Spotlight on the Best Novella Shortlist

The spotlight turns to the Best Novella category, and if these morsels don’t make you want to make space on your shelves, I don’t know what will!

Naomi Booth, The Lost Art of Sinking (Penned in the Margins)

I am delighted that The Lost Art of Sinking has been shortlisted for Best Novella. The Saboteur Awards have a brilliant record of celebrating exciting and dynamic new work, and of championing under-valued and unusual forms, and it’s wonderful to be on such a diverse shortlist of novellas.


The Lost Art of Sinking is a dark comedy about losing yourself. Set in the Pennine town of Todmorden, the novella follows Esther, a young girl who develops a compulsive habit of passing out. Described as “beautifully written with bursts of crisp poetic monologue and deadpan humour” (Prospect) this is Naomi’s debut work of fiction. Naomi grew up in West Yorkshire and now lives in York, where she is a lecturer in Creative Writing and Literature at York St John University.

Why voters think it should win:

The word play in this book was phenomenal and normalized a taboo subject!

Interesting and engaging language. Engrossing narrative and representation of characters.

Another Penned in the margins top find. Just so different and refreshing.

Harry Gallon, The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes (Dead Ink)

Being shortlisted is incredibly exciting and I’m just proud to be considered among such outstanding independent authors.

TSODE - FrontCover_large

Convinced that Londoners are being controlled by their dogs, a young bartender embarks on a foolish campaign to rescue his peers from the stasis of domesticity. Sofa-hopping across a Hackney overrun with hungover musicians, craft brewers and their canine masters, he slips further into fantasy the more obsessed he becomes with setting himself, and everyone else, free. 

The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes explores love, homelessness and a restless sense of uncertainty in a modern London as brittle and unmoored, as familiar and as chimerical, as the characters that move through it.

Why voters think it should win:

TSODE IS a perfectly executed, brilliant Novella that was my gateway back into a world of books following an addiction to my Ipad. The story is gripping and engaging. I wish i had savoured it…

Innovative approach to an interesting subject. Love the shape of his prose and clever but subtle plot lines. A writer to watch.

Harry Gallon’s imaginative novella is written in beautiful and evocative prose. It paints a contemporary London filled with a confused and slightly bewildered generation. It is equal parts biting satire and genuine coming-of-age realism.

Karen Little, Filled with Ghosts by  (Onion Custard Publishing Ltd)


I am thrilled my first novella, Filled with Ghosts, has been shortlisted for a Saboteur Award. Knowing there are people rooting for it feels like a torch has been shone into my dark room.


Karen Little trained as a dancer at London Contemporary Dance School, and as a Fine Artist at Camberwell School of Art, London. She has performed and exhibited internationally. Her poems and short stories have recently been published in over forty magazines and anthologies. Her first novella, Filled with Ghosts, is set in 90’s Southern Spain, and has been described as ‘Visceral, surreal, and utterly compelling. This is a writer who finds a strange beauty in the darkest of places.’ @kazvina1

Why voters think it should win:

Karen’s book is an interesting take on transition and change. Well-written and unexpected.

This book is an excellent example of lives fueled by intoxication and ambiguity. The characters are rich and the narrative allows enough questions to spark an interesting debate on the slippery nature of reality.

Karen Little offers various unique and beautiful perspectives on the same tumultuous chain of events. Much of contemporary fiction could be richly improved by this wildly expressionistic style of writing.

u.v ray, Black cradle (Murder Slim Books)

I must say I’m delighted. And very excited, if a little unsettled by being pulled out of my hole.


With its amphetamine charged narrative Black Cradle – u.v.ray’s 3rd novella from Murder Slim Press – relates the grotesque personal life of Billy Zero and his freak-show of bored and bewildered friends as they drift around the back-street bars and nightclubs of Birmingham, England in the 1980’s, fusing together the grim omens of his rootless childhood and the brutal events leading up to his suicide attempt.

Why voters think it should win:

u.v. ray is a phenomenal writer. He’s one of the best I’ve ever read.

Original. Willing to take a chance. And damn it, a great read.

The underground’s greatest realist and Birmingham’s answer to Dostoyesvsky.

Preti Taneja, Kumkum Malhotra (Gatehouse Press)

I’ve read the other novellas and believe me, they are brilliant.


Look how we disappear: from a family, from a life, from a story. In a small house in Nizamudin, New Delhi, Kumkum Malhotra prepares herself for the evening ahead. Then an accident calls her down. As she breaks a circle of boys, her carefully planned evening unravels and with it, her future. Written in language whose very precision seems a structural edifice for female survival, Kumkum Malhotra turns out to be a saboteur of the highest order, a woman with the gall to keep her secrets, even if that leads to the erasure of her self from her own life.

Why voters think it should win:

The story transports you to another world, as all good ones should, and the rich detail makes you feel every moment of the bitter tale, which stays with you a long time after it’s finished.

Preti Taneja is just superb. She is the only writer who can make her main character vanish from the plot and still keep you going. Seriously, she’s the one.

Just the most perfect distillation of a beautiful, frustrating, loud and yet subtle mess of cultural meanings, symbols and relationships. Beautiful work.