Bath Short Story Award team member, Jude, who also organises Bath Flash Fiction Award and Flash Fiction Festivals UK, recently asked the judge of the latest Bath Flash Award, Christopher Allen, who co-edits the long-established flash fiction magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, what themes were under-represented among the hundreds of submissions they receive each week. He chose to answer this by citing themes that are over-represented. These included End-Of-The-World stories, animal metaphors and stories about the death of children. In our Award, we certainly receive a lot those themes and we’d add to that the very many stories about relationship break-ups and dementia. As Christopher says, humour is often under-represented. And we agree it’s amazing to read a story that can combine humour with poignancy. Continue reading
So much has been happening for some of the incredibly talented short story writers who have won or been shortlisted in our Awards over the past few years and are published in our yearly anthologies. Congratulations first to Caroline Ward Vine, whose short story Unravelling was short-listed in BSSA 2018 and is published in the 2018 anthology. Caroline won the Costa Short Story Award this January for her story Breathing Water and she also reached the short list of ten for the Mslexia short story competition with another story. Continue reading
On 5th December, Jude, Jane and Anna from the BSSA team welcomed six authors and over forty guests to Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath for the launch of the 2018 anthology of stories from the Bath Short Story Award. This is the sixth anthology we have published, this time, with our new publisher, Ad Hoc Fiction, who also publishes the anthologies for Bath Flash Fiction Award. For the cover design, we’re very pleased to be able to continue using the beautiful collage painting of a building in The Circus Bath, made by artist and writer Elinor Nash who has designed all our book covers since she won the BSSA Award in 2014. This year, the book cover has a background colour which we call ‘sunrise pink’. For the launch, we bought a cake printed with this design and Elinor said it was a first to see one of her designs in icing.
- Our six authors with stories in the anthology, who travelled from all over the UK to be with us, were Hilary Taylor, who won third prize with her short story, Sea Defences, Chloe Turner, who won the local prize with Witches Sail in Eggshells, Sandra Marslund, commended for The Other Couple, James Mitchell shortlisted for Pairing, Tamara Pollock shortlisted with The Plates of Strangers and Caroline Ward-Vine shortlisted for Unravelling. You can read these and the rest of the twenty marvellous stories in the anthology which is available from the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop in several different currencies for posting worldwide and also on Kindle and Nook. Local readers can also buy the book at Mr B’s.
We’re delighted that literary agent with Blake Friedmann, Samuel Hodder, has agreed to be our judge for the Bath Short Story Award 2019. Samuel graduated in Psychology from University of Warwick, and completed a Masters in Publishing, before working for several years as an editor for psychology research. In 2015 he joined Blake Friedmann in the Contracts and Finance departments and is building his own list of authors.
In literary and contemporary fiction he loves distinctive voices and complex characters (e.g. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh), coming-of-age novels, LGBTQI themes, and novels that explore the loss of innocence, desire, deceit, class, or the world of work. In historical fiction, novels so immersive they can show readers a different way of thinking and being: Mary Renault’s novels are favourites. In crime and thrillers, he loves an unusual, evocative setting (e.g. The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin), but would like to read anything from psychological suspense to the truly macabre.
He also welcomes dystopian and speculative fiction, including fantasy, science-fiction, and the supernatural, where he would like to see novels centred on the characters’ psychological journeys (e.g. the Earthsea novels by Ursula K Le Guin, The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, or The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley), but he likes huge, world-building novels too (e.g. Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks or Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky).
- You are currently building your author list at Blake Friedmann and you are looking for a wide variety of fiction, including coming-of -age novels, LGBTQI themes – novels that can immerse readers into a different way of thinking with unusual and evocative settings. I imagine this is what you might be looking for in short story entries as well?
Yes, in short! Stories in all genres – contemporary, historical, a thriller, even SFF – and all settings in time and place will be welcome by me. I am passionate about LGBT fiction, so a story with LGBT themes or characters would be very exciting. I recognise that a richly evocative setting is hard to accomplish within 2,200 words, but if you are able to transport me to another world within these constraints, I’ll be hugely impressed.
- Your background is in psychology, and you are also interested in dystopian and speculative fiction including fantasy and science fiction, novels centred on characters’ psychological journeys. Can you say a little more about this?
I think that what drew me into psychology – first at university and then as an editor for psychology research – was the same instinct that later drew me back to literature: a desire to learn more about myself and others, to understand life better, ultimately to seek comfort on this rollercoaster ride that is “the human condition.” The openness of science-fiction and fantasy, where the only limit to the story and its world is the author’s imagination, can be a wonderful space to take the reader on unique psychological journeys. I think this is part of Tolkien’s huge and enduring appeal, and I’m an enormous fan of Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea novels (which draw on Taoist philosophy, as Ged journeys towards a Taoist way of life) and the chilling, weird, uncanny Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.
- Do you see a future in the world of digital publishing at the moment, or do you think hard copy books are still the favoured way into publishing?
Certainly there is a future in the world of digital publishing. A few years ago, many commentators predicted that the rise ebooks would marginalise print books. It’s now clear that isn’t happening – ebooks have actually lost a little market share, as sales of print books have risen. However, ebooks remain very important, and publishing is now firmly a multi-format venture, with print books, ebooks and audio books all reaching large numbers of readers and providing crucial income to authors. Some ‘digital first’ publishers are doing great work right now – especially in commercial fiction – in reaching new readers and bringing new life to backlist titles. At Blake Friedmann we’ve seen books first published 30 years ago soar up the bestseller charts this year after being republished as ebooks and brought to a new generation of readers.
- At the moment, as well as novels and non-fiction, would you accept submissions of short story collections, stories in a linked sequence, or novellas, which seem to be becoming more popular?
Yes to all the above. It isn’t easy to convince a publisher to invest in a short story collection by a debut author, but it can be done – if the writing is outstanding – and many publishers are providing more space to short story collections today than just a few years ago. So please do submit them to me. Some of my favourite books of all time are novellas – from Death in Venice to Heart of Darkness to The Metamorphosis – so I welcome novellas as well. Booksellers have given more space to these lately, and publishers have produced innovative series in both short fiction and non-fiction. I love the Vintage Minis series by Penguin Books, to give one example.
- Which short story writers do you particularly like?
Any list of my all-time favourites must include Shirley Jackson. I adore her gloriously unsettling short stories, her gift for rendering the everyday sinister or uncanny. Start with the Dark Tales collection, if you’ve not read her before. Another favourite short story writer is John Cheever. I admire the pathos of his clever, quietly tragic stories, which are immediately transporting to the particular world of American post-war suburbia, yet still speak movingly today to readers who have never known it. Among contemporary writers, I loved Kevin Barry’s collection Dark Lies the Island – his linguistic agility, comedic timing, and startling voices, the alternating shades of levity and darkness. Ottessa Moshfegh is another favourite, the stories in Homesick for Another World are incredibly confident and controlled, her characters so often appalling but at the same time irresistible.
- What would be the ingredients of a stand-out short story entry for you?
I enjoy tension in short stories and being unnerved. I love a sharply distinctive voice and characters that are badly behaved and not sorry for it. My taste in humour can be jet-black. But I’m prepared to be completely surprised, and to fall in love with a story that is completely different to my usual tastes – even something gentle or romantic!
Christmas presents for your short story loving parent, grandparent, sibling, husband, wife, partner, uncle, aunt, friend or lover. Our 2015, 2016 and 2017 Anthologies are all for sale for only £5.00 each including postage and packing, to UK residents. Stocks limited so buy soon.
Read excellent stories on many different subjects by writers from all over the world in each of these volumes: Buy here:
Writers in the 2015 anthology: Safia Moore, Dan Powell, Angela Readman, KM Elkes, Lucy Corkhill, Eileen Merriman, Barbara Weeks, Sarah Collins, Emma Seaman, Emily Devane, Anne Corlett, Anna Metcalfe, Alice Falconer, Adam Kucharksi, Fran Landsman, Fiona Mitchell, Debbi Voisey, Chris Edwards-Pritchard, John Holland Continue reading
We’re delighted that Samuel Hodder has agreed to be our judge for the Bath Short Story Award 2019. Samuel is a literary agent from Blake Friedmann. Read about the sort of fiction that appeals to him, to prompt your short story entry. We’ll also posting an interview with him shortly. Continue reading
The seventh international Bath Short Story Award is now open for entries and closes at midnight BST, 15th April 2019. The longlist will be published in mid-late June, 2019, the short list in mid July and final results will be out in late July This year the short list judge is literary agent, Samuel Hodder, from Blake Friedmann Literary Agency.
Local Prize winner from our 2018 BSSA Award, Chloe Turner, was presented with her prize of book vouchers donated by Mr B’s Emporium of Books at the bookshop last week. It’s the second year in a row that Chloe, who lives near Stroud, in Gloucestershire has won the prize. This year it was for her wonderful story ‘Witches Sail in Eggshells’. Here she is with Ed, from the bookshop having received her voucher, our card and a celebratory bottle. Continue reading
Thank you very much to everyone who entered the 2018 International Bath Short Story Award. This year we received 1100 entries from thirty-four countries. Our team of ten initial readers enjoyed reading your entries and it was, as always, tough selecting the final fifty stories from a strong field. Authors from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA and the UK are represented on the longlist and many different themes and subject matters are covered – including, this year, the effects of climate change and world politics, along with dystopian futures, relationships between family, friends and lovers, dysfunctional and otherwise. Such themes were widespread throughout all the entries and it is interesting to have different cultural takes on this mix. Continue reading
Our shortlisted writers, who will be published in the BSSA anthology 2018, along with the winning and commended writers, are listed below in alphabetical order. Congratulations to all. We’re excited that all these wonderful stories are going to be in print in the autumn. Shortlist judge, Euan Thorneycroft made the following comments about the shortlist:
“You never know what you are going to get when judging a short story competition – but you know that it’s more than likely going to be diverse. The shortlist didn’t disappoint. I was taken from the UK to Australia with detours to the Middle East, Japan and North America. And I was plunged into the lives of different characters dealing with a variety of emotions — grief, disappointment, anger and guilt to name a few. The writing was of a high standard throughout and every one of these stories had things to commend them”. Continue reading