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The 2016 Bristol Short Story Prize has been won by Stefanie Seddon, who has just completed an M.A. in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. The Prize is a prestigious international writing competition open to writers worldwide which is now in its 9th year, and received 2,160 entries this year. Stefanie, originally from New Zealand and now based in Kent, won with her story, Kākahu.
Tania Hershman, chair of the judging panel, said that “Kãkahu is a poignant, magical story tackling trauma through a child’s eyes using the power of myth. Writing from a child’s point of view is a challenge, and Stefanie rises to it beautifully, unsentimentally. From the opening sentence we know we are held safely by a writer who knows exactly where she is going, and takes us there with grace and surety.”
MIR Online asked about the inspiration behind the story, and Stefanie replied that “Kãkahu started life as a character study for another story I was trying to write. I had imagined my character, Marama, as a young woman, but it wasn’t really working, so I decided to go back in time and write about something that might have happened to her as a child. I set it in a place that I knew well from my own childhood, and when I put her together with the Kãkahu – the feather cloak – the story took on a life of its own.”
The starting point of a good short story can come from many places. Stefanie says “I think all my stories so far have started with a single scene; whether it’s a fishing trip, a feather cloak in a classroom, or something discovered on the beach – a moment that I think is interesting, perhaps because of what it might lead to. That’s what I love about short stories – you can take a moment from everyday life, something you’ve overheard or something that’s really moved you, and you can build a whole story around it. What I’ve learned on the Birkbeck MA course is that there’s no story without a strong central character, an atmospheric setting and a compelling narrative framework.”
All writers reach a point where they get stuck in crafting their story. MIR Online asked Stefanie if she had any tips for getting over the hump. “I’m slowly learning that when this happens, I really should move on to a new section of the story – even if its not in sequence.” Stefanie continues “I can spend a long time agonising over one sentence or paragraph, but I find if I leave it alone for a few days, the problem can resolve itself with a fresh pair of eyes. If it doesn’t, its usually because the story itself isn’t working.”
Congratulations to Stefanie on her achievement!
For full details on the Bristol Short Story Prize and other shortlisted stories please visit www.bristolprize.co.uk
Stefanie Seddon tweets as @stefseddon
Article by Katherine Vik
Elizabeth Fremantle shares an extract from her novel The Girl in the Glass Tower. The novel came out on June 2nd and is available here. Elizabeth talks about writing on the Birkbeck Blog.