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.
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.