gumboots on their webs and sky-blue plastic hats. It was raining on them, but that only made them cuter. I hated the things, galoshing around in the splash, their peach beaks smirky and dimpling. I think Ryan hated them too. He hated the whole room, and everyone in teal that entered into it, carrying wires to the bed, and liquids, and trays, and needles, and lastly, straps. They’d plug and stick him, maintaining near-smiles, and gag his howl with clear-gloved fingers. We never had to guess his hatred. He screamed at them all, loud belts of terror, pitched from the struggle of his trunk, his blond-white hair spiked with fever, his milk teeth in fits. And it was my job to hold him down, to pin the tiny hammer of his heartbeat to the trolley, to lock down his clattering flannelette pj’s with their pattern of choo-choos all jumping the track. To use my whole body if I had to, like a vice, bear down on my baby, his flailing heels and wrists. Mutter everything I could find of comfort, while his head swung side to side and bludgeoned up at me. Keep on with a babble of falsetto sweetness, crossing my heart with fake promises. Hating the ducks the whole time, their chubby parade around the walls where the squeaky-clean blobs of entertaining rain would never drop down hard enough to drown them.

Let the rain come. Last weekend, when there was another minor incident, I stood at the window and watched while the ambulance coasted, low-profile, through coloured margin flags. While the stretcher was manoeuvred off, swift, unobtrusive. While the game played on. And those mothers never moved. Except one. But she wasn’t from the home team.




Morning Routine

Kim Catanzarite

I opened a can of cat food and grabbed a saucer and one of the forks nobody likes and scooped out the food and gave the fat one the fork to lick and gave the kitten the full saucer and lifted their water dishes from the floor and filled them up and then turned the lights on in the living room and raised the blinds in the eating area and made my way to the fridge and put the bread in the toaster and grabbed the butter before tapping out the allergy medicine and her ADHD medicine and her other allergy medicine and pouring her glass of water. Then I put the kettle on and grabbed the brush and dustpan and picked up some mud that tracked in on her shoes the night before, and then the toast popped and I buttered it and she came in and said “good morning” and asked me if her socks matched her outfit and I said yes and she told me it was cold outside and that she was going to freeze her ass off at the bus stop if I didn’t drive her there, and I told her that she would live, and she breathed out a cloud of disgust and said that if the puddle down the road was enormous like it was the other day I would have to drive her because she couldn’t get around it, it was so big, and I stared at her and said nothing because that’s often the best response, and then she looked out the window and also said nothing, so I knew the puddle was gone.




Buck Rabbit

Noelle McCarthy

“Get in ‘til you see what we got you. This is my daughter.” Mammy is loud, showing off for the driver. The cab smells of drink and Estee Lauder. Wherever they’ve been, they’ve been there all morning. Angela is jammed in the back, the big cardboard box on her knees shaking violently.

“You’ll have to mind him, give him curly green cabbage.” Mammy taps the side of the box. It lifts a few centimetres up into the air, sides bulging. Angela throws herself forward over it, Medusa curls flying, the ash from her fag goes all over the seat in front of her. I reach for the seat belt. It’s way too long for me. “Up past the crucifixion please.” Mammy sounds haughty. His knuckles are white on the steering wheel. They’d have kept him outside The Chimes a good half hour. There’s loud scrabbling from the back, the witchy sound of long nails scraping. The statues blur past: dying Christ, his weeping mother. “Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Come on, girl!” Mammy blesses herself theatrically, insists I do the same. The driver thumps his chest three times with a vengeance.

The worst is not when she keeps them waiting, the worst is when she won’t pay them. A guy the other night pulled into the Guards Station. She got out with the glass still in her hand: vodka and lime. Dwarves, Angela calls them. We pretended to be asleep when the Guard came out, me and John Paul in our school uniforms. Something cold pressed up against my leg, the bag with the crispy pancakes. They put her back in the car eventually. The Guard must have told the driver to bring us home. Daddy gave him some money and flung the crispy pancakes all over the hall on top of her.

Passing the asylum, the box flies open. A savage kick, a flash of fur, thrilling and alien. Angela tries to jam the flap back down. “For fuck’s sake, hold onto him!” Mammy is high, triumphant. Children’s allowance day, maybe. Not The Chimes, The Raven. Up to Sullivan’s afterwards, the clock running down on them, buoyed by dwarves, unusually monied. Past the soft green glow of the fish tanks, up the back to the long rows of biscuity-smelling cages lined with sawdust. Fluffy piles of fawn, grey, tortoiseshell. Five pounds for a guinea pig, rabbits for a tenner. Three brothers own it, or four. Country people, they all look identical. The mice are only eighty-five pence, but I’m not allowed them anymore, after the last time. I am deeply excited about whatever is in the box, even though it’s Angela holding it. Her son catches pigeons when we’re outside The Chimes, just throws his jacket over them. I don’t know what happens to them afterwards. She’s trying to keep the box steady. Whatever’s inside is trying to tunnel through the bottom.






 by Peggy McCarthy


Coming in I often pass you in the hallway, in sepia,

your wedding day, June 1955. You couldn’t believe your luck.

And sometimes I stop to catch a trace of something I missed.

Maybe it’s the way the light catches the glass

I think I almost see you clearly

but mostly you give nothing away.

Clear-eyed, upright photo-stance,

a peep of handkerchief in your breast-pocket,

your first and last trip to the photographer’s studio.

Right hand put away behind your back

your left-fingers folded in a fist,

elbow tentatively crooked for your new bride.


Going out, I sometimes glance at you again,

this time it’s the other photo, a dozen years after the first.

Your farmer’s grind cast briefly aside,

your brow furrowed, your slack half-smile.

And what do I really know? You were not for turning

from buckets and wells to pipes and plumbing,

from bicycle clips and tilly lamps to motor cars and electricity.

You knew land and fields and the cuckoo’s call.

You said the best part of the potato lies under the skin.

These things hold steady when I pass through

angling to catch a glimpse of something new in the fading

greys and blurry edges of an overcast summer.


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

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 […]

Launch of the Fish Anthology 2023

12th July 2023
Tuesday 11th July saw the launch of the 2023 Anthology in the Maritime Hotel, Bantry. Nineteen of the fourty authors published in the anthology were there to read from their piece, travelling from Australia, USA and from all corners of Europe.             Read about the Anthology More photos of the […]

Poetry Prize 2023: RESULTS

15th May 2023
  Winners Short-list Long-list     Winners: Here are the 10 winners, as chosen by judge Billy Collins, to be published in the FISH ANTHOLOGY 2023. The Anthology will  be launched as part of the West Cork Literary Festival, (The Maritime Hotel, Bantry, West Cork – Tuesday 11th July – 18.00.) All are welcome! Second […]

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