Mslexia: 2011 Short Story Competition

Mslexia, the women’s writing magazine, has launched its new short story competition, to be judged by Jackie Kay. It’s an open theme and the maximum word count is 2,200.

Although the entry fee is a fairly steep £10, there are some fabulous prizes on offer: first prize is £2000 plus a one-week writing retreat (heaven!) AND a day with a Virago editor and there are runners-up prizes of £500, £250 and 3 x £100.

The deadline for entries is January 24th 2011, so, ahem –  no rush there, then! (I always think ‘there’s plenty of time’ – and of course, there never is).

Now, bad news if you’re a chap: this competition is only open to women of any nationality and from any country. (Quote from the rules: ‘You do not have to subscribe to Mslexia to be eligible but you do have to be a woman.’). 

Whenever I mention ‘Mslexia’ competitions in my writing class – and the fact that they’re only open to female writers – the men always say, “But how would they know? I could enter under a pseudonym!” and of course, that’s true.

But imagine if you won first prize. They would phone you with the news; they’d want an interview and a photo; you’d probably have to attend an award ceremony.  And that could all get a bit tricky, if you’re a man pretending to be a woman (but by all means, watch ‘Some Like It Hot’ or ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ for some tips).   

But whatever your sex and regardless of whether you’re going to enter the comp, the Mslexia website is still worth a look, as it’s packed with information and writing exercises.

And for those of you who do ‘qualify’ for this competition and are thinking of entering, here are a few tips: 

  1. Don’t leave it until the last minute! Start thinking about your story idea now. (This is really a ‘note to self’!)
  2. Have a look at this article by Jackie Kay on the subject of short stories and/or read some of her work. Ask yourself what subject matter and style is likely to appeal to her, as a judge?
  3. Look at the stories that have been placed in the past 2 years (scroll down the page for the links here.). Although the judges were  different, it’ll give you an idea of what Mslexia is looking for (the magazine will shortlist the entries before passing them on to Jackie Kay).
  4. Try to be original. This competition is likely to attract over 2000 entries (last year they had 2,300). Yours needs to stand out from the crowd.  
  5. Make ‘em laugh! I’m always reading judges’ reports in which they bemoan the lack of humour in competition entries. They get a bit sick of doom, gloom, death and destruction. If you can be funny (and it’s not easy), then go ahead. It will certainly help you with point 4 (above).
  6. The winner is likely to be a fairly ‘literary’ story (ie: where the quality of the writing and the characterisation is more important than lots of action).  But that doesn’t mean you can neglect plot! Something still needs to happen and your main character should have gone through a change or shift, in some way, by the end of the story.

There you go – Simples! Good Luck!

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8 Responses to Mslexia: 2011 Short Story Competition

  1. mathilde says:

    Hi Helen,

    Really like your blog. Just saw in your stats that you’ve had 999 hits already (wow!) so I thought it would be fun to try to be number 1000.

    And of course I am actually supposed to be in your writing class tonight , but things are slightly manic here due to moving house… Hm, not my favourite hobby. On the bright side of life: my laptop has not disappeared into one of the removal boxes yet, so although I had no time to come to class this evening, at least I could have a look at your blog. I hope writing a comment counts as homework 😉

    See you next week for new writing adventures,



    • Mathilde
      Hello, nice to hear from you! Yes, we missed you in the class last night but I’ll send you an email and let you know what we covered. Hope your move goes well (it’s always very stressful, I know) and hope to see you next week!

  2. D.J. Kirkby says:

    “Simples”? I have been thinking about having a go at writing something for this comp ever since I first read about it in Mslexia, and I must get on with actually writing instead of just thinking. Simples it’s not 😉

  3. Pingback: Ten (Writing-Related) Things To Do In January | Blog About Writing

  4. Giselle Leeb says:


    Thank you for the information about the number of Mslexia competition entries. How did you come by it? I’ve been womdering this for ages, but couldn’t find anything on it. Do you know who the readers for the shortlist are?


    • Giselle
      I was in the top 50 last year (amazingly) and I got a letter which told me that and also the number of entries that they’d had. Sorry, no I don’t have any information about the shortlisted stories for this year. I don’t think they publish a shortlist but if you’ve entered and you get into the top 50, then you will probably hear from them after the results have been announced (but then again, of course you might be one of the winners!).

      • Giselle Leeb says:


        Thanks for the information. It’s encouraging to know if you get into the top fifty (I wonder if this is how many stories the judge reads – the shortlist?). I’ve been meaning to write a letter to ask if they’re able to let you know if you made the shortlist. Know I know.

  5. Giselle Leeb says:

    I forgot to say: congratulations for last year!

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