Featured post

Shortlist BSSA 2018

Many congratulations to all twenty authors who have made the short list for Bath Short Story Award 2018.

To preserve judging anonymity, author names are yet to be announced. We understand that finding you are on the list is exciting, so while sharing the news is fine, we ask that authors do not identify themselves with their particular work at this stage. Our judge, Senior Literary Agent from A M Heath, Euan Thorneycroft, will choose three winners and two commended stories. There is also a prize given to a local writer and the Acorn Award for an unpublished writer. Final results will be announced on August 9th.

2018 Bath Short Story Award Short List
Title Author
Blue Suede Shoes tba
Down In The Mud On Limehouse Beach tba
Educating Susan tba
Hikikomori tba
Kassidee tba
Nanook’s Igloo tba
Off-Ground Summer tba
Pairing tba
Sea Defences tba
The Tank tba
The Court Order tba
The Dresser’s Apprentice tba
The Maze Game tba
The Museum Of Dead Crows tba
The Other Couple tba
The Plates Of Strangers tba
The River Is Always Right tba
The Shopkeeper’s Wife tba
Unravelling tba
Witches Sail In Eggshells tba
Featured post

Longlist BSSA 2018

Congratulations to all the authors who have made the longlist, and huge thanks to all who entered and continue to support our Award. The shortlist will be published on Monday, July 16th. Final results will be out in mid-August.

To preserve judging anonymity, author names are yet to be announced. We understand that finding you are on the list is exciting, so while sharing the news is fine, we ask that authors do not identify themselves with their particular work at this stage.

2018 Bath Short Story Award Long List
Title Author
A Good Black Coat tba
An Ode To Those Who Believe In Luck tba
Benji tba
Blue Suede Shoes tba
Brio tba
Caving tba
Click tba
Coming Soon, Lol tba
Dead Load Live Load Dynamic Load tba
Did You Know tba
Down In The Mud On Limehouse Beach tba
Educating Susan tba
Everything’s Going To Be Alright tba
Hawaiian Dynasty Toes tba
Heimaey tba
Hikikomori tba
How Do I Fit Into Your Body Now tba
Kassidee tba
Lost tba
Moth tba
Nanook’s Igloo tba
Night Song In The Ecotone tba
Non-Stop tba
Off-Ground Summer tba
Officers Of Adaptation To Climate Change tba
Pairing tba
Rock N Roll Is History tba
Sea Defences tba
Sixty Kilometres Out tba
St Otterans tba
Storm Songs tba
Synecdoche Zagreb tba
The Tank tba
Tasting Notes tba
The Court Order tba
The Dresser’s Apprentice tba
The Floating Girl tba
The Maze Game tba
The Museum Of Dead Crows tba
The Other Couple tba
The Plates Of Strangers tba
The Portrait tba
The River Is Always Right tba
The S.O.S. Dress tba
The Shopkeeper’s Wife tba
The Willow Woman tba
Trespasser’s Tide tba
Unravelling tba
Waste tba
Witches Sail In Eggshells tba
Featured post

Bath Short Story Award 2018

Our sixth international short story award is now closed for entries. Thank you very much to everyone who entered the Award this year.

The longlist for BSSA 2018  will be announced in early July, the shortlist a couple of weeks later and the winners and commended in mid August.


For the 2018 Award, we have increased the prizes to:

£1200 first prize

£300 second prize

£100 third prize

£100 for the Acorn Award (for an unpublished writer)

and as usual, £50 in vouchers for the local prize generously donated by Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath.



Anthologies from previous years, available to buy here.

Books as Mentors

Haleh Agar is a writer whose work has been published widely in literary journals and magazines including Mslexia, The London Magazine, Flash: The International Short: Short Story Magazine and Brighton Prize. She has recently won two literary prizes including the Brighton Prize and the London Magazine prize for her essay ‘On Writing Ethnic Stories’ She is represented by Darley Anderson Agency for her debut novel OUR FATHER.

Haleh is running a workshop on ‘The representation of People of Colour (PoC) in Fiction and Characterisation’ at the forthcoming Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol 20th -22nd July. A useful workshop for writers of any level and any genre who would like to work on characterisation and explore current issues on PoC in publishing. Booking for the festival closes on July 6th. We recommend taking a look on the site, linked above,  to find out more details about Haleh’s workshop on this important subject, plus all the other workshops and events on offer.

In this blog post below, Haleh has some straightforward advice about improving writing by reading. Again, extremely useful tips for anyone who wants to stand out and be noticed by agents and in competitions.

Books as Mentors

When people ask about my writing process I tell them that I would be lost if it weren’t for my reading. It wasn’t until I started ‘reading seriously’ that I saw improvements in my writing, not only in quality but also in output. Every aspiring writer will have come across this generic advice about ‘reading widely’ or ‘reading in your genre’ and not much beyond that. I have come across some books and articles about ‘reading like a writer’ but I’ve found most of the advice prescriptive and time consuming.

Over the years, I’ve simplified my reading process and as a result, I’ve always got material on hand that I’m excited to read and that I find useful to my writing practice.

What to Read?
It is easy to feel inundated by choice when it comes to selecting your next read. Friends, blogger, vloggers, newspaper reviewers, twitter, authors and their agents and editors—everyone has an opinion on what you should read next.

As a writer, I read for enjoyment but also for instruction. I think of books as mentors and there is nothing more exciting for me than discovering a new author whose work I can’t part with.

Over the years, I have used one simple question as a guide to choosing my next read: What excites me about a book?

For me, this is a character-driven work with a strong narrative voice, beautiful prose and depth. Usually, the genre of writing that interests me falls under accessible literary fiction, but not always. Of course, this description of what I’m looking for doesn’t mean that I’ll dislike anything that falls outside of those boundaries, but rather, it gives me the focus I need to my reading and writing. I recommend anyone who hasn’t tried before to write themselves a mini bio like literary agent do, letting the question, ‘What excited me about a book’ guide you.

Sample: Ditch It or Love It
There is no greater resource to my development as a writer than my local library and e-book reader. It means that I can check out or download samples of multiple books that fit the description of my ‘ideal book’ or even something outside of these boundaries without my bank account taking a hit. It also means that I feel zero guilt about ditching a book when it no longer excites me.

Some people subscribe to the belief that you must finish a book you’ve started. But it could be that ten pages in, the quirky main character who you initially liked becomes intolerable and you can’t handle another minute with them. If I’m still excited by the language or some other aspect of the book, I’ll keep reading. But if the pull to continue is not strong enough, I’ll ditch. Life is too short for reading books that don’t excite you. It’s time you could be using to read something that you feel connected to and that will help improve your practice. Some say, ‘Well, as a writer, you can learn a lot from reading a book that you aren’t keen on or ‘bad books’.’ This is true. But why not spend time instead with a book that you read with enthusiasm? Having been a teacher for many years, I have seen first-hand how much more learning is achieved when students are excited about they’re doing.

Some people may feel morally conflicted about this sampling strategy. What about supporting writers? I will always buy a book that I love after I’ve read it, not only as a way to support the author but also as a reference to go back to and I often go back to work that has moved me.

This sampling method was also really helpful when I was approaching the difficult task of querying literary agents. It made me see how there are many great books out there that have been published, but they’re not necessarily books that fit what I’m looking for. In this way, rejection from a literary agent is depersonalized—your book may just not get them excited and you want someone who can’t part with your work. Finding a book that speaks to you is much like finding a partner. Every book has its own merits, but it might not be the right one for you! That’s why it’s a good idea when querying agents to do your research and see what gets them excited about a book to see if you’re a match.

Read Big and Small
I’m always reading flash and short stories alongside a novel. The economy of short fiction form means that the authors are making every word count. Shorter forms of fiction are also great references to go back to and re-read. When you are no longer reading for plot and orienting yourself to the story, you can focus on other elements like language. I seem to always discover something new about a work when I have another look.

Just the other week I was struggling with writing ‘love’ in a convincing way and I looked again at The Department of Speculation (though a novel, it’s told in short vignettes) as an example and it helped bring about solutions to this problem.

Reading short fiction also means that if I’m in between novels, I’ve still got brilliant work to read. It’s like training in the gym, you don’t want to break away from reading for too long at the risk of those muscles going soft. Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Lydia Davies, Leone Ross, Carmen Maria Machado, Jon McGregor and Colm Toibin are a few authors whose short fiction collections I go back to. There’s also a great Twitter community of flashers whose work I can easily access and enjoy and learn from.

Some say, well why bother reading novels at all if short fiction can teach you so much? For me, there’s something very pleasant about being wrapped up in a novel. If it’s the right fit, then it feels like home. As a novelist, I also find I need reminding about how to successfully carry through an idea in this lengthy form. Novel writing is like marathon training. It can be easy to lose sight of character or plot and reading novels can serve as a reminder of how to approach the mammoth task of it.

Analyse or Move On?
The teacher in me wants to analyse a work, write in its margins and pick it apart. But I find that in reality, this kind of analysis that one might do on a course can be too time consuming to sustain on an ongoing basis. When I come across a great passage, I go back to the beginning of it and read slowly and if I’m feeling particularly excited, I might highlight.

Once I’ve read a work, I sometimes tweet about it, engage with others who’ve read it and look again at the reviews it received. In this way there is an exchange. I might ask myself the question—what did I like about this work? But I tend to draw the line there and have faith that my brain will do something useful with all the reading, retrieve it in the right moment when I’m stuck with a writing problem.
For me, the main goal of reading is to read work that I’m excited about every day for at least an hour so anything that feels like too much work beyond that will be sacrificed.

Embrace Great Reads
In one of my Creative Writing courses, we went around the room on the first day and discussed our favourite books. A few people admitted that they found it difficult to read because it felt like a shot to their self-confidence. How can they ever live up to these great authors? I can understand about feelings of inadequacy when it comes to writing. I have yet to find a writer who doesn’t have self-doubt. And for this reason, it is important to remember that published authors have only gotten to where they are through disciplined reading and writing.

So the next time you read a work that makes you feel nervous, embrace it. It means that you’ve found a new mentor.

Your BSSA 2018 short story entry — final checks and balances

There are just eleven days to go before our £1750 prize fund award closes at midnight BST on Monday 23rd April. If you are thinking of entering your up to 2200 word story, check the following and make your story stand out from the crowd.
Think about your title. In 2015, Clarke’s World, one of the great SF/F literary magazines,  reached 50,000 submissions and editor Neil Clarke decided to run an analysis to see what the most common titles were. Here are the fifteen titles which were most frequently submitted to the magazine:

Dust, The Gift, Home, Hunger, Homecoming,The Box, Monsters, Lost and Found, Sacrifice,The Hunt, Flight, Heartless, The End, Alone, Legacy

A  post on Electric Literature referring to this article is worth a read.
We’ve also seen many stories with these titles and similar ones in all the six years of the competition. And we’ve read a few very good stories with such titles, which have been long or short-listed– but if you want to draw those first readers in, find a more arresting one that adds a further level to your piece.

You can also look at how your title relates to the first paragraph of your story. The beginning of the 2017 winning story by Kathy Stevens, pictured here, is a good example of this. The first paragraph complements the title and suggests the different personalities in the family and the conflicts between them. This whole first page shows a character with a strong voice who makes funny and astute observations.The voice and the humour were some of the things our short story judge, Euan Thorneycroft, who is judging again this year, particularly liked about the story. Nothing is wasted in this opening. We are straight into the situation at home and want to know what happens next.

Finally, is your story balanced? Does the ending balance the beginning, so that it ties up in a satisfying way. Satisfying does not usually mean a neat ending. In Kathy’s story, we don’t know exactly what will happen to the character after the end line, but the ending provokes further questions which are connected to the family dynamic that is set up at the beginning.

Remember to check the rules for the competition as a last thing. We always receive entries with the author’s name on the piece which means immediate disqualification as stories are judged anonymously. We always receive entries that are hundreds or even thousands of words too long.

We appreciate everyone who enters and supports the Award. Our filter readers are already on the case and are enjoying reading through the first batches. Good luck to all.

BSSA team member, Jude Higgins, April 12th 2018.

Anne O’Brien, BSSA 2016 winner — what happened next

Anne O’Brien won first prize in the 2016 Bath Short Story Award judged by Radio 4 Bristol producer, Mair Bosworth. You can read Anne’s winning story, ‘Feather Your Nest’ in our 2016 BSSA anthology available to buy here. We’ve just heard the fantastic news that another of her stories, Taking Flight, has been translated into Vietnamese by award winning writer and translator Nguyen Phan Que Mai and is the title story of this anthology, which in Vietnamese is Bay Len. Other translated writers in the book include Margaret Atwood, Sara Maitland and Junot Diaz and also Helen Rye, whose story ‘One in Twenty-Three’ won the Bath Flash Fiction Award in October, 2016.  All proceeds from the book will go to support the education of poor children in Vietnam.

Anne said her 2016 first prize BSSA win was a real turning point for her ” I’ll never forget the phone call and shouting out ‘but I never win!’ Reading in Mr. B’s and seeing my story in such a beautiful book was an endorsement like no other. I had a a lovely evening with the BSSA  team and others whose stories appear in the same anthology. It was the first time I felt what it was like to be a writer among writers! I began to believe that perhaps people would want to read my stories. Since then I’ve had a number of long/shortlistings, I also came second in the 2016 London Magazine Short Story Competition  and they published my story in June, 2017. I have been chosen as February 2018’s Hennessy New Irish Writer and Who Is The Fairest Of Them All was published in The Irish Times a few weeks ago. I also have some more good news on the way but I’m not allowed say anything about that yet.”

We look forward to hearing about Anne’s next success!

The 2018 BSSA short story award for short stories up to 2200 words closes for entries on 23rd April. The first prize is now £1200. Do enter. Who knows what might happen next?

What’s it all about?

Have you written a short story draft for our 2018 BSSA Award?  It closes on 23rd April so there is still time to stand back and ask yourself some questions about it. We suggest you ponder this  quote from an article  by short story writer and novelist Tessa Hadley first published last year. Read the whole article and also search on the internet for the many other articles on the short story she has written. Her advice is invaluable.

‘Think about intensity – you only have a small amount of space, so you mustn’t waste it. You need to pick on something really burning. Even if you’re writing a simple story without any big revelations, you have to have a point. It has to mean something. It has to add up to something.

Sometimes I do read apprentice writers and I think it’s all very vivid with lovely sentences, but why are you telling it us, what are we to take away? You should be telling the story for a reason. It should reveal something to the reader, who will think, yes, that’s how things are, and it will feel like a surprise.’

Another tip from the BSSA team —  don’t forget that  you need a good title to help suggest what your story is about.  it doesn’t have to be fancy –‘Rob Roy’ is probably the one simple title in this dated selection that has lasted the course. But your title does need to relate strongly to the story.  And if it gains the interest of an initial reader you’ve made the first step towards being a winner.

Message from Adelaide

Mara on the left, Bridgitte on the right

Amazingly, two of our BSSA 2017 Award short-listed writers, Bridgitte Cummings who wrote ‘Hollow’ and Mara Blazic who wrote ‘Bionic girl’,  live in Adelaide, Australia. While we struggled at the end of winter in the UK  with a plunge in temperatures and the biggest snow fall for years, the temperature in Adelaide soared to over 45 degrees in January, the end of their summer. As soon as it was slightly cooler Mara and Bridgitte met up, took some photographs with the anthology and compared notes. Mara summarises their meeting —

“Adelaide is the driest city in the driest state in the driest continent on earth. So where else to meet but the beach! We had coffee where Geoffrey Rush filmed one of his scenes for the Oscar-winning ‘Shine’. We caught up on a) our writing projects: Bridgitte’s written her first novel, Mara hasn’t b) Adelaide: Bridgitte’s been living in Adelaide for a few years, Mara’s been living here too long and c) hair: Bridgitte’s been to the stylist for this photo-shoot and Mara’s wishing she had too”

To read Mara and Bridgitte’s short stories you can buy our 2017 anthology here. There’s six weeks left to complete a story of up to 2200 for the 2018 Award which closes at midnight on 23rd April. Enter here.

Stories from writers from around the globe in all genres and on all subjects and themes are welcome  — climate change could be one of them

Toss out a story for Pancake Day

Its Shrove Tuesday, today, 13th February, 2018. The day is also known in many countries as Pancake Tuesday, or Pancake Day  and is  the day in February or March immediately preceeding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent). It’s celebrated in some countries by eating pancakes and is a carnival day — Mardi Gras  — in other countries. You could use any of these facts as prompts for a short story. People feasting, people partying, people preparing for a long fast. Conflict, gluttony, celebration can all play their part. Anton Chekhov wrote a story called Shrove Tuesday, so you would be following the example of a master of the short story form.

This year’s Bath Short Story Award  with its £1200 first prize ends 23rd April. So plenty of time to cook up your up to 2200 word short story, and toss it around a bit before its ready.



February 6th 1918 is the centenary of the first votes for women in the UK, though only women over the age of 30 who owned property were entitled to vote. It wasn’t until 1928 that the voting rights men enjoyed were extended to all women over 21. Even so, stories of the suffragettes who had been campaigning for almost 50 years (the first campaigns were in 1866) have become legendary and their names resonate today. Unsurprisingly, it was the Daily Mail (no doubt in derisory tones) who first called them suffragettes. The most well-known include the Emmeline Pankhurst, and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, who formed the Workers Social and Political Union and Emily Davison who died for the cause by throwing herself under the king’s horse at the Derby.

Today, Helen Pankhurst, Emmeline’s great-granddaughter is still campaigning for women’s rights. Lots of buzz on Twitter today so follow #Votes100 and be inspired to fight – and write. We’d love some stories on a political theme? Historical or contemporary setting, the choice is yours?  Up to 2200 words by April 23rd


Burns’ Night: Top Tips and Story Starters from Val McDermid, Sarah Hilary, Louise Welsh, Denise Mina & Morag Joss


January 25th is the perfect excuse to ditch Dry January and raise a toast to Robert Burns, Scotland’s most celebrated poet. Born in 1759, the poet’s short life, till his death at 37, is immortalised in his verse: the robust, heartfelt rhythms in his local language and dialect that inspired the great Romantic poets Shelley, Coleridge and Wordsworth. Not just a poet, he was a covert radical and thought to be a supporter of the French Revolution. He clearly advocated freedom of the press when, in 1792, he challenged a royal proclamation banning seditious literature:

‘Here’s freedom to him that wad read

Here’s freedom to him that wad write!

There’s nane ever feared that the Truth should be heard

But they who the Truth wad indite.’ (From ‘Here’s a Health to Them That’s Awa”)

So, on Burns’ Night, do indulge in a dram or two of usquebae, tuck into a steaming haggis or the vegan alternative, but also read or, better still, listen to a recording of his mesmerising verse and be inspired to write.

We asked some of our favourite authors to tweet either a writing tip or a starting point for a story on a Burns’ Night theme and received responses from the celebrated Scottish writers Val McDermid


Louise Welsh 

Denise Mina

Morag Joss

and, from this side of Hadrian’s wall, Sarah Hilary







Dark skulduggery, demonic ritual, mystery, pure romance or political intrigue? Lots of ideas to get you going, so a huge thank you to our inspirational authors, some of whom have new books out  (please check out their websites). We’re looking for stories on any theme or genre, up to 2,200 words, by April 23rd. Just brilliant writing please. By the way, we’d be interested to know if you use our starters – though, please make sure you don’t identify the title of your story with your name.