Fish Anthology 2023

Fish Anthology 2023

ISBN: 978-0-9956200-6-3


Sarah Hall ~ Short Story

Kit de Waal ~ Flash Fiction

Sean Lusk ~ Short Memoir

Billy Collins ~ Poetry

Photos of the books launch will be posted shortly.

Read an excerpt from winning short storyVietnam  by Letty Butler

Read winning flash story First Steps in Probability  by Susan Wigmore

Read an excerpt from winning memoir – My Mother’s Daughter  by Anneke Bender

Read winning poem The Scene Without  by Winifred Hughes


Introductory Note

by Clem Cairns
Quotes from Sarah Hall

What a joy! What a joy to experience in these stories the many versions of us, told in so many different ways, small episodes pushing up against big themes, propositions and provocations that expand any restrictions we might make for ourselves, socially, politically, or textually. What a joy to be transported to so many different places around the globe, and into speculative futures, and back into the disputable past.

In this anthology there are ten short stories, ten flash stories, ten short memoirs and ten poems –winners of their respective competitions, with the writers coming from many places around the world. From 5,746 entries, these 40 pieces came through a grueling process and forced their way to the top. The writers here deserve huge credit, each piece is unique and brilliant, and our wish at Fish is that their writing careers continue to flourish.

Sarah Hall judged the short stories, Kit de Waal the flash, Sean Lusk the memoirs and Billy Collins the poems. An enormous thanks to them for their time, attention and wisdom.

This Anthology is a showcase of disquiet, tension, subversion and surprise. So buckle up and enjoy the ride!







Letty Butler

The Longhouse

Nicholas Petty


Dylan Garity


Roger Vickery


Allegra A Mullan


Emma Neale


Josephine Rowe

The Parts He Missed

Josh Wagner

The Thing Adored

Hanako Senzoku

The Watch Case

Hanako Senzoku




First Steps in Probability

Susan Wigmore


Barbara P Tarrant

Because it is Impossible and Yet

Emma Goldman-Sherman

The Hunger Wall

Mark Bowsher


Patricia Newbery

I See Jesus in My Fevered Dream on
Quay Street in Galway

Linda Nemec Foster

Witness Statement

Molly Underwood

The Full Package

Martin Daly

The Story of Our Beautiful, Smiling
Family in Twenty-One Chapters

Kurtis Burton

He Who Dares Wyn Jones

Ian Johnson




My Mother’s Daughter

Anneke Bender

The Dead on Street View

Nuala Roche

Escape Van

Sabine Casparie

A Brown Night

Thelma McGough

Death by Overwork

James Scoles

Speaking of Love

Kathryn Phelan

Of many things
I have no clear remembrance

Dani Salvadori

Bravo India Lima

Olivia Rana

For Richer, Poorer and Doritos

Cheryl Miller-Fitzgerald

Except for One Thing

Thomas Darlington Crancer




The Scene Without

Winifred Hughes

Vectors in Kabul

Mary O’Donnell


Luisa A Igloria


Steph Ellen Feeney

Rosetta Pebble

Tania Dain


Sharon Black

I explain time travel to my son

Peter Borchers

Park Protocol

Scott Renzoni

No Items Match Your Search

Catherine Spooner

Toccata for Spoons

Daniel Lusk



Vietnam (an excerpt)

by Letty Butler

The day we met two things happened: I started going grey and my period came back after six years. It was as if my body woke up and said a-ha, here he isbut at the same time oh shit.

The body always knows.

It was a Christmas party I’d forced myself to go to. I wore a red dress and felt too tall. You stood in front of the microphone and apologised for dressing like Alan Partridge. That was probably the moment.

We went for coffee a week later. I knocked mine over. You ate a chocolate slice with a knife and fork and when I asked you why you said you didn’t know. We talked for two hours. I tried to work out if I liked the strange timbre of your voice, the high pitch of your explosive laugh. I felt you looking through me, beyond the jumper, beyond the skin.

As the cafe closed, you made a casual reference to your partner. I felt ridiculous. We parted in the snow and I shut the box of you in my mind.

You unlocked it five days later with a text. All it said was Happy Christmas. I had a visceral reaction, a tiny explosion somewhere in my gut. I waited and sent one back: Happy Boxing Day. Twenty-four hours later you replied. Happy Post Boxing Dayit said, and I thought I see.

We kept finding reasons to communicate. A book recommendation, a creative opportunity. The smattering of texts became flurries followed by days of silence, most of which I spent berating myself for being so affected by it. I’d just about manage to shut the box again, when you’d send a new offering – a link, a question, a video of snow falling. I would vow not to respond, then draft replies in my mind as I paced the slushy streets of Sheffield. You were a scab I couldn’t stop picking.

We met again, this time for three hours, during which a silent negotiation took place: we would not mention Her.

I became a cliche overnight. I couldn’t eat or sleep. You frogmarched me out of my fussy little life into a kind of glorious hell. The texts came daily. Each one a shot of espresso. You sent songs. I listened to them repeatedly, googled the lyrics and tried to understand you. I had too much energy. I started dancing in the flat. I lost weight. People fretted. It was like a disease.

One Sunday morning, you sent a message asking if I would help with your stand-up routine. You knew my background, had seen the films. I felt important. You arrived, drenched from football, and wrestled your enormous bike into my tiny flat. I sat with my back against the oven and watched your set. I wasn’t sure if it worked but I couldn’t believe your bravery. I would never have taken such a risk in front of a potential lover and took it as confirmation that my feelings were not reciprocated.

But we are not all the same.

And there is no one quite like you.

We got into your Fiat 500 and drove to Clowne in the pouring rain, which you said was funny in itself. You were brilliant that night and I knew I was powerless. In the bar afterwards, all I wanted to do was touch the soft skin behind your ear.

You are so beautiful.

I became your director of sorts. It was strange being back on the circuit, rediscovering the world that almost buried me. I saw it anew, and it was not so terrifying with you in it. Something inside me stirred and whispered the lights, look at the lights.

On the way to gigs, we played Snap!with our life stories. Did we match? Could our lives tesselate? There was a certain freedom about being in the car – two people side by side heading in the same direction. I felt I could ask you anything, so that’s what I did. Excluding the obvious, obviously.

The goodbyes were abrupt and clean. You never touched me. Every time I closed the door, I felt absurd. I was terrified you could sense the depth of my desperation, smell it on me like cigarettes. But I am nothing if not proud. I didn’t linger in the doorway. I took my cues.



First Steps in Probability

 by Susan Wigmore

We’re kicking fag packets down the alley behind Tanners Lane and I let you win because I want to tell you I love you, there in the scrubby weeds and litter and dog-piss stink of it, and I do. Love you, Chrissy O’Connor. I love you.

You lean in as if to hug me but instead do that daft tripping thing your dad does and run off laughing. I brush grit from my knees. Your hair is so dark it shines blue like a magpie’s wing. Prove it, you say, when I catch up, your hand already on the Merry Widow’s gate. You push it open. Strung across the yard is a washing line with its straggle of clothes.

A pair of knickers, you say. I dare you.

We know she’s home. We can hear her singing.

There’s ivy on the fence, huge shovel leaves, veins yellow and fine.There’s a tartan peg-bag and tights the colour of toffee, and look, there’s my hand snatching the Widow’s knickers. See the pegs fly! See my pumping heart flow in my veins, Chrissy O’Connor!

You’re by the bin at the town end of the alley where your dad meets his girlfriends. The knickers are saggy and grey. I’ll push them through old Harry’s letterbox, I say. That’ll set tongues wagging.

Silly cow, you say, and run across the road.

We do star-jumps at each other, cars jammed between us, and you hug me when I reach you, my mouth deep in your magpie hair. The thought of kissing you makes me gasp. Your bag slips from your shoulder and you push us both away. In your hand, the Widow’s knickers filched from my pocket. I watch as you chuck them in a skip. Your slow smile. The thrill of it all –


My Mother’s Daughter (an excerpt)

by Anneke Bender

In the picture, my mother and I are walking in the Grand Canyon holding hands. That summer, she worked at the Lawrence Livermore Lab and we had driven across the country to get there, halfway in a bright orange VW bus, halfway in a Corolla hatchback called Blusieafter the old bus “swallowed a valve.” My mother, the biologist, always claimed the best way to study nature was to talk to creatures. I was taken with Native Americans the whole trip, looking at cave dwellings and bright turquoise in silver bell caps. We would stop at trinket stores and I wanted each tiny thing, each stone and bracelet, flute and arrowhead. I imagined living in a cave, tucked in by a fire. Back then my mother called me by the nickname Nic-A-Leeand brushed my hair into pigtails, and I can hardly write these words.

My mother and I walked in the Grand Canyon holding hands, my hair in pigtails and my lanky string-bean legs brushing their bell bottoms together as we travelled down the dusty path. She was a scientist and worked all summer at a lab in California while my dad watched us during the day. We got there in the back of Blusie, camping the whole route in a cross-country family adventure. Blusie’s windshield shattered once pulling into a gas station for cheap gas, because my dad saw the sign at the last minute and turned on a dime. He was always looking for the cheapest gas.

My mother and I walked in the Grand Canyon, my hand in hers, her hand in mine, her bright smile that was always there shining in the sun. We went into the canyon for a bit. Not all the way down, just enough to get our feet dusty. Just enough to put footprints along the path, the way Native Americans put footprints on the same land a long time ago. We had driven there from our home in Atlanta – my brother, my mom, my dad, and me. The long, slow hours passed while my brother and I played 20 questions and looked for license plates from Alaska. The first question my mom always asked after we set up our tent each night was: “Do you want to go explore?” She was always so kind, pushing my brother and I to be curious, to find adventure. She is still kind.

When you are young, you see only the moment; when you are older, you see a story strung together, a line weaving through years during which everything shifts, the slow tide. Glass, in the end, settles downward. It is so strange, is it not, to sit where you are now and see what you were then? A day in the Grand Canyon, my mother holding my hand as we walked the trail. Who took that picture? Surely my dad. Maybe he and my brother were walking ahead, and he turned back for a moment, his thick hands lifting the viewfinder to his eye. My hand lifts to his and together we turn the dial, focus the image until it sharpens the lines memory has frayed. Her kindness – this is the picture.


The Scene Without

  by Winifred Hughes


“The scene” is still the same—that’s what you called it,

the view from our back windows that opens in winter


like a spread scroll—the brook that runs free and full, skidding

among stones, browned meadows with their broken stems


and grasses, matted leafmold, woods stripped of cover

spilling pent up secrets, light pallid, whether bleak or tender


only you could have told. You’d still know it instantly—how you

loved the scope of it, the sheer expanse; loved even the battered,


colorless stalks, the twiggy bushes, hollow seedpods—remnants

of your care only last summer, no longer ago than that, now


unbridgeable by any quickening of spring, unimaginable by any

thought of mine. Only this morning I saw a sharp-shinned hawk


gliding overhead, ready to plunge. Before that a fox, uttering

its short, sharp yap, then loping across the yard to re-enact


the primal plot that ends in survival and abrupt extinction.

Small songbirds enact it too, gorging against the cold but not



to the point of slowing their flight from the hawk. Look there—

I want to show you the brown creeper camouflaged against


the mottled bark, until it spirals down to the base of the trunk;

the golden-crowned kinglet flitting skittishly among the bare 


branches, picking at lichens; the flicker, with its yellow-shafted wings

and dagger-like bill, drilling for grubs in the half-thawed ground. 


I wonder if they might be the same individual birds you saw this time

last year, looking out from these same windows on this winter scene.


I want to tell you that they are all still here, that I am still here, that nothing

has changed—just everything inside the windows, but nothing without.


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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