Olivia Douglass wins 4thWrite prize for ‘gripping’ short story “Ink”

A story about a young woman encountering a childhood friend has won the 4thWrite short story prize for unpublished writers of colour.

Olivia Douglass’s “Ink” concerns the reunion of the two friends that results in shared secrets unravelling. The author and judge Sara Collins said the story had her “in its grip from beginning to end and for a long while afterwards”, and was “exactly” what she looked for in a short story.

A special commendation was awarded to “End of the World” by Dionne McCulloch, about a woman who, distressed after her dog kills a deer, is caused more pain by a bystander’s cruel reaction.

The award, which is run by the Guardian and publisher 4th Estate, is now in its sixth year. Douglass has won £1,000, a one-day publishing workshop at 4th Estate and publication of their story on the Guardian website.

Joining Collins on the judging panel were Booker prize longlisted author Tash Aw; Leah Davis, host and founder of Capital Xtra Book Club podcast; literary agent Catherine Cho, founder of Paper Literary; Justine Jordan, the Guardian’s fiction editor, and Kishani Widyaratna, editorial director at 4th Estate.

When it was shortlisted, Cho said “Ink” was “accomplished in its precision, and in the way it captures the nostalgia and heartbreak of a single encounter, and the way the past haunts our present”.

Jordan said the writing of “End of the World” was “beautifully assured, addressing the eruption of violence into everyday life – whether that’s a dog attacking a deer, or racism at the school gates – with stunning control”.

The other shortlisted stories were “Sairish” by Ruksana Abdul-Majid, about a domestic child worker in north Pakistan dealing with the aftermath of a wedding in the household she serves; “Plenty Meat” by Vanessa Ezeh, a story of a tense encounter between a house girl and her mistress; “Half a Clementine” by Rachel Imrie, which explores the fraught relationship between a mother and daughter; and “Kamal and the Bad Superimposition” by Zui Kumar-Reddy, which follows a middle-aged, middle-class physics professor from Bangalore who wakes up one morning to find his psyche has split in two.

Davis said she was “transported around the world and back and totally impressed by the talent on display” in the shortlist. Last year’s winner was Gift Nyoni for his story The Ritual Seat of the King. (Guardian)


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