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Short Story Competition 2020 Winner: Congratulations Christine Harrison!

Our biennial Ruth Rendell Short Story Competition received a whopping 250 entries this year, so we would first like to thank everyone who applied for all of your fantastic stories.

After shortlisting the stories, our head judge, Dame Margaret Drabble, handpicked this year's winner. In order to win, a story has to work both on the page and off of it. The winner must be a story that, when read live to stroke survivors in hospitals across the UK, will fire the imagination and aid recovery.

We are very glad to announce that this year Christine Harrison took first place, with her short story, 'The English Lesson'.

So here it is, read during our live announcement on Friday 17th April 2020, by actress and InterAct reader, Esme Bayley:

Of the story, Margaret Drabble said:

This is a subtle, suggestive story, full of resonance. The relationship between real life and books, between living and teaching, between indoors and outdoors, is delicately caught, and the range of literary reference is broad but never pedantic.

The shifting mood of the convent classroom is well imagined. In a short space the writer hints at much longer stories behind this single episode, and suggests a complex future for its characters. The invocation of D.H. Lawrence is apposite and carefully underplayed.

Congratulations Christine! An amazing story, well deserving of first place!

A bit more about the winner, who will also become our Resident Writer for the next year:

Christine Harrison was born on the Isle of Wight. She lives and writes on the West coast of Wales, which has been her home for many years.

She won the Cosmopolitan Short Story Award with ’La Scala Inflammata’ (1991) which was then published in an anthology, The Best of Cosmopolitan Fiction, and she has been a contributor to many anthologies of women’s writing from Wales, including Red Roses for a Blue Lady published by Parthian. Fig and the Flute Player, Christine’s novel, was published by Parthian in 2014.


Second place was awarded to Barbara Dynes for 'At the Beach', read here by actor Mikhail Sen:

Margaret Drabble commented:

This is a very funny story, exploiting the possibilities of the form in a clever way, and leading up to a surprising but not a trick ending, with an excellent punch line.

It really leads the reader or the listener up the garden path. It has a lot of atmosphere, a good and grotty sense of an out-of-season seaside place, and two finely realised characters, presented with great economy. I loved both the participants in this odd relationship. They are full of life.


In third place was Philip Ellis, for 'Corpse Pose', read by Allison Belbin:

Margaret Drabble's said the following for this story:

This is a funny story, with a surprising punch line, but it’s funny in a macabre and satiric way. The unreliable narrator gives us a few shocks, and shows us a world of yoga and relaxation that we can feel very happy not to belong to.

It’s absolutely up to the minute, and the voice of the narrator is horribly authentic. Not a nice story, but a neat one.

To read the stories or watch the full online awards ceremony, please visit:


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