RTÉ Radio 1 Short Story Competition in honour of Francis MacManus


Over 4000 entries received; shortlist to be announced early September

  "We Irish have an obsessive need to tell stories" – Madeleine Keane

"You're looking for someone who can make an entire world in 2,000 words" – Vincent Woods

"The familiar world around us suddenly looked very strange"– Danielle McLaughlin

RTÉ has received over 4000 entries, a record number, to this year’s RTÉ Short Story Competition, one of Ireland’s longest established and most significant literary prizes, in honour of Francis MacManus. 

The panel of three judges  met on Friday 3 July to begin the process of shortlisting the stories to a final 10 nominees which will be produced for radio, and announced in early September. A virtual awards ceremony in RTÉ will follow later in September, where the top three prize winners will be announced.

This year’s judges are editor, lecturer and journalist, Madeleine Keane; award-winning short story writer and previous prize-winner of the RTÉ Short Story Competition, Danielle McLaughlin; and writer and broadcaster Vincent Woods.

Previous prizewinner and judge for 2020, Danielle McLaughlin, says: "This competition offers writers a great opportunity to reach such a large audience. And at a time when the familiar world around us suddenly looked very strange and inspired so many people to write stories, it really is wonderful for those writers to think that the story they have written at the kitchen table, maybe over several months, and invested so much in has the opportunity to be listened to by so many people all over the country."

The overall winner will receive €3,000, while €2,000 and €1,000 will be awarded to the second and third place prize winners respectively. A further seven runners-up will receive €250 each. All 10 short stories in the shortlist will be broadcast in a season of new writing on RTÉ Radio 1 in the autumn and will feature in an RTÉ podcast. The top three prizewinning stories will also be published on thejournal.ie, and all 10 stories will subsequently be published on rte.ie/culture

Winners of the 2018 Francis MacManus Short Story Competition

Winners of the 2018 Francis MacManus Short Story Competition

                          Top three prizewinning entries now available to listen!

RTÉ Radio 1 has announced the winning short stories in the RTÉ Radio 1 Short Story Competition in honour of Francis MacManus at an awards ceremony in the Architectural Archive in Merrion Square, Dublin.

Judging the entries this year, which received a record number of entries (almost 1800), out of which a shortlist of 10 was chosen, were author and former finalist, Danielle McLaughlin, RTÉ’s Arts and Media correspondent and author Sinéad Crowley, and book publicist Cormac Kinsella.

Claire Zwaartman, living in West Cork, takes home first prize of €3,000, with her short story Ashes. Claire started writing fiction a year ago when she began a Masters in Creative Writing in UCC. Ashes is the story of a pair of siblings scattering their father’s ashes. It is about the complicated nature of family, disharmony and moving on. Ashes will be read on air by Andrew Bennett.  

 Judge Cormac Kinsella said ‘What impressed me most about Ashes was despite its length the reader is given a fully realised world that the characters inhabit. I finished the story knowing them so well and the lives that they lived. It’s an economy and precision of language that is very rare to read.’


Peter McNamara’s The New Place claims second prize and receives €2,000. Peter, who is from Dublin, works as a community journalist with a local newspaper and over the last few years has drafted several novels. Having just started writing short stories this year, Peter’s The New Place tells the story of Phil and his mother, which will be read on air by Peter Coonan. Phil’s mam has just moved out of the family home and in this short story, Phil is visiting her in her new flat, and trying to figure out how he feels.   


‘Initially, The New Place appears to be a traditional Irish family story but it soon becomes clear that there is another layer waiting to be uncovered. Deceptively simple, with well drawn characters and evocative writing, this story worked particularly well in the radio format and is sure to draw listeners in and keep them engaged until the deeply satisfying conclusion,’ judge Sinead Crowley said of The New Place.


Receiving third prize (€1,000) in this competition is Claire Mulligan from Monaghan with her short story, ‘Have you Seen Her Legs? And Other Stories From Fat Land'.  In the past she has contributed to RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Miscellany and has had children's stories published in The Caterpillar Magazine. She has recently written her first children's novel. Claire’s short story, she says, is ‘the story equivalent of death by a thousand cuts’. Each vignette gives a glimpse into a moment in a girl's life where thoughtless words about her body leave marks that cannot be removed.    


Of this story, which will be read on air by Janet Moran, judge Danielle McLaughlin commented: ‘Every time I heard it something new came out through. It's full of lovely little touches and very intimate. The author has skillfully harnessed the intimacy that’s possible in radio between the broadcast and the listener. It’s a story that doesn’t shy away from its material in any way and at the same time remains nuanced, with lots of subtle layers’.

Commenting on the shortlist as a whole, judge Sinéad Crowley said: ‘The stories were wonderfully varied, we got everything from humour to horror as well as the more traditional ‘dysfunctional Irish family’ tale. But the stories that worked were the ones that managed to create an entire world in just a few pages with plot, character and voice working together to create work that was wholly believable. In the end all of the stories – and the overall winner – gave me a sense of completion. They all create a world you want to spend time in, they would even make a traffic jam easier to bear!’

The RTÉ Radio 1 Short Story Competition has been a critically important launch pad for new and emerging writers such as Claire Keegan, Anthony Glavin, Nuala O’Connor and Molly McCloskey, since its inception in 1986.

The winning three stories will be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 from Monday September 17th on the Book on One (weeknights 11.20pm), with the seven shortlisted entries following over two weeks. You can also read the winning stories on thejournal.ie and after that, on rte.ie/culture

Full broadcast schedule:

Mon 17 September: Ashes by Claire Zwaartman, read by Andrew Bennett

Tues 18 September: The New Place by Peter McNamara, read by Peter Coonan

Weds 19 September: Have You Seen Her Legs and Other Stories from Fat Land by Claire Mulligan, read by Janet Moran

Thurs 20 September: In Madness and In Feathers by Méabh De Brún, read by Jane Brennan

Fri 21 September:  Kamikaze by Aingeala Flannery, read by Kathy Rose O’Brien

Mon 24 September: Sunday Lunch by Sarah Gilmartin, read by Caitríona Ní Mhurchú

Tues 25 September: The Widower by Nora Pyne, read by Peter Hanly

Weds 26 September: The House Guest by Aisling Flynn, read by Maeve Fitzgerald

Thurs 27 September: Shelter by Sarah Togher, read by Cathy Belton

Friday 28 September: Dog Days by Sean Coffey, read by Helen Norton


Find out more about the competition and its history. 

About the Competition

A competition for original short stories for radio was first established in 1986 in memory of Francis MacManus (1909-1965), the Kilkenny-born novelist, biographer and former Head of Talks and Features at Radio Éireann. Since its establishment, the competition has been a launching pad for many writers who have gone on to receive national and international acclaim, including Claire Keegan, Molly McCloskey, Anthony Glavin, Danielle McLaughlin and Nuala Ní Chonchúir.

The winning and?shortlisted short stories are produced for radio broadcast and voiced by some of Ireland's most talented actors of the stage and screen. In recent years these have included Peter Hanly, Ali White, Emmet Kirwan, Cathy Belton, Ingrid Craigie, Denis Conway, Andrew Bennett, Caitríona Ní Mhurchú, Kathy-Rose O'Brien, and many more.

Free to enter, the RTÉ Short Story Competition is open to anyone over 18 living on the island of Ireland, or living abroad who holds an Irish passport. Next year's competition will open for entries in spring 2021. 

The RTÉ Short Story Competition in honour of Francis MacManus is produced by Sarah Binchy. 



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Producer: Sarah Binchy

Broadcast Co-Ordinator: Carolyn Dempsey


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