Leicester Writes Short Story Prize Winner Announced

A local writer has won first prize in this year’s Leicester Writes Short Story Prize (18 August).

Laura Coleman beat off more than 250 entrants to triumph in the competition.

The winning story, A Form of Freedom was chosen anonymously from entries received from across the world. A prestigious judging panel which included writers Joe Bedford and Mona Dash selected Laura’s story as the winner from a longlist of 20 short stories.

Laura wins £175 cash prize and will have her story published in the prize anthology.

She said: “’I’m delighted to have won the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize 2023: not only is it a well-respected international competition, it’s also very close to home! I’ve followed the prize since 2019, when one of my fellow Leicester Writers’ Club members won, so earning first place four years later means a great deal to me.

“Leicester Writes and Dahlia Books contribute so much to the culture of our city. I feel both proud and privileged to have been recognised by them,” she added.

The prize, set up in 2017 by Dahlia Books seeks to recognise and celebrate short story writing talent. The competition is open to writers and is for a short story of up to 3,500 words on any theme or subject. Now in its seventh year, it regularly attracts international attention. This year’s competition received entries from as far as Trinidad and Tobago, USA and Malaysia.

Judges praised the exceptional quality of entries received this year. Author Mona Dash said: “I loved the ambition of this short story and the fact that it didn’t follow the rules of a short story! Big theme about possibilities and how they can affect our lives. Love and death, and at the heart of it, the sorrow of a relationship not going that well.”

Last year’s winner turned judge Joe Bedford said: “It was a pleasure to read and reflect upon every single story on this year’s Leicester Writes longlist. Within those twenty stories we found a range of forms, genres and voices, as well as the unconventional, the uncategorisable and the imaginative.”

He added: “In our winner A Form of Freedom we are challenged to reimagine the conventions of freedom and causality through a story that is as emotive as it is accomplished.”

Publisher Farhana Shaikh said: “This year’s entries came from all over the world and I was blown away by the outstanding quality of the short stories I read in the first round. It’s great to see a local writer win the competition especially given that so much talent in this wonderful city still falls under the radar. I’m really looking forward to working with all the writers to publish their stories.”

Twenty short stories featured on this year’s longlist will be published in an anthology. The collection will be launched online on September 28 as part of the annual Short Story September celebrations.

The full results of the prize can be found online at

The winning stories and writers:

1st prize: A Form of Freedom by Laura Coleman

Laura Coleman writes short stories, satires, creative non-fiction and poetry. These explore her fascination with people: their minds and motives, their loves and losses, what pushes them to act and what pulls them apart. Her black comedy, ‘OBSESSION: A Compulsive Love Story’, won first prize in the Ilkley Literature Festival Short Story Competition 2019. She travelled and taught English as a second language for several years before returning to her native Leicester, where she works as a content writer and copy editor for a charity. She blogs at

2nd prize: She Went There for the Weekend by Hannah Retallick

Hannah Retallick is from Anglesey, North Wales. She was home educated and then studied with the Open University, graduating with a first-class BA (Honours) Arts and Humanities (Creative Writing and Music) degree, before passing her Creative Writing MA with distinction. In 2018, Hannah started to send out her short stories on a regular basis. Since then, she has been published in paperbacks, in e-books, and online, as well as placed/shortlisted in several international competitions. She is currently working on a flash fiction collection, a short story collection, a novella, and a novel.

3rd prize: Your Own Abyss by Malina Douglas

Malina Douglas is inspired by the encounters that shape us. She was awarded Editor’s Choice in the Hammond House International Literary Prize and longlisted for the the Bath Short Story Prize in 2022 and the Bristol Prize in 2023. Her suite of flash fictions was a finalist in the Defenestrationism Flash Suite Contest. Publications include the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology, WestWord Journal from Retreat West, Typehouse, Wyldblood, Opia, Back Story Journal, Ellipsis Zine, Consequence Forum, and Because That’s Where Your Heart Is from Sans Press. She is an alumna of Smokelong Summer and can be found on Twitter/X @iridescentwords.