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The Independent Culture
"Most people do have a short story in them," says Patricia Quinlan confidently in Raconteur 4, a paperback fiction magazine. Once the most difficult format to market, the short story is now attracting lucrative competitions like the one organised by Raconteur and the European, which offers a whopping £10,000 for the best story of the year. The latest issue's £1,000 prizewinner is a pleasingly symmetrical if slight effort by Berlie Doherty, there's a glum offering from William Boyd, humour from fantasy author Tom Holt, plus work from William Saroyan and James Herriot. Beryl Bainbridge contributes an amusing review of recent short story collections, raving over E Annie Proulx's Heart Songs ("it should be bought immediately") and tactfully conceding that she might just be too old for Poppy Z Brite's overheated gothic shocker, Swamp Foetus.

At £10,000 this has got to be the Booker of the short story world, but the ANA (All Nippon Airways) annual Wingspan Competition, now in its seventh year, boasts a particularly glamorous prize: the winner gets two first class round-trip tickets to Japan (second prize goes business class), plus publication in the in flight magazine. Stories must be in English, and on a theme related to Japan, its culture, people or society, and "suitable for the general readership of Wingspan". Nothing too scary for the businessmen at 36,000 feet, then; think Proulx rather than Poppy Z.

8 `Raconteur 4' is available from W H Smith at £4.99.

8 ANA Wingspan Fiction Contest, entry forms from ANA House, 3F, 6-8 Old Bond St, London W1X 3TA. 071 915 3322.