15 December 2007
Hosted by Hygeia
New Milford, Connecticut, U.S.A.
The 2007 Momaya Annual Awards Ceremony and U.S. debut was a smash success, with over 40 attendees at Hygeia, a Holistic Health Center and Book Store.
Monisha Saldanha, Director of Momaya Press, started the evening with the following welcome speech:
Welcome to the 4th Annual Momaya Press Awards Ceremony.
We are pleased to celebrate writers from past and present publications, as well as the readers whose interest provides an audience for the literary talent gathered here, in the Momaya Annual Review 2007.
Maya Cointreau and I started the Momaya Press in 2004, with the goal of promoting the short story as an art form among readers and writers worldwide. Along the way, we have found we have created a community as well, of people who choose to set aside time to support this effort. We would like to thank the 800 writers who have submitted stories over the past 4 years, the judges who have set aside time to read and select our winners, and the readers who pick up the Momaya Annual Review. Over the years, we have seen many familiar faces at our Awards Ceremony, names of authors in the stories submitted, and judges at our meeting to choose the winners. It’s great to feel that not only have we built a publication, we have made friends along the way, and also helped many people who write start to see themselves as writers by vocation.
We would like to thank the judges who support Momaya Press and our mission to promote the short story. Three judges comprised the 2007 panel: Lucy Alexander, Alison Hennessey, and Claire Nozières. Lucy Alexander is a writer and researcher at The Times Magazine. Alison Hennessey is an Editor at Random House. Alison also works as a freelance reader for a literary consultancy. Claire Nozières works at Andrew Nurnberg Associates as a literary agent. Previously she was Foreign Rights Manager at Frances Lincoln, an independent publishing house specialized in high quality illustrated books and children’s books. Claire sells translations rights to France for a wide-ranging list of contemporary US and UK fiction.
We would also like to thank Reba Saldanha, the photographer whose work has ornamented the every edition of the Momaya Annual Review.
We would like all of you in our audience tonight. Writing is a lonely business, and opportunities to come together to celebrate the writing process are few and far between. On behalf of all the writers who have and will write for the Momaya Press, thank you for setting aside the time to support the short story.
We would like to thank the writers who share their work with us. Each one of us has a unique perspective on the world. We are singular in the way we experience events, and one of a kind in the way we would describe them. A good piece of writing helps communicate your own vision to other people, and helps lift the reader out of their own limited perspective to see things from another point of view. In this way, we help make the world a smaller, better place. We build bridges, we broaden perspectives, we open minds. We hope you will all leave inspired to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards, and compose your own short story, to submit to the Momaya Short Story Competition 2008, which is now accepting entries. The 2008 theme is passion – we look forward to seeing your familiar name!
We received 204 entries to the 2007 competition (an increase of 8% over the 189 entries received in 2006). Our competition is open to English-language submissions from anywhere in the world. We were pleased to receive entries from sixteen diverse countries: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, The Netherlands, South Africa, St Vincent and the Grenadines, United Kingdom, and the United States of America. We encourage people to submit wherever in the world they may be, or whoever they may be. Our judges do not see the name or contact information of the authors; they see just the title and text of the story when they choose the winners.
Claire Nozieres, Literary Agent at Andrew Nurnberg Associates, wrote the following introduction for 3rd place winner Viccy Adam’s "Renovation":
It was a great joy to read “Renovation” and I'm delighted that it has won a place amongst our top three winners.
This is a wonderfully plotted short story. Victoria Adams cleverly tricks us into believing we're reading the story of a vulnerable teenage girl and the dangers she's facing while going home after her illicit night out in a seedy pub in a grim and depressing small town. The author has carefully planted tiny little clues that all is not quite as it seems, but we're under the spell of the compelling, suspenseful writing, so much so that we're completely taken by surprise when the real identity - and gender - of the heroine is revealed.
“Renovation” is also a lot more than a clever construct. It's a moving reflection on loneliness and the tragedy of not knowing the ones closest to us..
Lucy Alexander, The Times wrote the following introduction for 2nd place winner Kendare Blake’s “The Photographer”:
We chose this story because we were particularly impressed by the satire on photography as an art form and the presentation of the artist as exploitative voyeur. The self-indulgent protagonist discusses his oeuvre with chilling pretentiousness, and we expect him to receive his comeuppance from the critical female character - the fact that the outcome is in fact different makes the story yet more challenging and original..
In Kendare Blakes’ own words: “'The Photographer' was written for a workshop on my MA course at Middlesex University. I had been spending a lot of time in museums and thinking about the different processes of the arts, and I'd always wondered what a conversation between a photographer and a writer might sound like, if they compared their respective genres. But, as I started writing the story, it ended up turning into more of a study on an aspect of humanity, as my stories often do.”
What has it meant for me to be published by Momaya Press: “Well, in a word, everything! 'The Photographer' will end up being my first (but hopefully not only) published story. I was so pleased to learn that I had placed in the competition. Honestly, at first I thought you guys were joking. But I'm absolutely thrilled.”
Plans for writing in the future: “Writing is my ONLY plan for the future. Which might be unwise, but there you go. I've just come off my second serious novel, and have recently completed my MA in Creative Writing. It seems that this is only thing that I am compelled to do. I can't get away from it. Which means that my parents are probably going to have to financially support me for a long time. I hope they don't mind.”
Alison Hennessey wrote the following introduction for 1st place winner Deborah Pearson-Jone’s "The Quarry":
In a collection of original, intelligent, often witty and frequently surprising entries, Deborah Pearson-Jones's "The Quarry" stood out as a subversive, thought-provoking read - and a natural winner. Deborah’s writing is imaginative and evocative; she was careful never to stray into the exaggerated or the extreme, despite the drama of her plot, and her story remained all the more powerful for it. In her carefully plotted, chilling tale she was able not just to capture the voice of her narrator and his frustrated desire to avenge his young sister, but she was also able to skilfully use these few pages to widen the scope of her story and provide a devastating insight into the childrens’ entire lives.
Words from the Authors who won Honourable Mention:
Josh Blake, Aquarium:
The inspiration for your story: “The inspiration for the story was seeing reflections of myself in the glass ceiling of a community dance centre. The story is taken from an interelated collection of short stories.”
What does it mean to be published by Momaya: “The Momaya Press Award has meant the possibility of wider exposure.”
Your plans for writing in the future: “I have written two novels, the second of which is being read by a London Agent. I am about to embark on the third.”
Susan Davis, Manipura:
Inspiration for the story: “I did once dream of the devil. At least, I think he was the devil. He had a whiff of sulphur about him, and he was certainly a sharp-dresser. My husband also travels a lot, like the narrator's husband. When he's away, chimneys block, and drains overflow, and fuses continually blow at inconvenient times. So the stuff about the house playing tricks is certainly true. But there the similarities end! Really this story was very loosely inspired; it kind of wrote itself.”
What does it mean to be published by Momaya: “A very great boost to my confidence, when my thoughts about the publishing industry are not terribly positive. I know my story will be in fine company in the Momaya Review. This has silenced that little voice that surfaces from time to time...as in, is it worth writing another story? Yes. Now, I think it is.”
Plans for writing going forward: “I am perhaps a bit unusual here. Having already published 3 novels with a major publishing company, I find my ambitions have changed in the past few years. I began my career with the short story. Now I find I am back with it again. I love the freedom of expression which this form offers. It would be good to focus on writing great stories from now on, and maybe, if I am lucky get a collection out. I already have a quite collection, of already published and new stories. So, if I could attract a good publisher for these, that would be my dream.”
Cally Taylor, C is for Cuckoo :
The inspiration for your story: “I was inspired to write "C is for Cuckoo" after watching a nature documentary about lionesses and the lengths they go to to protect their offspring and there were some particularly heartbreaking scenes when the lioness was too weak or ill to protect her cubs but still battled on. A few days later I read an online article about cuckoos and how they oust another cuckoo's eggs from a nest in order to claim it as their own. Both programmes made me think about human mothers and how important it is for women to protect their families and homes. I wondered what would happen if a woman became ill and another woman threatened her 'nest' and then Susan popped into my head...”
What it has meant to you to be published by Momaya Press: “I'm delighted to be published by Momaya Press. This is the third year I've entered the competition and "C is for Cuckoo", the story that received an honorable mention, is one I'm very fond of. Momaya Press has an excellent reputation - for the quality of the stories published, the anthology and their excellent awards evening and I'm very proud to appear in their anthology.
Your plans for writing in the future: “I have recently completed two novels - "The House of Wannabe Ghosts" (a supernatural romantic-comedy " (young adult fiction) and am seeking agent representation. Currently I'm working on a children's book. Whenever I have time (and there's never enough) I return to my first love - short stories.”
Swathi Kappagantula. Crazy:
The inspiration for your story: “The inspiration for my story was hearing about my paternal grandmother, who - when widowed at a fairly young age in late 1930s India - was not compelled by her family to shave her head. This was an extremely progressive and enlightened position for the family to take, even for relatively educated people. Although I knew my grandmother well, the symbolism of a widow of her age and circumstances who had her hair never truly dawned on me until years after her death. Symbols can be very empowering, but at a certain level they remain mere symbols, and I wanted to explore what can actually lie beneath when we move beyond them - whether in rural India in the 1930s or modern societies anywhere in the world.”
What does it mean to be published by Momaya: “Receiving the news that my story was chosen for publication by Momaya Press is truly a highlight in my nascent literary career. It is obviousy an honour to receive such positive feedback and encouragement from any respected press or publication. However, it was particularly validating to submit my story from North America (as a Canadian residing in the USA) and feel that the story resonated for an audience far beyond my immediate context. It is extremely gratifying to gain broader exposure to both readers and a wider literary community that would not normally be within my reach, and I feel privileged to be included in the 2007 Annual Review.”
Your plans for writing in the future: “The story being published in Momaya's 2007 Annual Review is part of a collection in progress. I am at work on completing story drafts in this collection, which will consist of nine loosely linked stories, while submitting some of them independently for publication in journals. I hope to be in a position to submit the collection as a whole for publication late next year.”
Catherine Binnie, Cry Baby:
The inspiration for your story: “It started off as a story about someone in serious debt, and 'wrote itself' into a story about grief.”
What does it mean to be published by Momaya: “This is the first story I've written and the first competition I've entered, so it's been a huge confidence boost to be selected for publication.”
Your plans for writing in the future: “More short stories!”
Joanne Ricconi, Dog Days:
The inspiration for your story: “The story is based loosely on events that I recall as a child. I spent most of my summer holidays at my grandparents' home in the countryside around Rome. My grandfather would tell me stories about how he was captured by the British in World War Two, about his journey to England and the life he led there as a Prisoner of War. He was a tough man, who had lived a tough life. He had little time for sentimentality. I was fascinated, afraid, repulsed and in awe of him all at the same time. It was my mother who actually witnessed him take a spade to a pet dog that we had adopted one summer. I remember I asked her so many questions about what happened and what she saw but she didn't say much, not wanting to upset me. Perhaps this story was a way of understanding that event, but more importantly understanding my grandfather, his history and culture and what made him the way he was.”
What does it mean to be published by Momaya: “I have won some small prizes for my writing but rarely publication. To see a story in print is something else ... I'll be honest - it's one of the main reasons for writing!”
Your plans for writing in the future: “I can't seem to leave the short story form alone. I'm fascinated with it's precision, it's punch, it's poetry, the special "afterglow" that the best short stories leave behind (sometimes much longer than a novel). It's like choosing a Belgian chocolate instead of a fat slice of cheesecake for dessert. I might never write a novel.”
Words from the authors published under the 2007 theme, Transformation:
July Walker, From Tesco to Mother Earth:
The inspiration for your story: “The inspiration for my story came from a tale a friend told me about attending a ‘sweat lodge’. I had never heard of such an event and found it fascinating to imagine why people might attend.”
What does it mean to be published by Momaya: “I am delighted to be published by Momaya Press because I feel this will help my profile as a writer enormously, as Momaya is so well respected.”
Your plans for writing in the future: “My future writing plans are to get my children’s novel published, to complete two radio plays and a stage play that I am working on and then return to a novel I am writing about Northern Ireland. Piece of cake!”
Helen Hunt, Shredding the Label:
Helen writes: “I was inspired to write my story by the Momaya Press theme of 'transformation'. It started me thinking about the nature of identity and the fact that it isn't always as fixed as we might like to think it is. I'm thrilled that the story has been selected for the Momaya Press Annual Review and I'm looking forward to tackling next year's theme of 'passion'. I am continuing to write short stories and autobigraphical pieces and I have also begun work on a novel.”
Sally Quilford, Mr. Potato Head:
The inspiration for your story: “Several things inspired the writing of Mr Potato Head. I'd read a spate of stories in which the protagonist or their partner turned into something else. Each time I thought 'Hang on, isn't it possible they just left and you're only focussing on this object because you can't accept that fact?' I give a similar line to Jake, the gigolo, who is probably the only honest person in the story. I was also inspired by the many 'victim' chat shows, where no one ever states the blooming obvious i.e. if the relationship is making you that miserable, leave! But instead they offer dna tests/lie detectors/counselling that prolongs the agony (and the ratings) and turn the participants into even bigger victims. I do leave it open as to whether George transforms, but as the story is not really about his transformation, it doesn’t matter. I’ll let the reader decide.”
What it has meant to you to be published by Momaya Press: “Being chosen for the Momaya Anthology is the culmination of many years honing my skills as a writer, and struggling to find recognition. I've entered Momaya several times before without luck, so to be chosen was proof that at last I'd got it right, and that maybe I am growing (dare I say transforming?) as a writer. It's a validation of all that hard work, as well as looking very good on the CV! Thank you for giving me this chance to shine in such a well-respected publication.”
Your plans for writing in the future: “I intend to continue working on my writing skills, both on short stories and novels. I don't know if the 'big time' is waiting around the corner, but it doesn't matter. I'm doing something I love, and not many people can say that. Oh and I’ve got to get my entry for Momaya’s 2008 competition written.”