This year’s Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award has been presented to Young Skins, the debut collection of Irish writer Colin Barrett. 32 year old Barrett beat out fellow nominees A.L. Kennedy, Lorrie Moore, Laura van den Berg, Ben Marcus and fellow debutant Phil Klay to take the €25,000 award, reputedly the most lucrative short story prize in the world. His book was first published in Ireland in 2013 by Stinging Fly Press, with Jonathan Cape handling it in the UK this year and Grove Atlantic taking it to the United States in 2015. Its win was decided upon by judges Manuel Gonzales, Alison MacLeod and Matthew Sweeney.
MacLeod says of the book: ‘How dare a debut writer be this good? Young Skins has all the hallmarks of an instant classic. Barrett’s prose is exquisite but never rarefied. His characters – the damaged, the tender-hearted and the reckless – are driven by utterly human experiences of longing. His stories are a thump to the heart, a mainline surge to the core. His vision is sharp, his wit is sly, and the stories in this collection come alive with that ineffable thing – soul.’
The award’s director, Patrick Cotter, adds: ‘I’m grateful we can continue to offer this lucrative award in difficult economic times. Huge kudos to Cork City Council and The School of English, UCC for supporting this unique award into its tenth year. As a life-long lover of the short story form I’m delighted the award is going to a brilliant book, but as an Irishman I can take special pride that a book by a new, young, genius Irish writer can hold its own against the best in the world and win the award in this milestone year.’
Barrett’s book depicts a fictional Irish town and its young inhabitants. He has a novel forthcoming, which will also be published by Jonathan Cape, and will accept his prize as part of September’s Cork International Short Story Festival.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.