Monthly Archives: March 2024

On the Importance of Art

This will be my last post here for a while as our competition closes in two weeks and then it’s a busy reading period until the summer when we announce our longlist, shortlist and prize winners.
But today I’ve been thinking about not just why we write stories but some of the reasons we might feel what’s the point?

I’ve just come back from seeing The Human Body, by Lucy Kirkwood. I’ve loved her work previously, especially Chimerica which was utterly brilliant, but her latest ended up irritating me, the second act in particular. It’s always interesting to try and figure out why something jars or doesn’t land right, especially when you usually admire the writer, so I bought the script and read it and I will read it again. I’d thought at first it was because the slightly tragic but generic, sentimental love story took centre stage, away from the (to me more interesting) political theme (the founding of the NHS against a background of both apathy and antagonism, from doctors to housewives) and then, mulling on it later, I wondered if that was exactly her point and my frustration with the play was deliberately provoked. The focus on personal feelings/reactions/responsibilities drew attention away from a desperate need for reconstruction/equality/government and I was (rightly) annoyed by that. Continue reading

Interview with award winning novelist, Sara Collins

Sara Collins

We’re delighted to publish BSSA team member Jane Riekemann’s interview with award-winning author, screen writer, broadcaster and Booker Prize judge, Sara Collins, who won the Costa First Novel Award in 2019 with her best-selling novel  The Confessions of Frannie Langton. Sara’s brilliant short story, ‘Say You’ was a third-prize BSSA winner, way back in 2016 and two other of her superb stories have been shortlisted in our Awards; ‘Light Like You’, also in 2016 and ‘Lilith’ in 2015. The stories are published in our 2015 and 2016 anthologies which you can buy from Amazon. In this fascinating interview, among other things, Sara tells us about adapting her novel for the TV, her current writing projects and daily writing rituals and gives great advice for anyone thinking of entering BSSA 2024, which closes three weeks today, Monday, April 15th. Continue reading

Christopher Fielden: top tips from a short story guru

As short story writers, where do you find the best places to send your work? Social media platforms, the magazines and journals you read and competition listing sites of which there are many. Listing sites do seem to come and go and, when I was posting our award this year, I noticed that many we’ve used over the decade have folded. One that seems here to stay is Christopher Fielden’s website where you’ll find the BSSA listed under ‘Prestigious &/or Big Prize Competitions’
In addition to running the site, Chris is an award-winning and Amazon best-selling author, editor and blogger and runs his own short humorous story competition ‘To Hull and Back’ (more about that later). His short story collection, Book of the Bloodless Volume 1: Alternative Afterlives was published by Victorina Press and was a finalist in the ‘Fiction: Short Story’ category of the International Book Awards, sponsored by American Book Fest. It also won Author Shout’s Cover Wars. He also publishes thousands of writers’ stories in support of literary charities via his flash fiction writing challenges. Via the writing challenges, Chris compiled and edited a world record-breaking book. The 81 Words Flash Fiction Anthology  that contains 1,000 stories written by 1,000 authors. It won Best Anthology in the 2022 Saboteur Awards. He also manages to find time to run an email newsletter  that goes out once or twice a month. It’s currently free to sign up and gives regular details of writing competitions, guest posts by experienced writers / editors, details of new books that have been published by subscribers, and lots of other writing-related content.
I met Chris at an anthology launch in the days before Covid, when we held in-person events at Mr B’s Emporium in Bath and am pleased he was happy to share with us, in the following interview, his thoughts on short stories and those parts of the writing industry he knows so well. Continue reading

Writing Inspiration: Read short story titles!

Section of Jude’s short story book shelves

I’ve been with groups of writers many a time in a social situation when someone laughs and says, what you just said would make a great story title. Sometimes people do write the story that goes with what they said in conversation. Often they don’t. But as well as finding titles in conversations with friends, it is fun to read titles in published short story collections for inspiration. Continue reading

How to …

Once upon a time I told my dad I was going to be a writer and he bought me one of those Dummy Guides. It had a bright yellow cover and practically guaranteed I’d produce a bestseller, fast. After a few weeks Dad asked how I was getting on? Had I worked my way through the chapters yet?

Reader, I had not.

He shook his head sadly. Dad was an autodidact who’d taught himself to play the piano, speak three languages and produce a passable watercolour. Surely anyone willing to apply themselves, could learn the ‘rules’ of writing? It’s a question I think about quite a lot, especially as a teacher and mentor. Wouldn’t it be great, the theory goes, if there was a map to follow, a class to take, a video to watch, some instructions we could stick to that would get the story written!

Well, no, actually! Isn’t that the fear of AI? Where would the personality, individuality, oddity and beautiful imperfection be in a creative work written by rote? Following the rules can certainly polish a piece of writing, but can they make it sing? Continue reading