Leading literary award for short story about feeling like a dinosaur at work

Sarah Dawson works at St James’ Primary School after-school club in Sandrock Road, Tunbridge Wells, and won with her story Dinosaurs Rule, writes Aimee Hobley.

The writing group where she has honed her skills are now launching a short story competition of their own.

The prize-giving took place at the Wexford Literary Festival in Enniscorthy, Ireland, on Friday July 5. The award is named after the Irish novelist, who is currently a Professor of Humanities at Columbia University in New York and is Chancellor of the University of Liverpool.

Sarah’s story about a middle-aged woman who is so full of self-doubt she nearly doesn’t make it to a job interview was said to fulfil every criteria.

Good short stories, the judges said, are notoriously tricky to write. They must land the reader in an utterly convincing and believable new world quickly; the best ones elicit emotion and linger in the head long afterwards.

“I have a degree in English so it has always been a passion of mine,” said Sarah, who describes the protagonist of her story as someone who ‘feels like a dinosaur in the modern world of work’.

The tale reveals how some people feel they ‘sometimes don’t have much to offer’ when, in fact, as Sarah put it, ‘the office contained more dinosaurs than she thought’.

This inspiring message set Dinosaurs Rule apart from the other nine shortlisted stories.

A spokesperson for the group said: “One of our nine voices is frustratingly modest, but the other eight are bursting with pride. Our much-loved and madly talented Sarah won with her warm-hearted and poignant story.

“The Wexford Literary Festival judges clearly saw what we see – the lucidity, insightfulness and generosity of her writing. We are so proud and so happy for her! It will be extra crisps and chocolate cake at our next get-together.”

Sarah is a member of a local writing group, Ninevoices, who have just launched a short story competition of their own. Anyone who earned less than £300 from their writing last year is eligible to enter.

The theme is summer – ‘a word that can arouse complex emotions’ – and the winner will receive £250 and the runner-up £50.

All proceeds from entry fees will go towards the charity PMRGCAuk to fund research and help sufferers of Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis, which are linked rheumatic conditions.

For more information on Ninevoices and how to enter, visit ninevoices.wordpress.com

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