Our most sincere congratulations to Isidora Cortés-Monroy, a first year PhD student in our Spanish graduate program, for winning the 2021 Bristol Short Story Prize with her story Cake for the Disappeared. Set during the Chilean dictatorship, the story follows a mother’s process of grieving as she waits for her son, Joaquin, to return. As the title suggests, there is plenty of food in the story, a common love language in many Latin American households.
The Bristol Short Story Prize (BSSP) is an annual international writing competition founded by the editors of the quarterly cultural magazine Bristol Review of Books in 2007. This competition aims to publish great stories and discover previously unpublished writers, celebrate the short story genre as well as make it accessible and available to a wide audience.
Selected out of 2,545 submissions sent by writers all around the world, Isidora’s win was announced at an online awards ceremony on Saturday October 9th, 2021. Judge, bookseller Tom Robinson, says her short story is “an extraordinary mix of strangeness and poignancy and (is) an immensely difficult story to pull off. The balance of horror, humour, simplicity and humanity is beautifully handled.”
Isidora shared: “I was caught completely off guard when the judges announced my name as the winner of the competition. I already felt proud to be selected as a finalist for the prize because this is the first of my stories to be published in a book. This was a big morale booster and encouragement to continue with creative writing.”
Born in Chile, Isidora moved to Switzerland when she was 5 years old, where she was raised in a small town on the edge of Lake Geneva. Initially, she had set out to pursue a career in hospitality, but after two years, Isidora decided to move to England and follow her passion: literature. She completed a BA degree in English Literature and Spanish at the University of Manchester and later a MPhil in Comparative Literatures at the University of Cambridge. It was in Manchester where she enrolled in a Creative Writing course and started working on her first short stories.
Before coming to Toronto, she returned to Switzerland in early 2020 to weather the COVID-19 pandemic. She took the opportunity to get her old notebook out and continue honing her writing. As part of her practice, Isidora collaborated with Lesflicks – an independent, volunteer-run video streaming platform and website focused on LGTBQ indie film. She wrote film reviews and industry news articles, while also doing advocacy work for LGTBQ directors.
When asked what attracted her to graduate studies at the University of Toronto, Isidora said: “I was concerned with the deterioration of the political climate in the UK, and I wanted to expand my horizons again. Faculty in Spanish & Portuguese conduct fascinating interdisciplinary research and my own interest on literature of the Chilean desert will be welcomed here. It was also very encouraging to receive a Jackman Humanities Junior Fellowship and a Connaught International Scholarship, as these funds will allow me to focus on issues of environmental humanities, memory studies, and archival landscapes in Chilean literature for my dissertation research – and I am very grateful for this support.”
As for her creative writing, Isidora hopes to continue exploring some of those theoretical concepts in a manner that only fiction permits. We are looking forward to reading both her short stories and her academic work in the near future!
Welcome to our department and congratulations, once again, Isidora!
You can read Isidora’s winning entry, as well as other scintillating 19 stories, in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 14 published by Tangent Books.
With files from Berenice Villagomez and information from the Bristol Short Story Prize website.