Dream up a short story


Bath Short Story Award 2017 ends on May 1st, but you’ve still time to write and enter your up to 2200 word story.

Unless you are able to practice lucid dreaming, you can’t control your dreams and they’re good story material as a result, often taking unusual angles on well-worn themes or offering you something wonderfully surreal. Steven King apparently dreamed the whole plot of ‘Misery’ – remember the plot about the author captured by a female psychopath?

In dreams, events unfold in ways you might not have imagined.  Interestingly, they often fall into three acts, like a fairy tale.

Have you remembered a dream  recently? If so, write it down and see if it has three scenes, a beginning middle and end. What is the crisis point in this dream? What is the resolution?  If  you can only remember a fragment of a dream, treat it like a prompt. Take a word, a dream character or an atmosphere from your dream memory and get writing.

Want to try out more ways of turning dreams into fiction after this year’s Bath Short Story Award is over on May 1st? Come to the first ever Festival entirely devoted to Flash Fiction in Bath on 24/25th June in Bath. Jude, one of our BSSA team members is the director of the festival.  She’s running an early morning Dream Breakfast on the Sunday morning of the festival. Coffee and croissants provided.  Here, you’ll be able to try out other ways of creating a short-short story from your dream or dream fragment.

All the major players in the Flash Fiction world ,UK will be at the festival running workshops to get you to try out different ways of approaching short short fiction. And we’ve just learned that  a distinguished International Guest – renowned short story, flash fiction writer and teacher, Pamela Painter from the USA is coming to teach and read. There are also, talks, a  book launch an evening of readings, a festival-long contest  and more. Do come! flashfictionfestival.com




Your Plans for Burns’ Night?

The 25th January or Burns’ Night is a key event in Scottish calendars. Not quite a Hallmark holiday, though embraced by lovers of Scottish culture and possibly partygoers worldwide, it’s essentially a celebration of the life and works of Robert Burns. Born in 1759, around the 25th, the Scottish bard filled his short life (dying at the age of 37) with glorious explosions of verse, mainly in his own language/dialect. His poems were expressions that sprang from the heart, influencing the great Romantic poets Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley, and are still celebrated today.

I was introduced to the perils of drink through Tam O’Shanter, a poem I had to learn for O’ Level. Oh, the joy of practising it in front of the mirror until I could recite it word perfect to the class. Even though my accent could be defined as Southern English/RP the writing transports you to the highlands and I was there with Tam’s wife Kate calling him ‘a skellum, a blethering, blustering, drunken, blellum.’ And certainly, at a Burns’ Night party while munching on your haggis and knocking back the ‘usquabae’, Tam’s is a tale worth telling.

I tweeted some great Scottish writers to give their top writing tips (in 140 characters) for a short story on a Burns’ Night theme. Almost immediately a reply pinged back from award-winning Louise Welsh @louisewelsh00 Professor of Creative Writing at Glasgow @UofGWriting  known mainly for her short stories and psychological thrillers (such as the Orange-nominated and CWA winner The Cutting Room; The Girl on the Stairs and Plague Times Trilogy).

She’s right. Read the poetry and find a starting point. The tale of a night when ‘The Deil had business on his hand’? Or the wife who sits at home ‘gathering her brows like a gathering storm’?  Or whatever piques your fancy or fantasy? A quick google will transport you to the world of Rabbie Burns or you could start with Tam O’Shanter.

Write your story (up to 2200 words) and send it to us by May 1st.  ‘Good luck to all your Means!’

Interview with Vanessa Gebbie


Commission No May0035846: Author Vanessa Gebbie, of Ringmer, East Sussex.

Interview by Jude from 2013. Updated here for you to read again. Top tip:  Vanessa has recently created three short story writing workshops for Mslexia magazine. Essential reading if you are entering competitions.


Vanessa Gebbie is a novelist, prize-winning short story writer, poet, editor and creative writing tutor. Her novels are The Coward’s Tale (Bloomsbury) – a Financial Times Novel of the Year) Storm Warning and Words from a Glass Bubble. She has a short story collection, Echoes of Conflict (Salt) and edited Short Circuit – guide to the art of the short story ,eds 1 and 2 (Salt), Her poetry collection The Half-life of Fathers is published by Pig Hog press and her collection of very short fiction, Ed’s Wife and Other Creatures is published by Cinnamon Press. Vanessa’s awards include an Arts Council Grant for the Arts, a Hawthornden Fellowship, a Gladstone’s Library residency, a Bridport Prize, two Fish prizes, the Troubadour poetry prize and the Daily Telegraph Novel in a year prize. Find out more about Vanessa on her blog

  • You have written two collections of short stories, a novel, a poetry collection and a book of very short fiction. Your themes are often about how people deal with loss. Do you find aspects of these themes emerge more readily in the different forms?

Maybe the focus of the theme becomes more concentrated as the length decreases – but the aspects don’t shift, for this writer – just become brighter with less words. 

Having now written a couple of novels, in which I thought loss was going to be the uppermost theme, I found the focus changed during each project. Maybe it’s a function of the length of time taken (at least three years for each, double that for the first)?  I looked back on both, almost at the end of the writing process and thought, ‘Oh. So that’s what it’s about…’ Loss yes, but loss was a jumping-off place. The rest slid in in the night. 

The same thing happens in short stories, if I’m honest, but in a smaller space of course – I’m drawn to images or characters that illustrate loss somehow, as my short story starters, but once I start writing the pieces flower into something more complex and they certainly surprise me.

With poetry, the whole process is focused and intense – a bit like a magnifying glass can set fire to a spot on a piece of paper. But there will always be the moment when the poem becomes itself, not ‘of me’.

  • Your latest collection is a book of micro- fictions, Ed’s Wife and Other Creatures, illustrated by artist and poet Lynn Roberts. Can you tell us more about this book?Ed's wife

Ed’s Wife is made up of tiny flashes, some no more than a line or two, in which Suze, the eponymous wife, behaves like one of seventy weird little creatures. Poor Ed never knows what she is going to do next. Beetle, corn snake, slow loris, silverfish, worm, flea, dust mite… it’s been great fun to do. And Lynn’s illustrations are terrific, funny and brilliant. I’ve been working on this collection for a few years on and off – some pieces have won prizes, others have been published all over the place: USA, Ireland, New Zealand. Time to hit the UK… (!)

  • On your website, you give a timeline of your progress as a writer from 2002 to the present day. I found this inspiring as it suggests that if you work hard and consistently at the craft of writing, success and publication can come. Would you agree.

Yes – because I was advised to work like that, and sure enough, it worked for me – I’m a bit of an obsessive as my family will tell you.  Although it has to be said, luck comes into it. And stubbornness – bloody-mindedness – a refusal to give up. But it is hard work, all this. I am eternally grateful that the boom in self-publishing hadn’t got going when I was starting out. It’s such an attractive looking option, at the stage when we all think we are geniuses, when all we are doing is tipping out stuff that is hackneyed, and not well written for other reasons. I know it works for a few, but far more sink without trace. Although thinking about it, that’s about the same with being published anyway!! 

  • The second edition of Short Circuit, the book of essays on short story writing was published in 2012. I have included an extract from the ‘blurb’, as I think the book would be so useful to anybody entering competitions or wanting to improve their stories.” Short Circuit is a unique and indespensable guide to writing the short story —24 specially commissioned essays from well-published short story writers, many of them prize winners in some of the toughest short story competitions in the English language. The writers are also experienced and successful teachers of their craft.” Can you tell us what is different about the second edition?

When Salt commissioned the book (in 2009), I was able to pull together the text book I’d have really loved as a companion when I was starting out as a ‘young’ writer – and make it into a book full of interest and inspiration for jaded ‘older’ writers too.

Firstly – it is NOT written by me. Somewhere along the line in most ‘how-to’ books on writing, I  lose contact with the author who does not give me a range of possibilities, but expects me to be just like him/her. I was lucky enough to know a wonderful team of writers, all prizewinners, most of them experienced teachers of writing – and they all contributed a chapter. Add one myself, and Bingo! Everything you could possibly want to know about writing short stories – given to you in engaging essays from some of the most gifted writers about. 

Fast forward four years, and nothing stands still.  Short stories certainly don’t – new things happen all the time – so neither should a text book. So I added eight sparkling new chapters by fantastic writers such as Tom Vowler whose collection The Method won the Scott Prize, and who teaches  writing at Plymouth. There’s Stuart Evers, author of Ten Stories About Smoking – and Professor Patty McNair from Columbia College Chicago whose collection has won all sorts of awards over in the USA. There’s an interview with a publisher –  the indomitable Scott Pack from The Friday Project – well known for his honesty! And more. Salt have published it in a wonderful BIG format – I am so proud of my baby…(can you tell?)

  • Who are your favourite short story writers currently?

That’s SO hard to answer – it changes every time I think about it, and I always feel guilty for leaving people out whose work is brilliant. However. Adam Marek is usually up there somewhere, as is Kevin Barry. There’s A L Kennedy, Ali Smith, David Constantine – and have you read Posthumous Stories by David Rose? Fantastic.

  • Do you have an all time favourite short story or shortstory writer?

Yes – I do love The Ledge by Lawrence Sargent Hall. Written in the 1960’s, it is very moving, tough, beautiful, thought provoking and timeless. 

You may (or may not) like these links, I read the story in two parts, with the odd break for a chat  – for Steve Wasserman’s ‘Read Me Something You Love’. Part one and part two.

  • What tip can you give our 2016 competition entrants to help their stories stand out from the crowd?

This can’t be answered simply, and there are no quick fixes, I’m afraid. If you are a reader for a competition and have a few hundred stories to read, there has to be a potent mix of craft skills working in synch for you to notice a story for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

All a writer can really do is learn the craft well, then forget it, and just tell a brilliant story. It does not have to be the ‘bells and whistles’ sort – quiet will do – but write your heart out onto the page, write the story you can’t not write – and keep your fingers crossed. 

And if, as happened to mine many times, your stories don’t make it – roll with the punches. Writing is not an exact science. Learn to accept the knocks along the way, and never, ever give up. 

Having given a sermon – for this reader, a distinctive voice combined with great characterisation makes a piece stand out fast…

COMPRESSED FEST: Saturday at the London Short Story Fest June 18-21, 2015


Paul McVeigh in action

How to enjoy the London Short Story Festival? The novel approach – a full 3 days to linger in Waterstones Piccadilly, flitting between five floors to drop into c. 27 events, browse books and enjoy  meals in a choice of cafes.  Or go short story: compressed, intense – 6 events in 10 hours. The  Jude and  Jane way.

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Just Published! Joanna Campbell BSSA local prizewinner in 2013


JC_portraitCongratulations to Joanna Campbell, our local prizewinner in 2013 with the poignant ‘Fragments Left behind.’ Her debut novel ‘Tying Down the Lion’ has just been published by Brick Lane and she will be at Waterstones, Bath at 6.30 pm on July 9th for the launch.

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Emily Bullock’s novel launched

Now launched by Myriad Press, Emily Bullock’s debut novel, ‘The Longest Fight’

A book to buy! The BSSA team is getting one.  And if you’re quick you might win a pre-publication copy. (see below) We love Emily’s compelling short story Zoom, which is published in our 2014 Bath Short Story Award anthology  (Buy now from this site for £5.00)

“Myriad’s first publication of 2015 is Emily Bullock‘s debut novel, The Longest Fight, a beautiful and brutal story set in the gritty world of 1950s boxing. Throughout January, Goodreads are offering readers the chance to win one of ten exclusive, pre-publication copies of the novel. Bestselling Writing magazine has published a profile interview with Emily in their latest issue where she offers her ‘top tips’ for writers and discusses her journey to publication, as well as the challenges of writing her novel as part of her PhD.”

Emily won the 2011 Bristol Short Story Prize with her story My Girl, which was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She worked in film before pursuing writing full time. Her memoir piece No One Plays Boxing was shortlisted for the Fish International Publishing Prize 2013 and her short story Zoom was longlisted for our 2014 award.  She also won the National Writers in Education Conference (NAWE) Short Story Competition in 2013. She has a Creative Writing MA from the University of East Anglia and completed her PhD at the Open University, where she also teaches Creative Writing.




Publication for BSSA anthology authors

It’s so inspiring when authors are successful in several different fictional forms.  In December 2014, we announced that our 2014  second prize winner, Kit de Waal secured a three book deal with Viking beginning with  her novel, ‘My Name is Leon’.

This week, we learned that Anne-Marie Neary, whose short story’ Gon-Do-La’ is also published in our 2014 Bath Short Story Award Anthology, and who read at our 2014 anthology launch at Mr B’s bookshop back in November, has secured a deal with Hutchinson for her novel ‘Siren’, which will be published in spring 2016. Another of her novels will be published in 2017. Senior editor from Hutchinson, Emma Mitchell says of ‘Siren’, ” This brilliant novel grabbed me right from the dramatic opening scene. Anne-Marie is an outstanding story teller and builds the tension, page after page to an an exhilarating denouement. ‘I’m delighted to have her for the Hutchinson list”.

Both Anne-Marie and Kit have  won awards for short and longer fiction and there’s further inspiration  from authors on the Interview page on this site.  We interviewed the wonderful award winning novelist and short story writer Antony Doerr in March 2013. His novel, ‘All the Light We Cannot See’, published in May 2014 in the US,  was an instant New York Times best seller and one of four finalists in the US National Book Awards. It’s one of Jude’s current recommended  novel reads and her interview with Antony Doerr is back at the top of our interview page on this site  There’s some great advice for short story writers in this interview, particularly on final edits.



2015 success for our 2014 BSSA winners

It’s only the beginning of January and Kit de Waal our second prize winner in the 2014 Bath Short Story Award, who we interviewed last month has won second prize in The Bare Fiction Prize from Bare Fiction Magazine www.barefictionmagazine.co.uk/competitions/results/ for her Flash Fiction story, “I am the Painter’s Daughter”. Anne Corlett, our local prize winner in BSSA 2014, has won third prize in the short story category of the same competition with her story ‘Clay Baby’.  Many congratulations to both writers.   You are an inspiration!

You can buy the 2014 BSSA anthoogy containing the stories by Kit and Anne and  eighteen other winning stories here

The anthologies are also available at Mr B’s Emporium Bath, and Toppings Bookshop Bath. In Bristol they are at Durdham Down Bookshop, North View, Bristol and in Frome they are at Hunting Raven Bookshop.

More wins and success for our anthology writers

Many congratulations to the following writers, published in our 2014 anthology, who have had further 2014 writing successes since our results were announced in June.  We may not have everyone listed here – so writers, do let us know your news.

Kit de Waal  our  2014 second prize winner for her story ‘A Beautiful Thing’,  won the 2014 Bridport Flash Fiction competition with her story ‘Romans Chapter 1, Verse 29’,  her work, ‘Blue in Green’ won the Reader’s Choice Prize in the Sl Leeds Literary Prize 2014 and her  debut novel, ‘My Name Is Leon,’ is to be published by Viking after a recent 6-way bidding auction.

Roisin O’Donnell  one of the commended writers in the 2014 Award,  was shortlisted in the Wasafiri New Writing Prize for her story ‘Infinite Landscapes’  and her first published poem ‘The Lighthouse Keeper to his Daughter’ has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Structo Magazine.

Sophie Hampton,  shortlisted for her story ‘Ghost Bike’ in our award,  was also  shortlisted for her story ‘The Tower’ in the  Bristol Prize 2014. This story is published in Bristol Prize  2014 anthology.

Ken Elkes’s  longlisted story ‘Greta Garbo and the Chrysanthemum Man’ is published in our anthology. He also  won the Prolitzer Prize 2014 for his short story ‘Anyplace Is Paradise’.  He was a winner in the Aestthetica Creative Writing Compeition 2014 and was first prize winner in the 2014 Brighter Writers’ flash fiction competition  He was also shortlisted for another story in this same competition, received an honourable mention in the 2014 Yeovil Short Story Prize and was shortlisted in the Exeter Short Story Prize 2014

Anne-Marie Neary’s longlisted story ‘Gon-Do-La’  is published in our anthology. Her story ‘Upstairs’ won the 2014 Michael Mclavety Award, her story ‘Remote Control’ was one of four runners-up in the 2014 Sean O’Faolain short story competition and will be published in the Winter 2014 edition of Southword. Her story,  ‘One Day In Sarajevo’ was one of three finalists in the inaugural KWS Hilary Mantel short story competition 2014, judged by Hilary Mantel and organised by Kingston Writing School.