At The Reading Agency we have been working in partnership with crime writer Ryan Gattis and his publisher, Picador, to run a short story competition in prisons across the UK.
People in prison were invited to submit a 500-word short story, starting with an opening line provided by Ryan: "A man gets off a bus, stumbles, looks over and sees a woman, smiling."
We received 57 entries from 18 prisons. The entries were judged by Ryan and his editor, Kris Doyle, who chose a winner and two runners up to receive a letter from Ryan with feedback on their stories. The overall winner also received copies of all Ryan's books, including his latest, The System.
From facemasks to first loves, sinister assassins to returning war heroes, the stories cover a broad range of subjects and writing styles, and all demonstrate the entrants' endless creativity and talent.
The winning and shortlisted stories have been read and recorded by our Reading Ahead ambassadors and Quick Reads authors and hosted on Writing on the Wall Festival's (WoWFEST) "":https://www.writingonthewall.org.uk/myevents/the-reading-agency/website. Throughout the entire month of May, WoWFEST offers a programme of local, national and international writers, performers, commentators and artists. Projects range from supporting women with experience of domestic abuse to skills development for the long-term unemployed.
Our Reading Ahead ambassadors and Quick Reads authors have recorded readings of the 10 shortlisted stories. The winning story came from HMP Dovegate and is titled 'A Promise Is A Promise'. It is a dryly funny story about a grumpy middle-aged bachelor who strikes up a deal with his teenager sweetheart, read by author, Peter James.. Taking the spot for First Runner Up is a story titled 'The Manor Murderer' from HMP Magilligan, a tense and spine-tingling story about a woman who goes to visit her incarcerated friend, read by Ryan Gattis. The Second Runner Up story is 'Not Good At All', a first-person piece told from the perspective of an embittered and far-from-likeable protagonist. Entered by HMP Haverigg, it is also read by Peter James. The rest of the shortlisted stories have been read and recorded by authors Mahsuda Snaith, Bali Rai, Clare Mackintosh and Keith Stuart.
All 10 recordings are available to watch on Writing On the Wall festival's website until the end of the month.