·    Announcement was made at the virtual Costa Book Awards ceremony

·   Sheridan is a Palme D’Or-winning screenwriter/director

·     Over 2,000 entries received for this year’s Costa Short Story Award, open to both published and unpublished writers, and now in its ninth year

19:30, Tuesday 26th January 2021: Tessa Sheridan, a London-based writer, screenwriter and director has won the 2020 Costa Short Story Award. Her story, The Person Who Serves, Serves Again won a public vote where the identities of all three shortlisted writers were unknown.

The announcement was made this evening at the Costa Book Awards, broadcast virtually at youtube.com/forcoffeelovers for the first time this year. Tessa receives £3,500 as the overall winner for her short story The Person Who Serves, Serves Again.

Commenting on the result, Tessa Sheridan said, “I’m thrilled and incredibly encouraged to have won such a prestigious award. It’s great to know that my short story – a dark comedy about a sister, a brother and a badminton match – has resonated with readers. Having written successful screenplays, lockdown has given me the opportunity to start work on my first novel, a psychological thriller. Winning the Costa award has boosted my confidence that my voice is one that readers really want to hear.”

Two runners-up – Irish short story writer Laura-Blaise McDowell from Dublin and Louise Dean, a former Booker longlisted author and founder of The Novelry, from Kent – received £1,000 and £500 respectively.

Over 2,000 entries were received for this year’s Costa Short Story Award, now in its ninth year and open to both published and unpublished writers, for a single, previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words written in English by an author aged 18 years or over.

Established in 2012, the Award – run in association with the Costa Book Awards, but judged independently of the main five-category system – is judged anonymously i.e without the name of the author being known throughout the process.

The shortlist of three stories was selected by a panel of judges comprising: Sarah Franklin, founder of Short Stories Aloud and Senior Lecturer in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University; Radio 2 Book Club producer Joe Haddow; literary agent Simon Trewin; and authors Adele Parks and Kit de Waal, herself a finalist for the 2013 Costa Short Story Award.

The stories were then made available on the Costa Book Awards website for the public to download and read, and then vote for their favourite.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said, “A huge congratulations to Tessa Sheridan on her win in a highly competitive year. The Short Story Award provides a unique opportunity for writers to submit work anonymously, and it’s wonderful to see how enthusiastically people are engaging with it. Thank you to everyone who entered, to our judges for selecting this stellar shortlist (all of which are still available to read online), and to the general public for voting in this brilliant story.”

Tessa’s story, The Person Who Serves, Serves Again, received the highest number of public votes, followed by The Lobster Waltz by Laura-Blaise McDowell and How Adult Conversation Works by Louise Dean.

Tessa Sheridan: The Person Who Serves, Serves Again

About the story:
Sal hasn’t seen her brother for years, so why is he inviting her for a badminton match? Something is being played out, and winning isn’t quite the point…

About the author:

Tessa Sheridan is a London-based writer with tentacles in film, audio and screenwriting. Her short stories have won the Chester Prize and appeared in two published collections to date, and many more lurk on her laptop. As screenwriter/director, her short films have won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and the BBC Award for Best Short Drama, and her feature film scripts have won major development awards. Her audio drama ‘Flotsam’ was broadcast on BBC Radio 3. She’s currently completing another screenplay and has begun work on her first novel, a psychological thriller.

Go to www.costabookawards.com to read Tessa’s winning story as well as the other two on the shortlist.

Previous winners include: Anna Dempsey (2019), a writer and teacher based in London, who won with her first piece of short fiction and is currently completing her debut YA novel; Caroline Ward Vine (2018), a former magazine publisher from Kent; Newham-based primary school teacher Luan Goldie (2017), whose debut novel Nightingale Point was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 and whose second novel, Homecoming, was published in August 2020; Jess Kidd (2016) from Richmond in Surrey, the author of two adult novels and one children’s book, Everyday Magic, published in February 2020; former headteacher Daniel Murphy from Stirling in Scotland (2015) and writer and PhD student Zoe Gilbert (2014) from Sydenham Hill, South East London.

2013 winner Angela Readman, a Newcastle-based writer and poet, has had two collections published – a story collection (Don’t Try This at Home, 2015) and poetry collection (The Book of Tides, 2016) – and her first novel, Something Like Breathing, was published in March 2019. Inaugural winner from 2012, Avril Joy – a former prison manager and now full-time writer from Witton-le-Wear in Bishop Auckland – has since published an ebook, From Writing with Love.

The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland. It also, uniquely, recognises the most enjoyable books across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – published in the last year.  Originally established by Whitbread PLC in 1971, Costa Coffee announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s prestigious and popular book prize in 2006.


For further press information or images, or to arrange an interview with any of the Costa Short Story Award finalists, please contact Emily Souders on 07732646145 or email 

Leave a Reply