Huge congratulations to all our winners in the International Bath Short Story Award 2017. The shortlist was judged by Senior Literary Agent Euan Thorneycroft from A M Heath. Of the winning pieces he said, “I was looking for three things – originality, authenticity and confidence – and in the stories here, all three of these were in ample evidence.” Read about our shortlisted writers and his general comments on the shortlist here and his specific comments on the winners and commended below.
First Prize, £1000, This is All Almost True by Kathy Stevens.
Euan comments: “I loved this story from the word go. Both funny and heart-breaking. We are immediately grabbed by the unique voice of Elsie, a teenager with unspecified personal problems (although this point is never laboured), and who reveals her acerbic family dynamics through frank observations.
It leaves its emotional mark by offsetting the casual, frank tone of the narrator with the obvious severity of her episodes, the frictions of her family home and the sad sense of her isolation. Elsie’s absorption with storytelling is, on the surface, an inventive, amusing lens, but it becomes a desperately sad force for the reader as her difficulties show through behind that drive for escapism. It finishes with a gut-punch as her fascination with writing has equipped her with a language to articulate the distance between her and the rest of the world. A writer of huge confidence.”
Kathy Stevens was born near Stratford-upon-Avon in 1991. She has a BA English Literature from Bath Spa University, and is the recipient of the Kowitz Scholarship at UEA, where she’s near to completing her MA in Creative Writing. Her short stories have appeared in Litro, Prole, the Bath Short Story Award 2016 and Bath Flash Fiction Award anthologies, Supernatural Tales Magazine, The Literateur, The Cadaverine, Patrician Press and Firefly.Besides writing, Kathy is a keen guitarist and music fanatic, who enjoys 1950’s fashion, rock’n’roll dancing and anything involving boats. She’s working on a literary novel about a dysfunctional family.
Second prize, £200 Performance in the Hills by Mary Griese.
Euan comments:”I thought this story was one of the most individual of all that I read. A recently bereaved woman, alone on her farm, dealing with her grief. There’s a heavy, heady atmosphere to this piece, the tone being set from the captivating first line, with an almost dreamlike quality in places. But the author doesn’t overstep here. The story is also grounded in the reality of rural Wales. The depiction of this rural landscape feels totally authentic. I loved the seemingly small, but keen-eyed observations that appear along the way – a blue tit’s frantic descent through the branches, the young boy changing direction to take the gate rather than the bent down fence. I think the emotional tone is handled incredibly well. We don’t dare feel hopeful at the close, but the vision of the young boy working with the horse – in the dark – and the widow unseen and ignored is a beautiful and haunting ending. I found this to be a story that got better and better with each read.”
Mary Griese is a novelist, short-story writer and artist with an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. She is currently seeking publication for her debut novel Man in Sheep’s Clothing and is represented by literary agent, Jane Conway Gordon. Her memoir, Sand on the Mountain won third prize in the Fish Memoir Prize, 2017. She has written articles for the Guardian and farming magazines. Thirty years ago, whilst running a sheep farm on the Black Mountain, she formed her arty business: ‘Slightly Sheepish’. She recently published and illustrated a picture book: An Alphabet of Farm Animals.
Third prize, £100, Forget me not by Sarah Mackey.
Euan comments:” A beautiful, sad study of a family buckling under the weight of memory loss. Virginia’s memory has been fading out for two years, forcing her into retirement and pulling away many of her relationships. Her beloved garden is the last sanctum of peace and stability, and through Virginia’s husband Henry, we feel the pain of its loss, and the conflict as their well-meaning daughter repeatedly gets the tone wrong in her attempts to help. The husband’s love for his wife and his desolation at the end of the story –after a brief moment of hope– are extremely moving. As is the strained relationship between mother and daughter. This is a well-constructed story.”
Sarah Mackey grew up in the West Midlands and lives in London. Over the past year she has attended creative writing courses at City Lit, which has inspired her to write short fiction. Sarah was long-listed for the 2016 Words and Women prose competition and has been selected for inclusion in the Between the Lines Anthology, 2017.
Commended and recipient of the BSSA Local Prize — £50 in book vouchers from Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath,
Breaking the Glass-Blower’s Heart by Chloe Turner.
Euan comments: “This is a very confident story of a young Spanish au-pair finding herself working for a middle-class family in England. The breaking of a vase ripples out so that we see the strained dynamics of this tense little pocketed family, with its suggestion of infidelity and lovelessness. This is a very well-written story, full of fantastic descriptive detail.”
Chloe Turner’s stories have been published in online and print journals including The Mechanics’ Institute Review, The Nottingham Review, For Book’s Sake Weekend Read, Kindred, Halo, The Woven Tale Press and Hark. Long-gone Mary was published by InShort Publishing (Australia) as a standalone chapbook in 2015, and Waiting for the Runners is one of a series of six chapbooks available this autumn from TSS Publishing. Chloe won the short story category of the Fresher Prize 2017, and received a Special Commendation in the Elbow Room Prize 2016. She tweets at @turnerpen2paper, and blogs about books and writing at www.turnerpen2paper.com.
Euan comments: “A short story with a brilliant, powerful conceit which packs a real emotional punch as we near the inevitable ending. We are sucked into the claustrophobic wait as a woman minds her child in a car, coming to terms with what she knew from the day’s outset: that her husband did not intend to return from his mountain climb.
The decision to tell the story from the husband’s point of view is a brave one. Are these the real-time thoughts of a man dying of exposure, his only comforts, the clammy car below, where he knows his wife waits, bracing herself against the agony of accepting her loss?”
Fiona Rintoul is a writer, journalist and translator. She is author of The Leipzig Affair and translator of Outside Verdun by Arnold Zweig. The Leipzig Affair was short-listed for the 2015 Saltire first book of the year award and serialised on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime. Fiona’s most recent book, Whisky Island, a non-fiction title about the Isle of Islay and its whiskies, was shortlisted in the 2017 Fortnum & Mason food and drink awards. Fiona lives in Glasgow and on the Isle of Harris.
The Acorn Award for an unpublished writer of fiction, £50 Everything Must Go by Sandra Marslund. Selected from the shortlist by the BSSA team. Click on the title to read her story.
The BSSA team loved the suspense and structure in this story, which builds, as the seasons unfold, over one year. A woman whose husband has died in a roof accident, is troubled by a persistent knocking in the attic. But she can’t bring herself to climb up and look. As time passes, the complex relationship between husband and wife is slowly revealed. We very much liked that nothing is completely spelled out. Eventually, the woman, with the support of her teenage daughter, is able to visit the roof space to find out what is there. The striking last line says it all.
Sandra Marslund is a translator of Danish and Norwegian books and commercial texts and also contributes book reviews and literary articles to national and local publications such as the Guardian, Mslexia and Manor Magazine. She has always written, but only started writing ‘seriously’ after completing an MA in Creative Writing from Exeter University in 2016, for which she received a Distinction. She recently began entering her short stories to competitions where she has been both long and shortlisted. She now dreams of getting published and is working on her first novel. She lives in Devon with her two teenage daughters..