The Cuffer Prize is getting harder and harder to judge, says one member of the deciding panel, since the quality of writing seems to get better each year.
This is the fifth year for the short fiction prize, which celebrates non-published short-story writing by local authors, whether they are new or experienced writers. Entries are limited to 1,200 words or less, writers must be 16 or older, and the stories must be set in Newfoundland and Labrador. The top prize is $2,000.
The contest has been growing quickly: the first year saw
70 entries; the past two years saw upwards of 200.
“The quality of the submissions is rising every year,” said writer/Telegram editorial page editor Russell Wangersky, who’s part of the judging panel, along with CBC’s Ramona Dearing and writer Joan Sullivan.
“All three judges saw, across the board, that the tone and quality of writing has increased.”
While some names on this year’s shortlist may be familiar — Robert Chafe, for example, is a well-known playwright whose “Afterimage” won the 2010 Governor General’s Award for English language drama — their stories are judged blindly, with the authors’ names removed before the judges see them.
“Sometimes there are people whose style and voice are very distinct and make you wonder if it’s someone you know, but there was no one like that this year,” Wangersky said. “There are quite a lot of writers with a lot of presence.”
One author, Joshua Goudie of
St. John’s, made the shortlist twice, after entering two stories in the contest. Some of the writers have made the shortlist in previous years.
Those who made the 2012 Cuffer Prize shortlist, in alphabetical order, are:
- Robert Chafe for “Two-Man Tent”
- Annette Conway for “Unloving You”
- Randy Drover for “Being Frank”
- Jamie Fitzpatrick for “Judy McDermid’s Garden of Faeries”
- Joshua Goudie for “Foreshore”
- Joshua Goudie for “Satsuma and Cigarettes”
- Janet Kelly for “Bliss”
- Wanda Nolan for “Nancy Drew”
- Dara Squires for “Slideshow”
- Paul Whittle for “The Nightingale”
In judging the entries, Wangersky said he, Dearing and Sullivan were looking for a number of
“A good strong read, good use of language, colour and skilled writing,” he explained.
“There’s not a lot of space, so stories have to be really tight. You can’t afford to put a foot wrong.”
The Cuffer Prize gala will be held at the Johnson Geo Centre Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome. At that time, “The Cuffer Anthology: Volume 4” will be launched, containing 35 short stories by previous Cuffer entrants, including past winners Chad Pelley, Josh Pennell and Grant Loveys.