Spring 2021 Janus Literary Story Prize Anthology

Credit: “In Peril” by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1879) (public domain)

It’s finally here. The long-awaited anthology for our Spring 2021 Story Prize. Here you will find stories of many stripes: tales of loss, terror, death, sea hags, sirens, shipwrecks, reincarnation, magic, and much more.

I first had the idea for this anthology in late 2019, before the world changed for all of us. I longed for stories about the sea and couldn’t find enough contemporary fiction to satisfy that want. I gauged interest on Twitter for an anthology of such stories (people were very enthusiastic) and there the idea was born for a dark, wild sea-themed collection.

My editorial team and I took a few months to read and debate as to which stories to include. We wanted to showcase a wide range of storytelling styles, while keeping with the theme. Each editor had personal favorites and the debate became tetchy at times, but all in the spirit of featuring tales well-told. The stories were all read multiple times and given careful consideration in terms of craft. In the end, we felt proud of the ones we narrowed down to our longlist, then shortlist, then top three prizewinners.

We hope you will enjoy reading these 24 stories as much as we did and we hope you will want to read them over and over and find a favorite among them. Hopefully one day we will be able to offer a print version of this anthology for our contributors and readers. Meanwhile, here it is in online form for you to partake and share widely.

Finally, I want to personally thank all who sent a story to us for the competition, even if yours didn’t make the cut. It takes great courage to put your work out there. I hope you will keep taking those risks. The world needs your stories.

I also want to thank the editorial team that was in place at the time of the competition and for the all-important decision-making: Jason Jackson, Sara Siddiqui, Neil Clark, Cheryl Pappas, Tim Craig, Edward Bassett, and Tara Isabel Zambrano. Without your contribution of time and expertise and your love for the written word, none of this would have been possible. You are all lighthouses to me.

Janice Leagra, Founder and Editor-in-Chief


“The Witch Who Walked the Shore” – Gaynor Jones (1st place)
Interview with Gaynor Jones
“Saudade” – Philip Charter (2nd place)
Interview with Philip Charter
“Lyrics For a Life at Sea” – Bayveen O’Connell (3rd place)
Interview with Bayveen O’Connell
“Seven Tears” – Nuala O’Connor (shortlisted)
“All the Broken Things” – Melissa Bowers (shortlisted)
“A Hole in the Wing” – Ian O’Brien (shortlisted)
“An Aversion to Popular Amusements” – JL Willetts (shortlisted)
“Origami Wars” – Amy Barnes (shortlisted)
“Leviathan” – Sutton Strother (shortlisted)
“A Baby Born En Caul Can Never Drown” – Sara Hills (shortlisted)
“Last Boat” – Ed Barnfield
“Thirst” – Lorraine Thomson
“Two Tusks” – Katie Oliver
“Flint’s Left-Behind Girl” – Jess Moody
“Sea Mother” – Jason John Kahler
“Put Weed in the Drawing Wave” – Kate MacCarthy
Amelie” – Lauren Foregger
“Account of the Sea Lady as Told by a Servant Girl, 1597” – Amber Garcia
“Salt Tears” – Sue Dawes
“The Last Prophet” – Lisa Blackwell
“Sea Animals” – Sharon Boyle
“The Sea Change” – Jan Kaneen
“It Had Been Calling to Her” – Peggy Riley
“A Celestial Undoing” – Sara Dobbie