Announcing the ISF-UNESCO Short Story Competition Shortlist

Announcing the ISF-UNESCO Short Story Competition Shortlist

We have received thousands of submissions from around the globe, helping the World Tales competition truly live up to its name. And over the past few months, we’ve enjoyed reading them all.

Selecting a shortlist from the truly impressive collection of imaginative, thought-provoking, powerfully-executed stories has involved some tough choices! But we have narrowed it down to 60 to be considered by our esteemed panel of judges.

Please note also that after careful consideration, ISF and UNESCO have decided to adjust the terms of the competition in order to recognise aspiring writers of all ages.  Instead of judging the stories by region as was originally envisaged, we are doing so now by age: 12- to 13-year-olds; 14- to 15-year-olds; 16- to 17-year-olds; and finally 18-year-olds.

The gold, silver and bronze medal winners for each category will be announced in mid-June.



  • We the Children Won! by Khitam al-Hissi (Palestine)
  • A Transition into the Past by Zoe To (Canada)
  • The Pizza Craving by Ayushi Mittal (India)
  • Heat by Benjamin Se (Australia)
  • Lemshire by Maya Elle Russell (South Africa)
  • Empathy by Katia Clement (Australia)
  • Once Upon a Time in My Future by Nina Kotze (South Africa)




  • Letter to the future by Adonna Woldeyes (Ethiopia)
  • Dreams by Bareerah Bukhari (United Arab Emirates)
  • Once Upon a World Through My Eyes by Mishkat Zaheer (United Arab Emirates)
  • Imagine by Nirmal Vivek (United Arab Emirates)
  • Hope for the Hopeless by Reem Kamal Ballout (Lebanon)
  • Faded Colours by Aarzu Patni (Australia)
  • The Sky is Dark by Atyantika Kothuri Mookherjee (India)
  • Evaporated by Oshadha Perera (New Zealand)
  • Above the Pink Clouds by Piyush Patel (India)
  • The Road to Restoration by Shrabasti Chakraborty (India)
  • Dear Young Meby Tannistha Nandi (India)
  • Women of Ireland by Alice O’Mahony (Ireland)
  • 76 Years at Sea by Lara Colvile (Netherlands)
  • No fear for the Future by Martha Davey (United Kingdom)
  • The Talk of Equals by Rachel Deakin (United Kingdom)
  • The World Isn't Made of Plastic by Uliana Bogdasarova (Russian Federation)
  • L'échange by Amalia Elisa Vallejo Tobar (Ecuador)
  • A Cure for the World by Erik Yupa (Ecuador)
  • After the Tragedy by Gabriela Flores Guzmán (Ecuador)
  • On the Other Side by Rebecca Lozano Garza (Mexico)
  • Weeds that Keep Growing by Isha Agarwal (United States)


  • Awaiting an Awakening by Chloe Olufunmilayo Ejisun (Nigeria)
  • Ma Phrase pour le Futur by Fâri’a Ahmine (Mauritius)
  • Survivorsby Inyeneobong Vivian Priso (Nigeria)
  • Once Upon a Time in My Future by Tanaka Chapfunga (Zimbabwe)
  • 2090 by Elina Asmar (Lebanon)
  • The Doomsday Clock by Mariel Julienne (United Arab Emirates)
  • The Surgery by Salwa Khan (United Arab Emirates)
  • Thank You by Aulia Azzahrah (Indonesia)
  • A Traveler’s Journey by Bao Tran Huy Duc (Vietnam)
  • Virtual Reality by Minseo Kim (Australia)
  • Sophia and the Bears by Anastasia Sukhoverkhova (Ukraine)
  • A Necessary Impossible by Chloe Uzoukwu (Switzerland)
  • Just Another Refugee by Khadija Qazi (United Kingdom)
  • Dream Me A World by Yarden Harel (Israel)
  • The Answer by Geraldine Scarlett Rodríguez Coronado (Ecuador)
  • The Interview by Precia Marie Long (Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Is it scary? by Zoe García Narbaitz (Argentina)
  • The Perfect World by Jasmine Cox (United States)
  • The Fire by Sofia Sepulveda Pizarro (United States)
  • A Content Visit by Wenxilin Shan (Canada)
  • Little Xiao by Zizheng William Liu (United States)



  • What Happened In 2020 by Chiamaka Obinna-Chukwu (Nigeria)
  • Full Circle by Kuseh Esther Ayarati (Ghana)
  • Fire and Oranges by Marvellous Adelaja (Nigeria)
  • Blackfidence by Nawal Sheikh (Kenya)
  • Human Not Strangers by Alexander E. Shu (Bahrain)
  • When I was 9 by Zarya Usman (United Arab Emirates)
  • Lily by Vanshika Chauhan (India)
  • Hope by Barbora Petričková (Slovakia)
  • The Kingdom of Screams by Fernanda Aracely Velázquez Muñiz (Mexico)
  • A Garden Like Babylon by Kevin Leandro Hernandez Cerqueira (El Salvador)
  • If You Were Here by Paola Méndez Sordia (Mexico)

Thanks to all these talented young writers who’ve shown so much imagination and creativity!

To have come this far is amazing. Congratulations!

Here’s a reminder about our judges…

Abi Elphinstone
Abi ElphinstoneAbi Elphinstone grew up in Scotland where she spent most of her childhood running wild across the moors, hiding in tree houses and building dens in the woods. After being coaxed out of her tree house, she studied English at Bristol University and then worked as an English teacher in Africa, Berkshire and London. She is the bestselling and multi-award shortlisted author of The Unmapped Chronicles (Everdark, Rumblestar, Jungledrop, The Crackledawn Dragon – out June 2021), Sky Song, The Dreamsnatcher trilogy and, for younger readers, The Snow Dragon. When she’s not writing Abi volunteers for Beanstalk, speaks in schools and travels the world looking for her next story. Her latest adventures include living with the Kazakh Eagle Hunters in Mongolia and dog-sledding across the Arctic.




Anna James
Anna JamesAnna James is a writer and arts journalist. She is the author of the bestselling Pages & Co series which has sold into 21 countries. The first three books in the series are out now, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in the UK and Penguin Young Readers in the US, with three more books to come. Formerly Book News Editor at The Bookseller and Literary Editor of ELLE UK, Anna is currently the host and co-curator of Lush Book Club, as well as writing about books and theatre as a freelance journalist for outlets including The Stage, the LA Times and Buzzfeed. She has also contributed stories for the Kate Mosse-edited collection, I Am Heathcliff, and Goldsboro Books’ 21st birthday anthology.


Jon J Muth
Jon MuthJon J Muth is an American Artist and Writer in children’s literature and graphic novels. His books have been called: “… as perfect a picture book as can be” and “A masterclass of picture-book storytelling” (Kirkus Review) and as “… quietly life changing” (The New York Times). He lives in rural Upstate New York.