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BSSA 2018 Winners

We’re delighted to announce the winners and commended writers for Bath Short Story Award, 2018. Congratulations to all seven writers and many thanks to our shortlist judge, Euan Thorneycroft, Senior Literary Agent from A M Heath literary agency, for selecting the winning stories and for his comments. You can also read his general comments on the short list here. All the winning and the shortlisted stories will be published in our sixth BSSA anthology which will be available for sale on this website and elsewhere in the Autumn.

First Prize £1200,  ‘The Tank’ by David Shelley Jones.
Comments by Euan Thorneycroft:
A subtle, clever story that manages to be at once both tender and terrifying. It compels from the opening lines. In the aftermath of a fire, we are shown an old farming couple who have taken shelter in the one place that can both save but also kill them – a deep water tank (it’s a nightmarish image). Can they tread water until their disappearance has been noticed? Will their absence be noted by those they think will come? There’s a terrible sense of foreboding. But the story becomes more than a simple tale of survival. It’s about a relationship and a life lived together that is tenderly and movingly evoked. There are moments of sharp observation – a half-burned kangaroo, the melted seat of a child’s tricycle – and the whole thing is wrapped up in a structure that makes this story feel complete and whole.

David Shelley Jones is a medical practitioner living in Sydney. He is a late entrant to the world of writing as family life and medicine have taken up most of his time. He recently won a national creative writing competition for doctors. With this encouragement, he has commenced submitting work to competitions such as the BSSA. David loves the Australian bush and spends as much time as he can in a caravan in the southern highlands of New South Wales.

Second Prize £300,  ‘Off-Ground Summer’ by Henry Peplow
Comments by Euan Thorneycroft:
A perfectly constructed story that is engaging and unpredictable. When our narrator befriends a girl, who comes to live on the same street, he finds an outlet for his pent-up anger and sadness emanating from an earlier family tragedy. This leads to further tragedy. The story is very good on the awkward interactions between two young people – the naivety on display, the non-sequiturs in the middle of a conversation, the honesty in the sudden spilling of secrets. The ending is very moving as the boy realises the results of his actions but it’s nuanced in its depiction. The story resists the kind of binary ending often seen in less successful stories. On the face of it, a simple story. But one which works perfectly.

Henry Peplow has worked as a fruit picker, a photographer and a film maker. He also worked on the Millennium Dome. To make amends, he’s hidden himself away and is trying to learn how to write. Henry has been placed in short story competitions and has won the Royal Society of Literature VS Pritchett Short Story Prize. He’s working on two novels for children, but finds writing and reading short stories the best way to learn.

Third prize £100,  ‘Sea Defences’ by Hilary Taylor
Comments by Euan Thorneycroft: The most ambitious in terms of pure “Story” in that it felt this idea could work as the basis for a novel. Which makes it even more impressive that the author has crafted this into an excellent short, punchy stretch of writing. The appearance of a child’s shoe, several years after its owner went missing, turns suspicion onto our narrator, a boy/young man whom we suspect has a form of learning difficulty. His inability to put voice to what happened all those years ago ratchets up the tension for the reader. Some wonderfully wry and playful writing helps make this an engrossing story with a quietly haunting note.

Hilary Taylor is a teacher from Suffolk, whose short fiction has made it to various longlists and shortlists, including the Bridport Prize and the Bare Fiction Prize. Her stories have appeared in The People’s Friend and Writers’ News, and she is currently wrestling with the edits of one novel, while another lurks in the wings. You can find her on twitter @hilarytaylor00.

The Acorn Award for an Unpublished Writer of Fiction, £100,  ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ by Florence Knapp

Comments by the BSSA team: Irina sees her ex-lover in a cafe with a beautiful woman. He doesn’t notice irina, though at the end he’s reminded of her when he sees a fallen coffee cup with her name on it. The writing is exquisite with music creating a narrative arc for what had been an abusive relationship.The power of this story lies in its confidently nuanced pace which stays with the reader long after finishing it.

Florence Knapp is a writer and quilt-maker. She is the author of Flossie Teacakes’ Guide to English Paper Piecing, a non-fiction book that explores the history and psychology of working with our hands, as well as teaching a centuries-old technique of quilt-making. Her stitching also features in a book produced by the V&A Museum, Patchwork & Quilting and for over a decade she has written a blog, Flossie Teacakes, where she shares her adventures with a needle and thread. Florence lives just outside London with her husband and two teenage children. She is currently working on her first novel.

The Local Prize, £50 in tokens, sponsored by Mr B’s Emporium of books, Bath Witches Sail in Eggshells’ by Chloe Turner The is the second year in a row that Chloe has won the Local Prize.

Comments by the BSSA team: A brilliantly written account of the push and pull of attraction between women and the havoc it can cause in relationships, narrated in a lyrical voice that rings true. Its colourful dialogue and empathetic insights draw the reader into the hearts of the characters and the emotions they feel.

Chloe Turner’s stories have been published in various journals and anthologies, and in two single-story chapbooks. She was the Local Prize winner and Commended in the Bath Short Story Award 2017, and the winner of the short story category in the 2017 Fresher Prize. Her story ‘Waiting for the Runners’ appears in the SALT Publishing anthology, Best British Short Stories 2018. Chloe lives near Stroud, Gloucestershire, where she’s working on a novel. You can also find her at www.turnerpen2paper.com and on Twitter at @turnerpen2paper.

Commended, £30,  ‘The Other Couple’ by Sandra Marslund

Comments by Euan Thorneycroft: This is a well-contained and evocative story about a couple and their disappointment about, what we assume, is their inability to have children. This is never stated but the author draws our attention to it obliquely. And I say “their disappointment”, but we never quite know how the narrator’s partner feels about their situation, something that adds to the sense of quiet devastation of our narrator. It’s a story that builds gradually towards a climactic and emotional ending.

Sandra Marslund is a writer and Danish translator. Since gaining an MA in Creative Writing from Exeter University in 2016, she has tried to pursue her writing more seriously and in 2017 won the Acorn Award for unpublished writer in the Bath Short Story competition. She has also been longlisted for the Exeter Writer’s Prize and has had her short stories commended in the Winchester Writers’ Festival Writing Competition. She is currently working on her first novel as part of a PhD in Creative Writing at Exeter University, where she hopes to one day support her writing with some teaching. She lives by the sea in Devon with her two teenage daughters and a dog.
https://twitter.com/@NaturallyNordic

Commended, £30, ‘Down in the Mud on Limehouse Beach’ by Nick Petty

Comments by Euan Thorneycroft: A strong, unique voice pulls the reader through this curious story of a woman combing the muddy banks of Limehouse Beach. Much like his character who finds beauty hauling lost items from the mud, the writer creates something achingly moving in the dredging of memories. There is thoughtfulness and lightness of touch in the creation – through fragmented comments – of the woman’s relationship with an Old Friend. This is an intelligent story with a real and subtle emotional undercurrent.

 

Nick Petty grew up in Macclesfield, studied Chemical Engineering at Cambridge, and after a stint as a management consultant in London, moved to Utrecht, The Netherlands, where he now lives and writes. He has previously been listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and TSS Publishing Flash 400. He hopes one day to write a half decent novel and own a half decent dog.

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.

BSSA 2018 Award Round-Up

Thank you very much to everyone who entered the 2018 International Bath Short Story Award. This year we received 1100 entries from thirty-four countries. Our team of ten initial readers enjoyed reading your entries and it was, as always, tough selecting the final fifty stories from a strong field. Authors from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA and the UK are represented on the longlist and many different themes and subject matters are covered – including, this year, the effects of climate change and world politics, along with dystopian futures, relationships between family, friends and lovers, dysfunctional and otherwise. Such themes were widespread throughout all the entries and it is interesting to have different cultural takes on this mix.
We also thank Euan Thorneycroft, Senior Literary Agent from AM Heath, for judging the Bath Short Story Award shortlist for the second year in a row. He chose the three winning and two commended stories and we greatly appreciate the work involved as well as his helpful and constructive comments on the short list and on the winning stories, all of which you can see on this site. The BSSA team comment on and give a prize to an unpublished writer, which is the Acorn Award, and once again we are grateful for support from Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath who sponsor and donate the local prize. The sixth Bath Short Story Award Anthology containing these twenty shortlisted stories will be published and available for sale on this website and elsewhere in the Autumn. We’re looking forward to seeing this collection of wonderful stories in print.
Short stories are growing in popularity among writers and readers and our aim is to encourage people to write in this form. The next Award will open in early November and close in late April and hope you will enter.

Anna, Jane and Jude
BSSA Team, August 2018

 

Shortlisted authors, BSSA 2018

Our shortlisted writers, who will be published in the BSSA anthology 2018, along with the winning and commended writers, are listed below in alphabetical order. Congratulations to all. We’re excited that all these wonderful stories are going to be in print in the autumn. Shortlist judge, Euan Thorneycroft made the following comments about the shortlist:

“You never know what you are going to get when judging a short story competition – but you know that it’s more than likely going to be diverse. The shortlist didn’t disappoint. I was taken from the UK to Australia with detours to the Middle East, Japan and North America. And I was plunged into the lives of different characters dealing with a variety of emotions — grief, disappointment, anger and guilt to name a few. The writing was of a high standard throughout and every one of these stories had things to commend them”.

Jenny Cozens who wrote  ‘Educating Susan is a clinical psychologist and has written a number of non-fiction books before turning to fiction, in part for the joy of making things happen in the way she wants. So far this after-work activity has produced two novels and a harvest of short stories, most of which remain unpublished. She now lives in Northumberland, having slowly worked her way northwards from Sydney with each new job or house. Hadrian’s wall seems a good place to stop.

Rory Duffy who wrote ‘The Museum of Dead Crows’ has had work published in Southword, Crannog, The Stony Thursday Book, A New Ulster, Dodging The Rain and Penduline Press. In 2016 Rory was second runner up in the PJ O’Connor Award and was shortlisted for the Frances MacManus Award. In 2017 Rory was nominated for a ZeBBie Award by the Irish Writers Guild. He was highly commended in the Sean O’Faoláin Prize, the Hannah Greally Award and Shortlisted in the Roscommon New Writing Award.
In 2018 he partook in XBorders run by the IWC. He was commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize and shortlisted in the Strokestown Poetry 20:20 Award.

Rachael Dunlop who wrote ‘The River is Always Right’ is a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland and has spent most of her adult life in London. Winning her school short story competition convinced her she would be a writer, but it took her many decades to realise this would entail actually writing something. Once she started, she discovered a passion for short form fiction and her work can be found in several print publications and widely online. Her first (as yet unpublished) novel was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award in 2017. Her most significant word count to date can be found on Twitter @RachaelDunlop

Aingeala Flannery who wrote ‘The Court Order’ is an award winning journalist and arts manager, who is completing an MFA in creative writing at University College Dublin. Her work has been shortlisted for The Sunday Business Post/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition, the Doolin Writers’ Competition, as well as being longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize. She was a finalist in the Irish Writer’s Centre Novel Fair 2018. Aingeala’s short story ‘St Otteran’s’ was also longlisted for the Bath Short Award 2018. She lives in Dublin with her son.

Sarah Mackey who wrote ‘The Maze Game’ grew up in the West Midlands and lives in London. She writes short fiction as an antidote to her many years of writing for business. In 2017 Sarah won third prize in the Bath Short Story Award and first prize in the Ilkley Literary Festival Short Story Competition. Her work was also featured in the City Lit Between the Lines anthology and is currently shortlisted for Writers’ Forum magazine.

Keith McKibbin, who wrote ‘Kassidee’ was born in Belfast and had a number of short stories published in magazines and periodicals before moving to Scotland in 1998. He graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in English Literature in 2002. He is married with four daughters and teaches English and Drama at a secondary school in Glasgow. His first novel, the semi-autobiographical The Twelfth Man was published by Amazon in 2015. Keith loves to read and write short stories and is currently at work on his second novel, For They Sleep Not

Petra McNulty who wrote ‘Nanook’s  Igloo’ is a former award-winning Milliner from Liverpool who is currently working towards her Doctorate in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.  She has a Degree in Sculpture /Painting and is a trained architect.  In 2017 she was highly commended in the Costa Coffee Short Story Award and has been short and long-listed for The Fish and The Hourglass Literary magazine prizes.  She is working on a short story cycle loosely based on her grandmother who walked out on her young family in 1940 as Liverpool was being destroyed during the blitz.  Petra divides her time between Lancaster and Fontainebleau.

James Mitchell, who wrote ‘Pairing’ is a London advertising strategist by day, for a brand you are largely indifferent to; by nights his weird fiction has won the 2016 Fiction Desk Newcomer Prize, been Highly Commended for the 2015 Orwell Society Prize, shortlisted in The Masters Review, and appeared in Vice, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, Litro and others. He completed the Birkbeck Creative Writing MA in 2015. Tweet him your advert ideas @jamescmitchell, so he can spend more time on the weird stuff.

 

Kay Peddle who wrote ‘The Shopkeeper’s Wife’ is an editor, printmaker and writer based in London.

 

 

Dave Pescod who wrote ‘The Dresser’s Apprentice’ wrote jokes for the BBC while he was an art student. He was selected for the Royal Literary Fund Scheme and awarded an Arts Council Grant in the Norwich Writers’ Escalator programme. His stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, selected for the Bridport Anthology 2011 and won competitions. His first collection All Embracing was published by Route in 2012. the film of the title story was selected for international festivals, and highly commended in TCM Shorts. His plays have won international prizes and been performed in festivals. He is currently finishing a full-length play and a novel.

Tamara Pollock who wrote T’he Plates of Strangers’ completed her MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck in 2010. Her stories have been published in the Sunday Times Magazine and broadcast on Radio 4. Her story, Elsa, was longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. She runs creative writing groups for Kensington Libraries and is a member of Cathy Galvin’s Word Factory team. She has just completed a collection of short stories.

Caroline Ward Vine who wrote ‘Unravelling’ has only recently begun to write in earnest, though it’s been her ambition as long as she can remember. She completed her MA in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University this year, graduating with a Distinction, and is working on a novel. She was delighted to find two of her stories on this year’s Bath Short Story Award longlist, a feeling trumped only by the thrill of Unravelling making it into the anthology. She was also shortlisted previously for the Bridport Prize.

Barbara Weeks who wrote ‘Hikkomori’ is a writer, teacher and former journalist. She has an MA in Creative Writing and was a columnist on the now defunct ‘Today’ newspaper. More recent writing credits include being shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize 2107 and highly commended in the Bath Short Story Award 2015. She has also been runner–up in both the Jerwood Historical Short Story competition and Wells Festival of Literature short story competition and her work has featured on various short lists including Radio 4 Opening Lines. Barbara has two adult sons and lives in West Wales where she teaches literacy, ESOL and creative writing in community education.

Shortlist BSSA 2018

Congratulations to all the authors who made the short list, and huge thanks to all who entered and continue to support our Award.

2018 Bath Short Story Award Short List
Title Author
Blue Suede Shoes Florence Knapp
Down In The Mud On Limehouse Beach Nick Petty
Educating Susan Jenny Firth Cozens
Hikikomori Barbara Weeks
Kassidee Keith Mckibbin
Nanook’s Igloo Petra Mcnulty
Off-Ground Summer Henry Peplow
Pairing James Mitchell
Sea Defences Hilary Taylor
The Tank David Shelley Jones
The Court Order Aingeala Flannery
The Dresser’s Apprentice Dave Pescod
The Maze Game Sarah Mackey
The Museum Of Dead Crows Rory Duffy
The Other Couple Sandra Marslund
The Plates Of Strangers Tamara Pollock
The River Is Always Right Rachael Dunlop
The Shopkeeper’s Wife Kay Peddle
Unravelling Caroline Ward Vine
Witches Sail In Eggshells Chloe Turner

Longlist BSSA 2018

Congratulations to all the longlisted authors and huge thanks to all who entered and continue to support our Award.

2018 Bath Short Story Award Long List
Title Author
A Good Black Coat Mary Fox
An Ode To Those Who Believe In Luck Sherry Morris
Benji Kit Austin
Blue Suede Shoes Florence Knapp
Brio Wes Lee
Caving Abigail Moss
Click Annalisa Crawford
Coming Soon, Lol Ruth Gilligan
Dead Load Live Load Dynamic Load Justine Bothwick
Did You Know L. Van Rensburg
Down In The Mud On Limehouse Beach Nick Petty
Educating Susan Jenny Firth Cozens
Everything’s Going To Be Alright Eleanor Talbot
Hawaiian Dynasty Toes Steve Howe
Heimaey Jonathan Ruppin
Hikikomori Barbara Weeks
How Do I Fit Into Your Body Now Selma Cardoso
Kassidee Keith Mckibbin
Lost Julie Lockwood
Moth Jupiter Jones
Nanook’s Igloo Petra Mcnulty
Night Song In The Ecotone Laura Pocock
Non-Stop Molly Gartland
Off-Ground Summer Henry Peplow
Officers Of Adaptation To Climate Change Dean Gessie
Pairing James Mitchell
Rock N Roll Is History Barbara Weeks
Sea Defences Hilary Taylor
Sixty Kilometres Out Craig Barker
St Otterans Aingeala Flannery
Storm Songs Caroline Ward Vine
Synecdoche Zagreb Nat Newman
The Tank David Shelley Jones
Tasting Notes Sam Reese
The Court Order Aingeala Flannery
The Dresser’s Apprentice Dave Pescod
The Floating Girl Rupert Dastur
The Maze Game Sarah Mackey
The Museum Of Dead Crows Rory Duffy
The Other Couple Sandra Marslund
The Plates Of Strangers Tamara Pollock
The Portrait Bill Macmillan
The River Is Always Right Rachael Dunlop
The S.O.S. Dress Mara Blazic
The Shopkeeper’s Wife Kay Peddle
The Willow Woman Steven John
Trespasser’s Tide David Rea
Unravelling Caroline Ward Vine
Waste Bethan James
Witches Sail In Eggshells Chloe Turner

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