The BSSA organisers Anna Schlesinger, Jane Riekemann and Jude Higgins were delighted to launch BSSA 2019, last night, 18th November at the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath. Nine of the twenty writers published in the anthology were able to come and read extracts from their stories to a large crowd of guests. It was wonderful to hear the story extracts come to life in the voice of the writers. For the first time, authors of the first, second and third prize stories were able to attend as well as the winner of the Acorn Award for an unpublished writer of fiction and those four writers as well as the five other shortlisted writers travelled from all over the UK to be with us. You can buy your copy from our publisher Ad Hoc Fiction and if you are in Bath, at Mr B’s.
Introducing the event, Anna pointed out that all the winning and shortlisted stories were selected from nearly 1500 entries from around the world and she quoted our 2019 judge, Samuel Hodder from Blake Friedmann literary agency who said. “the hardest part was to accept I couldn’t give highly-commended to more entries…so many of the stories were deeply moving or poignant…what struck me most was the inventiveness of the stories, whether in their structure or voices or the wonderful range of vivid imagery.” We entirely agree with his comments and hearing the authors read extracts from the beginning of the stories made them even more impactful and left the listeners intrigued to read what happened next. We’ve added pictures of everyone reading. Thank you to them and our thanks also to Alex Wilson, who took many of the pictures for us.Our first prize winner, Caroline Ward-Vine, who was also shortlisted and published in our 2018 BSSA anthology, read an extract from ‘A Gap Shaped Like The Missing’, her powerful and moving story about the aftermath of a hurricane in the lives of one affected family. Caroline has had a wonderful writing year, also winning the Costa Short Story Prize, and being long listed in the V.S. Pritchard short story prize and shortlisted in Mslexia in both the novella and shortstory categories of their two yearly awards. Christina Sanders, who has also been shortlisted in the BSSA Award in a previous year and is an Award winning and widely published writer of short fiction, read from her second prize winning story ‘Murmuration’, which is about a man ‘trying and failing to navigate and unexpected crisis in his marriage’. The landscape described in this story adds to the tense and brooding atmosphere of the story. Derek Routledge from Cardiff, the third prize winner read from the beginning of his story ‘For Some Time Now’, which as Samuel Hodder summarised, is an original, thought-provoking and deeply moving story’ about one man’s journey through mental illness after a trauma. Derek writes in many forms and has a couple of novels ready to go. Lucy Emma won the Acorn Award for a unpublished writer of fiction and read and extract from her story called ‘Jungle’ based in the camp in Calais and which explores the refugee crisis from a fresh angle. This maybe Lucy’s first published piece but she has been shortlisted in other very prestigious contests and we are sure we will be reading more of her work soon. Vijay Khurana’s story, ‘Circling the Chicken’ has a very intriguing title and he read the first several paragraphs of his shortlisted story which hook the reader into wanting to know what has happened between the couple described. Vijay has recently completed a collection of short stories. We hope they’ll be published soon. Mary Griese, a writer local to Bath won second prize in the 2017 Bath Short Story Award and at the launch she read an extract from, ‘The Sweet Business’, another atmospheric story set in rural Wales. Mary’s debut novel, ‘Where Crows Would Die’ also set in Wales is published this year.
We heard Lisa Blackwell read the opening part of her story ‘Fish Face’ which expertly interweaves a mother’s relationship with her daughter, the death of a pet fish and a shocking event on a tube train. Lisa is a playwright who has turned to fiction and is now studying for an MA at Oxford University.Dave Wakely, read from the beginning of his shortlisted story, ‘Grandma’s Perfume’, a very poignant story which is full of smells and tastes evoking a beloved grandmother as well as showing how smells can create a feeling of home in refugees fleeing wartorn countries. Dave organises a literary festival in Milton Keynes and is published in short story magazines. Kate Vine our last author, read an extract from her shortlisted story, ‘Beautiful Things’ which shows the path of a young couple’s relationship as they view houses with an estate agent. The story is full of lively dialogue, humour and irony. Kate has recently completed an MA at the University of East Anglia and is working on her novel.
The 2020 BSSA Award is now open, judged by Kate Johnson of Mackenzie Wolf Literary Agency and we were happy to welcome Kate as one of our guests at the launch. We’re looking forward to next year and twenty new winning and shortlisted pieces.