Short Story Award

In 2012, we launched the Costa Short Story Award for a single short story. This is run in association with the Costa Book Awards but judged independently of the main five-category system.

What is the Costa Short Story Award?


The Award is for a single, previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words written in English.

The competition is open to any writer, published or unpublished, aged 18 years or over and resident in the UK or Ireland who submit their stories anonymously via this website.

It's up to the public to read the top three stories shortlisted by the judges and vote for their favourite, with the winner and two runners-up being announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in January.

Check below for more information on how to enter, voting and key dates.

Key dates for the 2020 awards
  • Entry opens: 1st July 2020

  • Download and vote: 1st December 2020

  • Shortlisted writers revealed: Early January 2021

  • Winner announced: Tuesday 26th January 2021

2020 Short Story Award

Entry for this year's Costa Short Story Award has now closed. The shortlisted stories will be revealed later on this year. In the meantime, check out @CostaBookAwards for updates.

2020 Short Story Award judging panel

Download the PDF below to find out more about this year’s panel of judges here.


You don't need a publisher or an agent to enter the competition - just an idea and a talent for writing

2019 Costa Short Story Award Finalists

Congratulations to Anna Dempsey who won the 2019 Costa Short Story Award with The Dedicated Dancers of The Greater Oaks Retirement Community.

Iain Rowan came second with Birds of the Mountain and Kerry Hood took third place with The Dog Friend of Dastardly.

Thank you to everyone who voted. You can still download a PDF for each of this year’s shortlisted stories below or follow the link here to listen* to them instead.

The Dedicated Dancers of The Greater Oaks Retirement Community by Anna Dempsey

A jaded New Yorker heads south for the holidays and finds healing on the dance floor.

About the author: Anna Dempsey is an American-born writer and teacher based in south-east London. She received an MA in Children’s Literature and Creative Writing from Goldsmiths College and an MA in Education from Touro College in NYC. She moved to London after several years of teaching in Brooklyn and she’s currently completing her debut YA novel, set in Florida (expect alligators). When she’s not writing she can be found tossing a frisbee in the park or teaching creative writing to children throughout the city. This is Anna's first piece of short fiction. 

Birds of the Mountain by Iain Rowan

A troubled father walking in the hills with the son he adores faces an impossible decision.

About the author: Iain Rowan lives in Sunderland and is an Academic Registrar at the university there. He’s the author of the crime novel One of Us (2012), has been shortlisted for both the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger and for the 2017 Bath Novel Award. In 2018 he won a Northern Writers’ Award for his (then) novel-in-progress, Going Under, now out on submission. Iain is Founder and Director of the Sunderland Festival of Creative Writing, and both founded and runs the Sunderland writers’ group, Holmeside Writers.

The Dog Friend of Dastardly by Kerry Hood

On a visit to her dad, Viv must keep down all the Terrible Words. A dark, funny story set somewhere between hate and love.

About the author: Kerry Hood has won/been shortlisted for several short story awards and was highly commended for the 2017 Costa Short Story Award. She writes about isolation and loneliness (with jokes) and is starting a bleakly funny collection exploring language and form. Her work has appeared in several publications, and two of her stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Kerry has also written ten plays and had residencies at the National Theatre, Traverse Theatre and RADA. She has a first-class degree in English Literature and writes full-time in Devon.

Listen to the stories

Produced and recorded for the Costa Short Story Award by Spoken Ink.

Birds of the Mountain read by Constantine Gregory, The Dedicated Dancers of the Greater Oaks Retirement Community read by Stephanie Ellyne and The Dog Friend of Dastardly read by Jenny Funnell.

Got a question?

We receive many enquiries about every aspect of the Costa Book Awards, so we've taken all the most frequently asked questions and answered them here.

Check here for full terms and conditions for the Costa Book Awards and Costa Short Story Award.

*Produced and recorded for the Costa Short Story Award by Spoken Ink. Stories read by
Constantine Gregory (Birds of the Mountain), Stephanie Ellyne (The Dedicated Dancers
of the Greater Oaks Retirement Community) and Jenny Funnell (The Dog Friend of Dastardly).