John O’Connor Short Story Competition

Cover Art of John O'Connor's Book 'Come Day - Go Day' by Armagh Artist JB Vallely

The world of John O’Connor is a world of the freshly snedded turnip, the new-sawn plank, the sod shining under the plough. His gift is to render the life of the Mill Row in Armagh as deftly and definitively as Steinbeck renders Cannery Row or Bob Dylan Desolate Row – Paul Muldoon

This competition has been held annually for the past three years to commemorate the Armagh-born writer John O’Connor whose impressive literary legacy includes a collection of short stories which still retain a timeless appeal.
The festival, sponsored and supported by internationally renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Paul Muldoon, has a two-fold purpose. It aims to celebrate and commemorate the life and works of John O’Connor as well as offering practical guidance and assistance to aspiring writers through its workshops and Master classes in the various literary genres and writing for commercial purposes.
The John O’Connor Short Story Competition is not currently open. Please feel free to browse previous winning entries.
The 2018 winner was Alan O’Gorman for his story ‘Sticks and Stones’ (read it HERE). Shortlisted writers were Holly Yuille, Lucy Beevor, Millie May, DM O’Connor.
The 2018 prize-winner was awarded a bursary to attend the John O’Connor Writing School and Literary Arts Festival which will be held in Armagh from 1st to 4th November, 2018, plus a cash prize of £250, a three night stay at The River Mill – a fantastic boutique 5-bedroom writers’ retreat in a 300 year old mill located in rural Co. Down which offers individual residencies and mentored weeks. For more information about this inspirational spot, visit
UPDATE: Kit De Waal Bursaries
With thanks to the generous sponsorship of author Kit de Waal, we were in a position, in 2018, to offer bursaries to cover the cost of five submissions (the short story competition is limited to one submission per person) for writers who might not otherwise through financial circumstance be able to enter the competition i.e, from a disadvantaged or minority communities, on low income, with a disability. Application was via the online submission form.  Allocations were made on a first-come-first-served basis.
Information about the next Short Story Competition is not yet available. We will update this page and our digital platforms with further details when it is available.

Click to Show 2018 Rules

  1. The competition is open to people of 16 years and older
  2.  Only one entry per person is permitted and MUST be submitted via ONLINE FORM
  3. Entries must be in English
  4. Entries must be between 1,800 and 2,000 words in length. Entries outside this word count will not be permitted and will be automatically rejected.
  5. Entries must be the original work of the author and must not have been previously published either in writing or electronically. Entries which have received awards in other competitions are also ineligible.
  6. Only short stories will be accepted. Prose and poetry entries are inadmissible.
  7. An entrance fee of £10 per story must be paid and submitted as indicated on the ONLINE FORM
  8. No indication of the author’s name should be given in the actual story.
  9. Entries will not be returned.
  10. The decision of the adjudicators is final and they will not enter into any correspondence concerning the competition.
  11. Closing date for receipt of entries 12noon on the 28th of August.
  12. The winner will be notificed by 2 October 2018

The bursary prize allows the recipient to enjoy all events in the John O’Connor Writing School and Literary Festival 2018, and to attend one class in the writing genre of his/her choice, a cash prize of £250 and a three-night stay at The River Mill (writers’ retreat based in rural Co. Down).

The winning entrant will be formally announced at the opening of the Writing school on Friday 2nd November, and will have the opportunity to read at an event on Sunday 4th November.

Single room accommodation will be available free of charge to the winning entrant. Please note, the winner will be responsible for their travel expenses.