Many thanks to Farhana Shaikh for her close reading of all the twenty stories on the BSSA 2023 shortlist and for her thoughtful comments on all the winning pieces.
As writers, we know what a short story is made up of: character, plot, dialogue, setting, tone, voice and so forth. But for readers, it is always something more than these component parts. It is an escape. It is a pause. It is an experience. A chance to learn. Laugh. Explore.
The writers shortlisted in this year’s Bath Short Story Award have understood this: that each component part must work in harmony, be in service to a story that must entertain.
This didn’t help me when presented with the challenge of picking a winner from 20 outstanding stories because each of them is successful in achieving what it sets out to and therefore worthy of the top prize.
So I approached this task as a reader, not a judge. I took these 20 short works with me on holiday where I read under the scorching sun in thirty five degrees heat. I read and re-read, mulled and meditated, napped and settled on 5 stories. I came home and revisited the list. Here, in the broody will-it-or-won’t-it-rain summer I read all the stories again with a closer eye which only made the task more difficult than it was.
In my selection I have chosen the stories that resonated with me, the ones that having read them for a third or fourth time still surprise me in some way; where I found something beautiful, quiet, raw, that let me forget just for a moment that it was forecast to rain for the whole of next week. So, these are the stories that stuck with me, and didn’t quite let go. When you read them in the 2023 Bath Short Story Anthology, I hope you find as much joy in them as I do. Find out more about the winners on our winners’ post here Continue reading
Huge congratulations to all the winning writers in our 2023 Award, which received c.1000 entries from around the world. You can read our judge Farhana Shaikh’s comments in general and on their brilliant short stories in her report and the stories will be published in our 2023 anthology in November this year. The BSSA team has also selected and commented on the winner of the Acorn Award for an unpublished writer.
First Prize, ‘The Language of Remembering´ by Patrick Holloway.
Patrick is a prizewinning writer of stories and poems. His work has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The London Magazine, Carve, Southword, The Moth
, among many others. He is an editor of the literary journal, The Four Faced Liar
. He has just finished a novel that originated from the short story in this anthology and is busy tidying it up before sending it back to his agent.
Second Prize, ‘Manifesto’ by Nathan Bailey.
Nathan is a musician, barman, and student. He is currently studying for an MFA in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. He began writing short stories in 2021. This is his first work in print. He lives in Burnage, Greater Manchester.
Third Prize, ‘He’ll Take Good Care of Her’ by Sudha Balagopal.
Sudha’s fiction straddles continents and cultures to explore the human condition. Herhighly commended novella in flash, Things I Can Tell Amma
, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2021. She is the author of a novel, A New Dawn,
and two short story collections. Her short pieces have appeared in literary journals worldwide. Recently, her short fiction won the CRAFT Amelia Gray 2K contest and her work was selected for Best Small Fictions 2023
. When she’snot writing, she teaches yoga. Continue reading
Congratulations to all the shortlisted writers (arranged here in alphabetical order). We’re thrilled to be publishing their wonderful stories in our 2023 BSSA anthology. Publication expected in November 2023. Read our judge Farhana Shaikh’s general comments about all the stories she read. Continue reading
April 23rd is the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and possibly of his birth. Others who expired on this day include St George, a Cappadocian Greek soldier in the Roman army (303 AD), William Wordsworth (1850) and Rupert Brooke (1915) and this year it’s the penultimate day of the 2023 Bath Short Story Award.
With about 40 hours to go till we close, what should be your focus?
- Tweak your title so it’s arresting. Titles of one or two words can work well: last year’s winning story ‘Dead Dog’ attracted the eye of the reader with the title and then continued to intrigue through a brilliant, deadpan opening paragraph which ended with a sufficient twist to make you read on. That said, don’t make your title quirky or too long unless this matches or complements the style of the story and subject matter.
- Top and tail your stories. You know those small woody parts that stick out on newly picked gooseberries? If you don’t snip them off at the top and at the bottom they can stick in your throat and spoil your pleasure. It’s the same with a story. Consider if the first and last paragraphs (or lines) have the impact you want or add to the story in a meaningful way.
- Add the senses: Is your story enriched with sensory detail: touch, taste, sounds and smell as well as sight? These enable the reader to stay inside your story world.
- Typos: We’re not too fussed about minor typos, but a clean copy in a simple font gives the reader confidence as well as pleasure.
- Word length: If your story is a couple of words over, that’s okay but we’ve had stories hundreds of words longer than the 2200 limit.
- Comb through for cliches: They sneak in as nods, shrugs, sighs. Get your scalpel out. It’s fun to cut away excess flab ─ those double adjectives and pesky adverbs.
- Check your computer ‘drawers’ for old stories and cut them down using the above tips. Remember, we do not have a lower word limit so an old story might shine more brightly if it can lose half its words.
And, who knows, there might be a few of you beginning your story journey today.
photo by Chris Knight on
One week to go before the deadline of our £1750 prize fund contest on Monday 24th April at midnight, BST.
For those last minute writers thinking of entering our 10th award, I’m going to stretch metaphor to its limits and ask you to get under the bonnet of your story. There were more tips last week, but here’s another angle on putting those final touches to your story. A post Jude created last year, that we are airing again for fun.
So, if your story was a car, you need to undertake some maintenance before it sets off on its extensive journey via our BSSA readers and hopefully to a winning destination. Continue reading
Maybe you have the day off work today or are celebrating Easter or other festivals with family or friends. With two weeks to go until the deadline of our 10th yearly award on April 24th, take a look over a short story you might enter and try our short writing work-out to tighten up your writing. You have up to the limit of 2200 words to play with. Continue reading
Some years ago, I bought a book on the basis of its title. ‘Instances of the Number Three’ by Sally Vickers piqued my interest and a glance at the blurb confirmed the psychologically compelling tale of a love triangle with some ghostly goings-on would be my companion for a long train journey. Continue reading
DUCKS IN A ROW?
I’m reposting this from last year because I still think this is excellent advice and I needed reminding!
Do you wait for the perfect time, or place, or circumstance, thinking that once all your ducks are in a row, THEN you will write the perfect story? I do, especially when my confidence is low and/or the world is overwhelming (ok, nearly all the time). So, if the neighbour’s dog is driving me crazy (he doesn’t, he’s lovely, but some days I can’t filter out the occasional barking) I blame that for the fact my writing feels rubbish and I didn’t meet my goals or start the story that’s in my head or finish the one I began a few weeks ago. And the more excuses I find, the less inclined I am to sit down and write. I go downhill fast, lose a day, a few days, a week or two. Oh no! I’m a failure, but how can I be expected to be a creative genius in these (insert your own bugbears) conditions? Sound familiar? If not, well done! If yes, read on 🙂 Continue reading