Joanne Key - Mslexia Short Story Competition 2018 winner

Joanne Key, ‘Flight risk

‘I’m amazed and thrilled to have won the Mslexia short story competition. I generally enter more poetry competitions than short story competitions but I had the Mslexia competition in mind, so I wrote the story and entered and then promptly forgot all about it. When Debbie rang to tell me the news I had just come off the phone to the hospital and thought they were ringing me back. When I heard it was Debbie, I was in such a complete state of shock that I was literally speechless and almost dropped the phone. I remember staring silently at the bare trees outside window for what seemed like ages until the adrenalin kicked in and then I couldn’t shut myself up! I think I told Debbie my whole life story! It’s a wonderful feeling to have won. It means the world to me and has given me confidence to continue.’

JOANNE KEY is 49 and works as a writer and poet, having previously been a teacher. She spends about 20 hours per week on her work, and enjoys the whole creative process, which usually takes place on the sofa with her dog snoozing next to her. She’s a seasoned competition winner and shortlistee, including winning second prize in the National Poetry Competition (2014) and the Charles Causley Competition (2016), and first prize in the Hippocrates Open Prize 2018. Joanne appeared in our ‘Bewitched’ showcase last year (Issue 77), and was also longlisted for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Prize (2012).


What did the judges say?

The overall winner, by unanimous acclaim – and with admiration for the sheer power and passion of the language, the moments of intimacy and the driving momentum of the plot – was ‘Flight risk’ by Joanne Key. ‘I love its sheer audacity,’ said Leone Ross. ‘And how she followed through every implication of that transformation. I had such a visceral response to it my own skin was hurting.’ Margaret Wilkinson agreed: ‘I was compelled and shocked, until by the end I was just gasping. It offers exactly what a short story should: an intense experience with clear boundaries and enormous mystery’. Sunny Singh also admired the courage of the writer, and the characterisation: ‘I really cared about the husband, for the tender way he treated his wife as she went through this absolutely appalling process’.


Congratulations to the other finalists!

  • Heather Parry, ‘The Professional
  • Tracey Slaughter, ‘stations of the end
  • Josie Turner, ‘Sunset

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