Michael McLaverty Short Story Award 2023 Winners Announced

Tenaya Steed has won the prestigious Linen Hall Michael McLaverty Short Story Award for her story Heavenly Mutha. The two runners-up are Helena Close for Under the Bridge and Ciarán Folan for The Quiet of the Lake.

On Wednesday, March 13th, a prestigious award ceremony unfolded at The Linen Hall, enhanced by prominent literary figures from across Ireland. It was during this event that the winners’ names were announced.

The winner will receive £2,000 and the winning story will be published in a limited-edition anthology along with the stories of the runners-up, who also receive £250 each. The anthology entitled Heavenly Mutha and Other Stories is available to purchase in The Linen Hall.

The Michael McLaverty Award was set up to foster and encourage the tradition of the Irish short story. It has run biennially since its inception in 2006. Michael McLaverty (1904 – 1992) was one of the foremost proponents of the Irish short story. His archive was donated to The Linen Hall by the Literary Executors of Michael McLaverty in 2005. Adjudicators for this year’s competition were critically acclaimed writer Bernie McGill (This Train is For, The Watch House and The Butterfly Cabinet) and Emma Warnock, Editor at No Alibis Press.

The winner, Tenaya Steed, said: “When I got the email saying I was a finalist for The Michael McLaverty Short Story Award, I was on cloud nine all day. I kept re-reading the message. It took all I had not to print it out, laminate it, glue gun it to the wall. Despite my joy for making the shortlist, I had no real expectations of winning; I joked to friends that I was going for ‘Best Dressed’ instead. To have won this, then, is to have been confronted with the reality that my work can and should be taken seriously. For my story to have been chosen by Bernie McGill and Emma Warnock is especially meaningful; I truly admire Bernie’s work and No Alibis Press.  

Heavenly Mutha is my first published story, so you can imagine what this means to me as a new writer. And if you can’t imagine it, try to imagine the sound of my own mutha sobbing soap opera style in the Linen Hall audience when I was announced as winner. That should do it.”  

Bernie McGill, adjudicator of the competition, said: “Michael McLaverty would exhort his pupils to ‘Look for the intimate thing’, would praise the ‘note of exile’ that is redolent in the stories of the Russian writers he so admired. I would vouchsafe that all three of these excellent stories contain both the intimacy and the exile that McLaverty so passionately advocated for. 

The Linen Hall Librarian Samantha McCombe said: “From a high volume and calibre of entries, the winning stories reflect the richness and diversity of the short story form. We are delighted that the Michael McLaverty Award is celebrating and supporting the flourishing art of the short story in the name of one of its foremost proponents.”  


Tenaya Steed

Winner, Heavenly Mutha

Tenaya Steed is an artist, educator, and Royal College of Art graduate. She is a new writer and recent alumni of The Stinging Fly 6-month Fiction Workshop. From UFO hoaxes faked with teenagers living in ‘cultural deserts’, to imagined Irish dancing medals for amateur girls of the 90s; her work has been supported by The Arts Council, The British Council, and BBC Arts. Tenaya is writing her first collection, Canada House, named after the since demolished council flat she started out in. These stories tell of glamour and disappointment in a written-off place. Heavenly Mutha is her first published story.

Helena Close

Runner-up, Under the Bridge

Helena Close has been writing full time for 20 years. She has published 9 novels, 4 of which were co-written. Her novel The Gone Book was nominated for the Carnegie Award 2021, shortlisted for An Post YA Novel of the Year, won a White Raven International Award, was included in Empathy Lab UK’s 2021 selection and shortlisted for LAI Awards 2021. Her short stories Harbour and Then They Came For The Cats were shortlisted for the Bridport International Short Story Prize 2016 and 2020. Her play, Red Army, co-written with Marie Boylan, was staged in Limerick in 2022. Her new novel, Things I Know was nominated for the Carnegie Award 2023.

Ciarán Folan

Runner-up, The Quiet of the Lake

Ciarán Folan has had stories published in The Dublin Review, The London Magazine, Stand, Prole and in The Stinging Fly online. He was the winner of the Society of Authors ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Short Story Award in 2023 and was shortlisted for the V S Pritchett Short Story Prize in 2020. He was a runner-up for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award in 2016 and 2018 and has won the RTÉ Francis MacManus Short Story Competition twice.


Bernie McGill

Bernie McGill is the author of two novels: The Watch House and The Butterfly Cabinet. Her first collection of stories, Sleepwalkers, was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize in 2014 and she is a former winner of the Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Award in the US. Her most recent short story collection, This Train is For, was published in June 2022 by No Alibis Press, and recently won the prestigious Edge Hill Prize. Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies The Black DreamsHer Other LanguageBelfast StoriesThe Long Gaze BackThe Glass Shore and Female Lines, and her work has been produced by BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Bernie was Writing Fellow with the Royal Literary Fund (RLF) at Queen’s University, Belfast from 2018 to 2020 and will return there in 2023. She works as a Lector and Writing Facilitator for the RLF, and as a Writing Mentor with the Irish Writers’ Centre. In 2023 she received an International Development Fund award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to research and write at the Vittore Branca Centre in Venice.

Emma Warnock

Emma Warnock is the editor at No Alibis Press, a small independent publisher of fiction and non-fiction based in Belfast. Emma studied English Literature at Queen’s University, where she gained a PhD in contemporary fiction in 2006.