Interview with 2024 Devon Prize Winner - Rebecca Shapland

 Meet the Winners!

We close out this years' competition with an interview with our Devon prize winner, Rebecca Shapland. We hope you've enjoyed reading this years' winning stories and our peek behind the scenes into what inspired them. Maybe it'll be you next year?

Rebecca Shapland is a teacher of A Level English Literature and can either be found in North Devon’s middle-of-nowhere, where she grew up, or traipsing the streets of her beloved Exeter.

How would you sum up your story in a sentence or two?

Slightly dislocated from reality, a small town in Kernow is excited by the arrival of the Minerva, a ship headed for the Americas. Young Jeremiah is focussed on looking after his father’s shop which sells miniature animals, but his friend Morven has bigger aspirations…

How long have you been writing? Is this your first win?

My mum is a Librarian and books have always been a huge part of my life. I studied English for my BA and MA, and at uni I had an embarrassing online poetry blog (since deleted - thank God). Now I teach Literature at Exeter College and am very lucky to continue to be surrounded by words and stories in my day to day. After all of that reading, I started writing short stories about a year ago.

The first competition I entered was the Bridport Prize, for which I was shortlisted. I was then long listed for the Fiction Factory short story competition. This is my first time winning some prize money. It’s given me confidence to keep writing, so - thank you!

Do you have any writing heroes or favourite authors?

So many. To name a few: Zadie Smith, Kurt Vonnegut, Angela Carter, Ernest Hemmingway, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie...

What is your writing process? Pen and paper or straight to screen? Do you have a routine?

Once I have the central premise of the story, I start typing in the Notes app on my phone. When the story and I have gained a little faith in one another, we move over to my ancient laptop which has some keys that don't work (I have to 'copy and paste' in all the full stops). I write my way into the story in a ramble, to get a feel for it. Once the characters have lives of their own, they tend to guide my way out of the story toward a seemingly inevitable conclusion. I like the end of the story to feel like a final piece has been placed in an ambiguous yet satisfying jigsaw puzzle.

Do you have any advice for other short story writers?

Daydream. I'm pretty sure that most of us are overstimulated by technology so much of the time that our imaginations don't stand a chance of taking centre stage in our minds. I find I'm most creative when my mind is quiet - when I'm going for a walk without headphones, for example - so I have the opportunity to daydream. I think there's been times I've been so scared of silence and boredom that I drown my mind with content, and it comes at the cost of creativity.

Where did you hear about our competition and what made you enter it?

The Exeter City of Lit Instagram page shared the competition and I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring. I’m pleased I did!

Thank you, Rebecca. If you haven't read Rebecca's story yet, you can find it here!