Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2011
The Soho Theatre hosted approximately 80 writers, judges, readers and actors who participated in the Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2011. The event included advice on publishing from industry experts, actors reading the winning stories, and writers speaking about the inspiration for their stories. Momaya Press thanks everyone who took time out of their busy lives to attend. We hope the following account of the evening will inspired you to submit you short story to our 2012 Competition: Heat (accepting entries now until 30 April 2012).
The common experience of writing is a solitary affair. Whether they are actually alone in their home or sitting in a public space, writers throw their words into the void of a computer screen and notebooks. Most writers rarely experience the pleasure of seeing their words in print, and more rarely still, hear from their readers.
Maya Cointreau and Monisha Saldanha founded Momaya Press to redress this balance. We provide a forum for writers to get feedback on their writing through our website, and we sponsor an annual awards ceremony where writers get to hear their works read aloud by actors and meet the judges who selected their work for publication. We encourage the audience to try their hand at writing their own stories.
Momaya Press is building a community of readers and writers around the world, to inspire people to express themselves and to support each other. Most of our waking hours are spent doing things that are functional. It’s a celebration of life to take time out to write a piece of fiction that exists for no purpose other than as an expression. Our own unique, individual, never-to-be-replicated contribution to the world in which we live. A piece of writing can change how we perceive the world. By changing how we think, we then change how we live our lives. Through our individual contributions, we can collectively shape the world we all experience every day – we hope for the better!
Greed is theme for the Momaya Annual Review 2011. In the First Place story “Where There is a Will”, greed is illustrated quite literally when a wealthy man dies and friends and relatives scramble to discover who will inherit. Greed for power is shown in our Second Place story “Mao Yanshou” exterts his position by casting off a beautiful would-be bride for the emperor. Greed for sexual experience and freedom from the constraints of marriage are explored in the Third Place story “Will You Miss Me?” In all of these stories, the greedy learn their lessons. Perhaps our readers will learn the same lessons vicariously – and live their own lives a bit more virtuously as a result.
Every year Momaya Press choses a different theme. Having run eight story story competitions, we have noted how the theme can dramatically affect what type of stories people submit. Greed seems to have elicited more stories that impart a moral lesson than the 2010 family theme, or the 2009 alienation theme. No one submitted a story than implied that greed was good.
Sincere thanks to the judges who reserve time in their busy schedules to read the entries. Our judging panel included Andy Callus (Copy Editor, Reuters), Kay Peddle (Editor, Random House), Polly Courtney (six time published novelist: Golden Handcuffs, Poles Apart, The Day I Died, The Fame Factor, Defying Gravity and It’s a Man’s World), and Alice Shepherd (Assistant Editor, Penguin).
Many thanks to Zois Pigadas, who has so ably directed the actors reading tonight’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd place stories. It’s the first time we’ve had a professional director involved in the Ceremony, and we all enjoyed the benefits. Thanks to Nina Steiger, Director of Writers at the Soho Theatre, for suggesting the theatre as the venue for this year’s Awards Ceremony. Last but not least, profound thanks to Maya Cointreau who does outstanding work designing the website and book. Unfortunately she can’t be with us today, as she has a young family in Connecticut to support.
Encouraging your contributions
Our 3,000 word limit is about five pages typed – it’s something you can write during your lunch break, instead of watching TV after dinner, or by getting up a bit earlier on the weekend. Submit your story to Momaya Press and someone who doesn’t know you (that is – not your mom!) will read your story, will reflect upon it, and make a considered judgement on whether your story should be published in this year’s annual review.
It’s an incredible validation of your ability. It’s a thing of beauty to share your vision with the world. We thank the many readers and writers who have supported Momaya Press over the past eight years, and we encourage everyone who reads these words to submit their short story to our ninth competition. The theme for 2012 is “Heat” and we are accepting entries on our website until 30th April 2012.
Words from writers published by Momaya Press
Leo Madigan, 1st Place
You have asked about inspiration for the story which your judges were kind enough to award a prize. Inspiration is such a lofty word. If you write stories you get ideas and juggle with them. Most disintegrate. One or two survive and you work on them. Sometimes they come off, sometimes they don’t. Every now and then you realize you’ve hit on something that fits into the ‘classic’ slot. You mightn’t have the talent to do it the justice it deserves, but you do what you can. By ‘classic’ I mean the sort of tale with a denouement that is a surprise, yet inevitable. And with a moral that has the impact of a canon fired in a silent movie. O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi is one such. Somerset Maugham’s The Verger is another. WW Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw. Scheherazade only hit the magic formula once or twice.
You also ask what winning means to me and what future plans I have. Well, I’m getting on and I’ve been working on stories since I was a young seaman. (It was an ideal shipboard hobby.) Winning is not a novelty. Neither is losing. Competition successes are reflections on the judges as much as the stories. You get to label them by the way they advertise themselves after a while. Most American competitions seem to be looking for pretentious prose. Ditto the Irish. The occasional Raymond Carver or Frank O’Connor comes along but most of the stuff seems to me to be ersatz. Mind you, if I read the first couple of paragraphs and am still incurious I abandon the page. The thing for a writer is to work at his art and not to be discouraged by lack of recognition. Forty years ago I wrote a story on a ship in Buenos Aires called Packing for Wednesday. It won a competition but was never published. So I entered it for another. It won again, but again wasn’t published. I kept entering it all over the place and made quite a pretty pile out of it too, but no editor ever put it into print. Eventually, in 1996, it won the Tom-Gallon Award. Because I am a New Zealander, as was the protagonist in the story, I sent it to a National Competition there, confident that it would take laurels. When the results were announced it hadn’t even made the long list. I relate this simply to reinforce the advice not to be discouraged by lack of recognition, or, indeed, over-assured by too much. As for future plans well, my mind keeps returning to the American writer who wanted the words A Plot at Last inscribed on his gravestone.
Diane Ward, 2nd Place
Seeing my short story “Mao Yanshou” included in a distinguished review such as Momaya Press is so exciting, especially since it is my first short story publication.
Earlier this year, my short story “Wang Zhaojun” won the 2011 Cleopatra Writing Contest for Young Women. Although the story was about the beautiful concubine Wang Zhaojun, there was a certain intrigue to the court painter Mao Yanshou who held the fate of hundreds of the emperor’s concubines in his portraits.
My inspiration for the story came from the Chinese proverb “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you shouldn’t worry about devils knocking on your door at midnight.” Mao Yanshou finds it isn’t so much a knocking that disturbs him, but a slow seeping.
Jack Noble, 3rd Place
“Will you miss me” was written for the Momaya competition and was inspired by the theme of “Greed”. I don’t mix very much with bankers or politicians so I wrote about greed in a more familiar, domestic context. It’s about greed as an obstacle to happiness; greed in the sense of failing to appreciate what you have, while focusing instead on what you lack.
I am absolutely thrilled to be placed in the Momaya Press competition. This is my first work to make it into print, so it’s hugely encouraging. The notion of my story being read out to a room full of benign strangers in a fashionable London Theatre is exhilarating and terrifying, and makes me want to work harder to produce better writing – if people are going to spend time reading what I write, I should make sure it’s as good as it can be. 2011 was the year I got motivated to start writing.
If I continue into 2012 – and I will, that novel won’t write itself – it will be thanks in large part to the encouragement I have received from Momaya Press. So thank you very much, Monisha and Maya and the judges. I look forward to reading the other stories in the Annual Review, this year and in future years. Keep up the good work!
I’d like to thank Momaya Press for this opportunity to have my work read. Any writer given a single choice of fame, fortune or being widely read would choose to be read. But I won’t turn down any offers of fortune, just to make that clear.
My story in the anthology is called Undertone and tells the story of five people staying overnight in a theatre to find out if rumours of a ghost are true. Undertone is a ghost story. Undertone is also not a ghost story. Anyone who wants to find the ghost in this story and goes looking for it will find it. But, likewise, anyone who goes looking for a rational explanation for what happens will also find it. They’ll have to look a little longer, but it is there. The theatre director, looking to cash in on the haunting, is looking for a ghost. The sceptical sound technician aiding him is certainly not there looking for love. Both men find more than they bargained for at the theatre.
I published two novels many years ago, but always shied away from short stories, as I found them almost intimidating. How do you squeeze character development into such a tiny window? If a character dies then how do you ensure the audience cares if they have only had a few hundred words to get to know them? On my Mac, I have a black comedy about a man who sells snow to the Inuit online that bloated itself to an unwieldy size. I always used to get far too precious about removing large chunks of plot, but the challenge of short story writing has turned that around. I enjoy the surgical precision that it takes to get the text to flow as tightly as possible and still entertain as a story. This is my fourth short story in print and I have grown to love the art of the short story now. But, I will also be dusting off my third novel and gleefully taking a hatchet to it. Watch this space. It could get messy.
Unusually for me, the story began with its title – ‘Reading in Bed’. I was doing an MA and passing by the student union bar on a regular basis. In the past, I often felt that my writing was ‘too sweet’ and I wanted to get practice at being ‘nastier’. Writing that story was a way of developing my skills in portraying less tasteful aspects of human relationships. I think both of the characters are victims as well as perpetrators. In the novel, which I am currently writing, set in 1960s Los Angeles against a background of cultural and racial unrest, I probe deeply into the minds, aspirations and disappointments of my characters. ‘Reading in Bed’ was good preparation for this. It’s a great opportunity for me to be included in this year’s Momaya anthology and to participate in the Soho Theatre event.
Firstly, a huge thank you to Momaya Press. To have my story chosen for publication is a real honour, and a great boost to my writing.
Greed – what an inspiring subject! It suggests desperation, and desperate characters do interesting things.
The Logic of the Mine is set in a diamond mine, in a hot country. I live in Guildford, not known for its diamond mines – or its heat. But when I write, I want to go somewhere else.
This story began with an image – a black and white photograph of a Brazilian goldmine, by Sebastiao Salgado. The landscape is harsh and unforgiving. I spent a long time staring at the picture, fascinated by the details: the miners’ filthy faces, their ragged clothes; the steps and slopes dug by human hands; the ladders, at odd angles; scraps of cloth, planks of wood, lengths of rope. I wondered who these people were; how it would feel to work there.
Onto the page came Lucas. Then I realised this wasn’t an ordinary mine: it’s a prison. Like the other inmates, Lucas has committed a terrible crime. But he’s found a way to survive: he’s an informer. He’s served his time, and he’s leaving tomorrow. To help him on his way he’s stolen diamonds. And he’s sure he won’t be caught.
I managed to catch the story on the page, and find out more about Lucas, and his fellow miners. The story is bloodthirsty and terrifying, but perhaps the feeling of desperation isn’t unfamiliar.
How does it feel to be stuck working at a checkout, for a bullying boss, and a money-grabbing, low-paying company? Or driving a lorry in clogged traffic, with an impossible schedule? What about when the snow falls, and the supermarket runs out of milk and bread? It doesn’t take much to show us how we can behave when it’s every man for himself. How would it feel to have to survive, hand to mouth, day to day? I wrote Lucas’s story and vanished into his world. It was a frightening place.
I’ve written one novel, called The Ash Zone. It’s set in a future Britain, after a volcanic ash fall, when the country is part of the Chinese Empire. I was thrilled when it won the Yeovil Literary Prize in September, and I’m currently sending it out to agents. I’m also working on short stories, as I love the buzz of completing a piece of work and sending it out. And I’ve been lucky enough to have my work placed in two competitions this year.
But I can’t get the mine, and Lucas, out of my head. I couldn’t leave him there, at the end of the story. In fact, I’ve been back already, and the story has grown into ten chapters of my next book. I want to find out what happens next. His world is dangerous and unpredictable: Lucas will have to survive on his wits. So will I.
Writers published in previous years Jo Cannon, Published 2006
In 2006 a story of mine called Nasma’s Malady was published in the Momaya Annual review. It was one of my first ‘hits’. I remember the event well: the party atmosphere, and the supportive speech given by Monisha. It was fun to meet, for the first time, other people involved in my solitary hobby, which family and colleagues consider rather obscure. After Momaya, I went on to be lucky in other competitions and my stories were published in various magazines and on-line.
A year ago, Pewter Rose Press published my collection, Insignificant Gestures. So I feel I’ve been on an exciting journey, and I’m delighted to revisit the place where it began. In 2006 I didn’t know there was a short fiction community, but since then I’ve made a lot of friends. Short story writers have a lot in common: they share a love of books and words, and are mostly thoughtful and reflective people.
So I’d like to say thanks to Momaya for that kick-start to my writing five years ago. And I’d like to wish everyone here lots of inspiration, luck and fun in their writing lives.
Helen Hunt, Published 2007
When my story ‘Shredding The Label’ was published by Momaya Press in the 2007 Annual Review it was a thrilling moment for me. It was my first fiction publication and it came at just the right moment, when I’d almost lost hope of seeing my short stories in print. Without the boost it gave me, I may well have given up.
Since then I’ve gone on to have over forty short stories published in a variety of magazines and I’m also writing some ‘how to’ articles about short story writing for Writing Magazine. Without my first acceptance from Momaya none of this would have been possible.
This year I’ve launched some short story workshops which have been great fun to run and I’m also offering short story critiques by email. I fit this in alongside continuing to write short stories and articles, and I’m also working on a novel. People can find out more about my writing and my workshops on my blog.
Madi Hanekom, Published 2010
I would have loved to attend the Awards Ceremony but as I’m based in South Africa it would not be possible. Congratulations on another successful Short Story Competition! It really meant a lot to me to have been published by Momaya: it did wonders for my self-esteem and, of course, I could show it as a publishing credit on my bio! I have since went on to mostly concentrate on writing articles (as these help pay the bills!) on a variety of subjects and had a number of these published in magazines and newspapers, such as the Sunday Times Newspaper.
David Fulton, Published 2007
First of all, I’d like to say how pleased I was to have my short story PLAN B accepted by Momaya Press. Publication of this story, indeed its writing, came at a time in Spain when we were seeing a lot of violent wife-beatings and partners killing even entire families. Unfortunately, this was also happening in a number of other countries as well and, what’s more, it is still going on. My story PLAN B was my own emotional response to all of that violence. Perhaps I was trying to express the anguish that it leaves behind for close family members who survive. As I say, this was my own personal response but it was an attempt to explore the shattering impact of that violence on all those near to those who suffer it at close range. I wrote that story in between other work in documentary film which is my main field of activity. The story just came out. I did not have to think how I should write it. I just wrote it and there it was!
Now, I live in Barcelona, Spain, and I regret to say that there is still a lot of gender violence here in this country. Perhaps I should translate my story (which I wrote in my native English) and have it published right here in Spain. Its “message” still applies here. In fact, I’d be happy to see PLAN B translated into a lot of other languages. If anyone wants to translate it, all they need to do is to be in touch with me and Momaya Press.
David Gill, Published 2009
It mean a lot for my story “In It To Win” to be published by Momaya Press. I had been writing short stories for a couple of years. Although some of these stories were published, I had no direct contact with the world of publishing. Placing 3rd in the Momaya Short Story Competition encouraged me to engage more directly with the literary world. As a result, I have just completed an MA under Andrew Motion. In 2012 I will be completing a novel on the working class and saints.
Araminta Hall, published 2010
Writing is a lonely business and so getting recognition is so important and it validates what you are doing. There are so many short story competitions now and they all serve such a useful purpose. Since being published by Momaya Press in 2010, I completed my novel Everything and Nothing, which was accepted for publication by Harper Press in May 2010. It came out in January 2011, paperback Sept 2012 and has been selected for the Richard and Judy Autumn Reads in WHSmiths. I am about to finish my second novel, a story about a young girl who has never been told who her father is, even though she lives with her loving mother and grandmother. It is exploring the idea of time and history and how we often make up our own tales about our lives. I have also been contracted to write a novel based around the life of my great-grandfather who was a titanic survivor.
Check out all the photos from the 2011 event on the Momaya Press Facebook Page.
Congratulations winners of the Momaya Short Story Competition 2011
Leo Madigan, Where There’s a Will
Diane Ward, Mao Yanshou
Jack Noble, Will You Miss Me?
Christian Cook, Undertone
Sharda Dean, The Red Shoes
Suzanne Gaskell, The Good Sin
Vivian Hassan-Lambert, Reading in Bed
Sarah Hegarty, The Logic of the Mine
Melanie Susan Marshall, The Trees
Annie Mfula, One Way Ticket to Mexico
Jennifer Widrig, Panoptic
To Be Published under the theme of “Greed”
Somer Brodribb, Like Marny
Jon Flieger, I Have Learned to Breathe Underwater
Thank you to all those who submitted
Photos, Videos & Speeches from previous Momaya Press Awards:
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2014
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2013
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2012
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2011
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2010
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2009
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2008
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2007
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2006
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2005
Momaya Press Awards Ceremony 2004