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BSSA 2019 Award Round Up

Thank you very much to everyone from around the world who entered the 2019 International Bath Short Story Award, judged this year by Literary Agent, Samuel Hodder from Blake Friedmann and many congratulations to our winners: Caroline Ward Vine; Christina Sanders; Derek Routledge; Melody Razak; Bruce Meyer; Tannith Perry and Lucy Emma.

Our big thanks to Samuel Hodder for reading all the shortlisted stories so attentively, selecting the three top prizes and two highly commended and making comments on the winning stories and the process in general.

Thanks also to our large team of initial readers who had the fascinating job of reading the huge variety of stories that arrived. We had 1493 entries this year and our longlist of eighty stories represents the UK, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, Spain and India.

Stories in the shortlist of twenty include important themes echoed throughout all the entries. We have several stories about those living precariously on the edge of society due to their sexuality, their status as immigrants, their youth or age or the climate emergency. There are stories about family and couple relationships, different angles on loss and many political references. We are glad to be able to publish them all in our seventh anthology, this year produced by local Award winning publisher who also published the 2018 anthology for sale from the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop and on Kindle and Nook. Ad Hoc Fiction. The anthology will be out at the end of the year and launched in Bath.

Our next Award will open on November 1st 2019 and end in April 2020. Do subscribe for email notifications, to be first to hear about it and to read news and interviews from all our winners, past and present.

We very much appreciate your support and we are looking forward to reading entries for BSSA 2020, our eighth Award.
Anna, Jane and Jude.
BSSA organising team.

Judges’ Report, BSSA 2019

Comments from our 2019 BSSA judge, Samuel Hodder from Blake Friedmann literary Agency.

Judging this year’s shortlist has been a joy – the hardest part was to accept that I couldn’t give a ‘Highly Commended’ to more entries. Within the constraints of just a few pages, these stories succeeded in drawing the reader into their worlds and making them care for characters they only had just encountered. So many of the stories were deeply moving or poignant. What struck me most of all was the inventiveness of the stories, whether in their structure, their voices, or in the wonderful range of vivid imagery. A girl suspended in mid-air, survivors healing through song in a candlelit chapel, two streetlamps leaning into each other, in love in the twilight. These were images that remained with me long after reading.

A GAP SHAPED LIKE THE MISSING (First Prize)
A wonderfully vivid and arresting story of community, trauma and healing that seizes the reader’s attention from its opening lines and doesn’t let go. Lucy Mae’s voice is brilliantly achieved – lyrical but direct, wry but warm, full of life as well as loss – and the story builds a powerful sense of both character and place. The writing is gorgeous, rich with allusion, full of striking imagery and metaphor, with beautiful turns of phrase on every page. It reminded me of the very best of dystopian fiction but is all the more affecting since it is about our own time.

MURMURATION (Second Prize)
A tense and brooding study of alienation and anxiety, portraying a man trying and failing to navigate an unexpected crisis in his marriage. It’s deeply atmospheric – a triumph as a mood piece – but also brimming with tension, and the shock of the revelation is expertly handled. The ways in which this story shows us the character’s coping strategies, in a situation he is ill-equipped to manage, is deeply moving, and the description of landscape and weather artfully builds our understanding of his inner world.

FOR SOME TIME NOW (Third Prize)
One of the most formally inventive stories on the shortlist and also one of the most rewarding – as the pieces fall into place the story builds and builds to deliver a powerful emotional punch. The story is successful at convincingly representing mental illness, capturing its language and disorientation, while sustaining the reader’s empathy for the character, which is no easy task. An original, thought-provoking and deeply humane story.

THE STEPWELL (Highly commended)
A kaleidoscopic story centred upon a brief intimacy between two boys, during a period of great upheaval in India. With remarkable economy it successfully interweaves the personal with the political, interlacing the narrator’s feelings for his new friend with a portrayal of his family, his community, and his country at a historic time. It’s alternately dreamlike and matter-of-fact, sensual and confronting, poignant but not sentimental. A deeply evocative story of desire across social fractures. 

SADNESS (Highly commended)
One of the greatest achievements of any fiction is to inspire and extend readers’ empathy and reading SADNESS might do more to make the reader consider their own meat-eating than a hundred newspaper articles. Not only the narrator but also the ‘character’ of the doomed cow are brought powerfully, briefly, to life. An affecting, controlled, elegantly written story that, despite being just a few pages long, lingered in my mind for days afterwards.

Comments on the Local Prize and Acorn Prize winner from BSSA team.

Local Prize Winner
BREAST PLUCKER

What happens when you don’t conform to the norms of the society in which you live? Discrimination and violence in Uganda combined with the brutal questioning of a home office official make a powerful story about Gamisha/Aaron, a young trans person, trying to find a life path. We were drawn to this story because of the compelling theme and, at times, strong lyrical writing.

Acorn Award for an Unpublished Writer of Fiction
JUNGLE

Life is tough in the ‘jungle’ at Calais. ‘So many men,’ says the young female volunteer as she mulls over how to record her impressions on Facebook. This story explores the refugee crisis from a fresh angle and what impressed us most was the lack of sentimentality and unstinting honesty of the writing.

Winners, BSSA 2019

Many congratulations to all the winners of our seventh award. Selected by the BSSA team and our shortlist judge, Samuel Hodder, from literary agency Blake Friedmann. Read all the comments on these wonderful stories in our Judges’ report.

Caroline Ward Vine


First Prize
(£1200) goes to Caroline Ward Vine for her story, A GAP SHAPED LIKE THE MISSING.
Caroline Ward Vine came a little late to writing after a first career in magazine publishing. Since completing her MA in Creative Writing last year she has been placed and listed in a number of competitions. In January she won the Costa Short Story Prize 2018 with her story Breathing Water. Other highlights include reaching the shortlist and anthology of BSSA 2018 (her first taste of publication), the longlist of the RSL VS Pritchett Short Story Prize and being shortlisted in both Novella and Short Story categories of the 2018 Mslexia Fiction Competition. Currently working on her first novel, she lives in Kent with her husband and teenaged son. She tweets at @carolinewvine.

Christina Sanders

Second Prize (£300) goes to Christina Sanders for her story MURMURATION. Christina has had short stories and flash fiction published in literary and online magazines and anthologies including: Ambit,Words with Jam, Litro, Rattle Tales, TFM magazine, Best Small Fictions, Toasted Cheese. In 2017, she won the Aesthetica creative writing award. She is a regular contributor to Litro. In recent years she has been working on a project exploring connections between walking and writing, and is currently working on creative non-fiction pieces based on this research.

Derek Routledge

Third Prize (£100) goes to Derek Routledge for his story, FOR SOMETIME NOW. Born in York, Derek Routledge currently lives and works in Wales. He was shortlisted in the 2015 Bristol Short Story Prize and published in their anthology that year. He was also a notable contender in the Bristol Short Story Prize in 2014 and longlisted with them in 2012. In 2011 he was runner up in the Rhys Davies Short Story Prize, Literature Wales. In 2006 he won second prize in the Sheffield Theatres Cued Up Prize, chosen by Sam West, for a performed rehearsed play reading at The Crucible. The War On Television additionally won the Drama Association of Wales Best Play Award for Youth Cast, published by DAW in 2010. In 2005 he adapted his own short story for BBC R4 Woman’s Hour. He’s had poetry published, undertaken writer development at Arvon and Curtis Brown, has recently completed one novel and has another at first draft.

Melody Razak

Highly Commended (£30) to Melody Razak for her story, THE STEPWELL.
After completing a creative writing MA at Birkbeck University, Melody Razak is now in the final stages of editing her first novel, Moth. She has been published in the Mechanics Institute Review and has written a travel blog imaginearoad.com outlining the past year spent writing and travelling around India.

Bruce Meyer,
photo by Katie Meyer

Highly Commended (£30), Bruce Meyer for his story, SADNESS.
Bruce Meyer is author or editor of more than sixty books of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, flash fiction, and literary journalism. His forthcoming books include McLuhan’s Canary (poetry, 2019) and Down in the Ground (flash fiction, 2020). He was a finalist for the Tom Gallon Fiction Prize in 2019. He lives in Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

The Local prize and £50 in book vouchers from Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath, goes to Tannith Perry for her story, BREAST PLUCKER.

Tannith Perry

Tannith Perry is an American living in Bristol. She has lived in all kinds of places including West Africa, New York City and Sidmouth, England. She has worked as a freelance writer, a non-profit community organiser and sold haircuts on the streets of New York City. She currently teaches ballroom dancing. Several of her stories have been shortlisted and published, including in the Bristol Short Story Prize and Gem Street International Short Story Competition. Her novel is currently represented by Lutyens & Rubinstein.

The Acorn Award for an Unpublished Writer of Fiction (£100) goes to Lucy Emma for her story, JUNGLE. Lucy Emma is a writer and a practising doctor. Her stories have previously been shortlisted for the Fish Prize and the Fiction Desk Prize, and highly commended for the Manchester Fiction Prize. She has a completed draft of one novel and is currently working on another. She lives in East London where she was born and raised. Occasional tweets @lucy_emma13.

Lucy Emma

BSSA 2019 shortlist: author pictures and bios

Congratulations to all the writers on the shortlist below who are listed in alphabetical order. Our judge, Samuel Hodder, literary agent from Blake Friedmann, Literary Agency UK, said he greatly enjoyed reading all the stories and it was a tough call to make final decisions. Read all his comments on his Judge’s report. Along with the winners, we are looking forward to seeing all their wonderful shortlisted stories in print in paperback and digital formats in our seventh anthology, due to be published by Ad Hoc Fiction in the autumn.

    Karen Ashe

    Karen Ashe  wrote the shortlisted story, INDIAN SUMMER.
    The first short story Karen ever wrote took second prize in the South China Morning Post short story competition. Since then, she has completed the Mlitt in Creative Writing and Glasgow University and been the recipient of a Scottish Book Trust New Writers’ Award.
    She has been published in Mslexia and Gutter magazine, has been three times Highly Commended in the Bridport short story prize, short-listed in the Bridport poetry prize, shortlisted and honourably mentioned in the Fish Poetry Prrize, and been place third in the Reflex Fiction flash fiction competition.

    Lisa Blackwell

    Lisa Blackwell wrote the shortlisted story, FISH FACE. Lisa writes plays and scripts and short fiction. She has had a short play produced at Rich Mix, London and was a finalist for Triforce Creative Network’s Writerslam 2015, with a drama script. She had a rehearsed reading of a full-length play at the RADA Contemporary Drama Summer Course 2017 and was playreading 54 of the Women@RADA 100 playreadings, in January 2018. She has had short fiction published by MIROnline. She is currently studying for a Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.

    Dan Coxon

    Dan Coxon wrote the shortlisted story, GOYA IN THE DEAF MAN’S HOUSE.
    Dan’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, Salon, The Lonely Crowd, Open Pen, Black Static, STORGY, Unthology and many other places, sometimes under the name Ian Steadman. His anthology This Dreaming Isle (Unsung Stories) was shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Awards 2018, and Being Dad won Best Anthology at the Saboteur Awards 2016. When he isn’t writing, he runs a freelance editorial service at momuseditorial.co.uk. You can find him on Twitter @dancoxonauthor.

    Rupert Dastur

    Rupert Dastur wrote the shortlisted story, EVERY NINETY SECONDS. Rupert is a writer, editor, and publisher. He studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and now runs TSS Publishing and directs the Cambridge Prize. He is Associate Editor at The Word Factory, Events Coordinator for the Society of Young Publishers and curates WritingCompetitions.org His own writing has appeared in a number of places online and in print. More can be found about his work at www.rupertdastur.com

    Mary Griese

    Mary Griese wrote the shortlisted story, THE SWEET BUSINESS.
    Mary is a writer and artist, with an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. She has been placed for several short story prizes including winning second prize in BSSA, 2017 and has written articles for The Guardian and farming magazines. Her debut novel Where Crows Would Die is being published next year by Y Lolfa in Wales. She formed ‘Slightly Sheepish’ (painting watercolours of sheep and other livestock) over thirty years ago while sheep farming on the Black Mountain in South Wales.

    Karen Jones

    Karen Jones wrote the shortlisted story, A DRINKER’S FACE.
    Karen is a prose writer from Glasgow with a preference for flash and short fiction. She is addicted to writing competitions and is a perennial short-lister, though she has reached the prize winning stage a few times, including with Mslexia, Flash 500, Words With Jam and Ad Hoc Fiction. Her work is published in numerous ezines, magazines and anthologies. Her story Small Mercies was nominated for Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize and is included in Best Small Fictions 2019.

    Peter Jordan

    Peter Jordan wrote the shortlisted story, AT THE VERY TOP OF THE WORLD.
    Peter is a short story writer from Belfast. He has won numerous bursaries and awards, including three Arts Council Grants. In 2018, he was nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of Net. In 2017, he won the Bare Fiction prize, came second in the Fish Prize and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Over fifty of his stories have appeared in literary magazines and journals. He has taken time out from a PhD in Belfast’s Seamus Heaney Centre to complete the edits on his short story collection, Calls to Distant Places, which can be pre-ordered on Amazon. You will find him on twitter @pm_jordan.

    Vijay Khurana

    Vijay Khurana wrote the shortlisted story, CIRCLING THE CHICKEN. Vijay has worked as a radio presenter and a journalist. Having lived in Australia, Cambodia and Germany, he moved to Norwich in 2017 to complete an MFA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. He was longlisted for the 2018/19 Galley Beggar Press short story prize, and his project ‘A Little Death’, featuring parodies of James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ in the styles of other writers, can be found on creative-criticism site Beyond Criticism. His children’s chapter book Regal Beagle was published in 2014.

    Flora Neville

    Flora Neville wrote the shortlisted story THE ARMCHAIRS. Flora is a freelance writer and journalist based in London and travelling all over for stories. She has worked for publications including The Financial Times, The Daily Mail and The Week magazine. Since going freelance three years ago, Flora has written two books, one non-fiction and one fiction for children, and has been developing her short story writing. She has also spent time in a women’s prison where she has established a project to encourage female offenders to cook wholesome and hearty food inspired by Elizabeth David.

    Eleni Polychronakos

    Eleni Polychronakos wrote the shortlisted story, SILVER FOIL. Eleni is a writer and a PhD student in the Humanities Department at Concordia University in Montréal, Québec. Her interdisciplinary research-creation project combines Oral History, Literary Theory, and Creative Writing to explore the life narratives of Greek women who came of age during a time of authoritarian and patriarchal politics in Greece (1955-1974). Previously, she lived in Vancouver, where she was an editor with Room magazine, produced hour-long radio shows about feminism, and taught Settlement English to immigrants and refugees. Eleni’s fiction and journalism appear in publications in Canada and Japan.

    Kate Vine

    Kate Vine wrote the shortlisted story, BEAUTIFUL THINGS. Kate is a novelist and short fiction writer with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She was longlisted for the V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize 2018 and her stories have been published in Retreat West anthology, The Word for Freedom, and the Dear Damsels Annual 2019. She lives in Norwich where she is working on her first novel.

    Dave Wakely


    Dave Wakely wrote the shortlisted story, GRANDMA’S PERFUME.
    Dave is one of the organisers of Milton Keynes Literary Festival and of the Lodestone Poets. A Birkbeck Creative Writing MA graduate, he started writing fiction after a career in publishing, copywriting, web design and university administration. Shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize in 2017 amongst other competitions, his short stories have appeared in several literary magazines, including Ambit, Glitterwolf, Mechanics Institute Review, Prole, Shooter, Token, and the anthology Best Gay Stories 2017. He lives in Buckinghamshire with his husband and a growing collection of books, CDs and guitars.

    Chloe Wilson

    Chloe Wilson wrote the shortlisted story, JOYRIDERS.
    Chloe is the author of two poetry collections, The Mermaid Problem and Not Fox Nor Axe, which was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry and the Judith Wright Calanthe Award. She won the 2019 Iowa Review Award in Fiction, received second prize in the 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the 2018 Manchester Fiction Prize.

Shortlist BSSA 2019

Many congratulations to everyone who has made the shortlist of BSSA 2019. The twenty shortlisted stories will be published in our 2019 anthology produced by Ad Hoc Fiction and will be out in the late Autumn

2019 Bath Short Story Award Short List
Title Author
A Drinker’s Face Karen Jones
A Gap Shaped Like The Missing Caroline Ward Vine
At The Very Top Of The World Peter Jordan
Beautiful Things Kate Vine
Breast Plucker Tannith Perry
Circling The Chicken Vijay Khurana
Every Ninety Seconds Rupert Dastur
Fish Face LM Black
For Some Time Now Derek Routledge
Goya In The Deaf Man’s House Dan Coxon
Grandmas Perfume Dave Wakely
Indian Summer Karen Ashe
Joyriders Chloe Wilson
Jungle Lucy Emma
Murmuration Christina Sanders
Sadness Bruce meyer
Silver Foil Eleni Polychronakos
The Armchairs Flora Neville
The Stepwell Melody Razak
The Sweet Business Mary Griese

Longlist, Bath Short Story Award 2019

2019 Bath Short Story Award Long List
Title Author
5 Things I Can See Melanie Jones
A Drinker’s Face Karen Jones
A Gap Shaped Like The Missing Caroline Ward Vine
A Little Cloud AJ Black
At The Very Top Of The World Peter Jordan
Beautiful Things Kate Vine
Because We Are Weak KL Jefford
Bellissima Emlyn Williams
Blue Reflective Andrew Bartlett
Boxing Like Butterflies Jan Kaneen
Breast Plucker Tannith Perry
Candie Klosse, Chuckie, Wolf And Me Joyce Wheatley
Circling The Chicken Vijay Khurana
Even The Silence Keren Heenan
Every Ninety Seconds Rupert Dastur
Everybody Wants Baby Girls KL Jefford
Everything But The Squeal Trasie Sands
Exposure Nicola Borasinski
Face It Val Bodurtha
Fish Face LM Black
For A Patient Julie Rea
For Some Time Now Derek Routledge
Goya In The Deaf Man’s House Dan Coxon
Grandmas Perfume Dave Wakely
How Megan Taylor
Hungry Roads Maire Malone
I Just Like Visiting Museums Derek Routledge
I Told You So Tamsin Cottis
In The Name Of Andrew Haysey
Indian Summer Karen Ashe
It’s A Trap Tomas Furby
Joyriders Chloe Wilson
Jungle Lucy Emma
Kirabiti Claire Griffiths
Legacy David Butler
Les Nuits D’été Rebecca May
Limbo Emily Sharma
Meet Me At The Rendezvous Café Elena Stephenson
Mrs Da Costa Takes It For The Team Nicola Catton
Murmuration Christina Sanders
Nevermind Julie Evans
October 1961 Emma Roussel
Of Salt And The Raw Flesh Of Fish L. Van Rensburg
Only Connect Lisa Phillips
Opening Night Katie Young
Picking Through The Bones Clare Howdle
Pockets Lucie McKnight Hardy
Sadness Bruce Meyer
Said The Monster Rob Johnston
Salacia Fiona Sherlock
Saver Girl Guy Mitchell
Secrets Mona Dash
Side Order Alec Hutchinson
Silent Witness Graham Sillett
Silver Foil Eleni Polychronakos
Slip In Time Natalie Smith
Snowdrops Cathy Lennon
Strawberry Picking Stephen Gibbin
The Armchairs Flora Neville
The Barrier Alex Osborne
The Butcher Of Bakewell Rupert Dastur
The Cubby House Terri Armstrong
The Electric Historian Hazel Osmond
The Hunting Of The Masu’wa Sam Derby
The Jaws Of The Wolf Nick Petty
The Jinn Sagnik Datta
The Listening Grandmothers Katie Lawrance
The Orchard Stephen Gibbin
The Priest’s Daughter Jo Tiddy
The Road Trip Anne Manson
The Stepwell Melody Razak
The Sweet Business Mary Griese
The Untelling Of Suzie Mckellar Julie Martis
Tina Jonathan Saint
To The Sea Laura Church
Trust Fall Adam Seccombe
Underneath The Lightning Tree Ray Cluley
Up In The Air – A Story Of Snot And Grazed Knees Benny Allen
Water And Oil Anneliese Schultz
What Next Jenny Firth Cozens

Last Minute Writing Tweaks

Time is running out now. There’s just over one week before our 2019 Award ends on Monday,15th April. Results out in late July.
We’re a fan of the obvious. Often the seasoned writer knows all about what’s on the list below but still neglects one or two aspects of final edits. Continue reading

Interview with Anthony Doerr

Jude interviewed Anthony Doerr in March 2013 and we’re re-posting his interview here for 2019 entrants to read. He’s written some great tips on writing short stories which could help with final edits before you submit your stories (by 15th April) and we highly recommend reading his extraordinary story collection Memory Wall and his wonderful Pullitzer prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See which is soon to be released as a Netflix movie. Continue reading

Interview with Danielle McLaughlin

Danielle McLaughlin

In honour of her wonderful and well-deserved success, and for a further celebration of the short story as a form, we are re-posting Jude’s interview from 2016 with Irish Writer Danielle McLaughlin who has just won the 2019 Windham Campbell prize for fiction, quote here from the Irish Examiner:
“From Donoughmore, Co Cork and UCC’s writer-in-residence, Ms McLaughlin is the third Irish writer in four years to win the Windham-Campbell Prize worth €146,000.
Her debut short story collection, Dinosaurs on Other Planets published in 2015 just a few years after she had to give up practising law following ill-health, was selected.
It was cited by judges for stories that “capture the beauty and brutality of human relationships, imbuing them with near-magical qualities rooted in the details of everyday life in a manner both wry and resonant”. Continue reading

Is your short story the length it needs to be?

Are you writing a short story for our next award? There are just under five weeks to go until the closing date of 15th April. Sometimes writers entering competitions think that if there is a word limit, they need to write to the absolute maximum word count permitted. For our Award, that’s 2200 words. But you don’t need to write up to this line. There is no lower limit, which means you could write in the short-short form (flash fiction) and still be considered.

Very short stories (500 words or fewer) are few among our submissions and our sister competition Bath Flash Fiction Award is the best place to submit micros (300 words and under) but stories far less than 2200 words have been selected for the BSSA short list and have been published in the winners’ anthology. For example, Ingrid Jendrzejewski’s marvellous story, ‘We Were Curious About Boys’, in the 2016 anthology is around 1500 words. You can buy our 2015, 2016 and 2017 anthologies from this website in hard copy and our 2018 anthology from our publisher’s website to see the variety in the lengths of stories. All the anthologies are available in digital versions from Kindle or Nook. Continue reading