The Power of Three

Just three weeks to go until our £1750 prize fund Award closes on April 20th.

Unsurprisingly, many people say it’s hard to write at the moment. But if you want to give the competition a go, you might try another tip by award-winning writer and writing tutor Mary- Jane Holmes, who we also quoted in another post on this site recently and write in a fairy tale, mythological or surreal style. Sometimes it is easier to write about important themes at a slant. And because you often have the structure of such myths and tales imbedded in your psyche, the words can flow without effort.

Maybe you can begin a first draft with ‘Once Upon A Time…’ and use fairy tale or mythological characters or write a modern version of a classic story. Fairy stories often have three parts to them and three main characters, cf ‘Goldilocks’, ‘The Three Little Pigs’ or the three sisters in ‘Beauty and the Beast’. We’d also be interested to read stories based on fairy tales from other cultures. We suspect such tales follow a similar pattern.

We found the quote below recently and thought it was interesting. You might agree?

The rule of three or power of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. The reader or audience of this form of text is also thereby more likely to remember the information.”

So why not try writing in this form? Our initial readers love a memorable story and you may hit the bull’s eye and win one of our prizes.

Relax, Write, Read and Vote

Just four weeks to go until our 2020 Award closes on Monday, April 20th. Now spring has come and the sun is out, perhaps it is possible to relax a bit in these current very stressful times, and write or edit a story. There’s still time. A way to find out if your own story works is, of course, to read other short stories. One place to begin is with our own anthologies and collections by writers who have won prizes with us.

Chloe Turner won the local BSSA prize in both 2017 and 2018 with her stories, ‘Breaking the Glassblower’s Heart’ and ‘Witches Sail in Eggshells’. Her short story collection also titled Witches Sail in Eggshells was published by Reflex Press in 2019.

KM Elkes won the local BSSA prize in 2015 with his story ‘Three Kings’ and was shortlisted in 2014 with his story ‘Greta Garbo and the Chrysanthenmum Man’, published in the anthology Bath Short Story Award, Vol 3. Ken also writes very short fiction and his acclaimed collection of flash fiction, All That Is Between Us was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in June 2019.

Both these books are great reads as are our BSSA anthologies. You can buy the 2019 and 2018 anthologies from our publisher, Ad Hoc Fiction’s online bookshop and via Amazon in ebook form on Kindle. And you can buy anthologies from previous years from this website at bargain prices.

And if you want to support us, our writers and our publisher, you might like to vote for them in the Saboteur Awards. Public voting for the longlists is open in several different categories until April 6th. Both Ken and Chloe qualify for the best short story collection category, so you will have to choose one of them! The 2019 BSSA anthology qualifies for the best anthology category and our publisher Ad Hoc Fiction qualifies for the most innovative publisher category. Voting closes on April 6th and we’ve linked the voting form here.. We would love your support and so would these writers. We all need a boost at the moment.

Words Count

In these challenging times, for our eighth yearly award ending on April 20th, we welcome stories on all themes and subjects from the personal to the political, historical to contemporary, real or surreal. And we also invite you to send us stories with heart. They might not be light-hearted, but we love to read anything that resonates deeply and moves us. Your words count.

Our limit for the BSSA Award has always been 2200 words. A story this length takes about ten minutes to read out loud. And we think this is probably about the maximum length that people listening in a public arena can manage to concentrate on. Of course, you don’t have to write to the limit. Some of the stories that have been among the winners and short listed over the years have been much shorter than that. There is no lower limit. Although if you want to write a very short piece (300 words or less) it’s best to enter The Bath Flash Fiction Award, run by one of our team members, Jude Higgins.

To think about how to tighten your story in order to bring out its energy and subtle layers in a short space, this list of tips for writing short-short (or flash) fiction,from award winning poet,flash fiction writer, and writing tutor Mary-Jane Holmes, current judge of the Bath Flash Fiction Award, is very useful for all writers of short fiction.

Zoom in on a single event;
Begin in the middle of the action as close to the arc or climax of the story;
Decide where your focus is – event, point-of-view, character?;
Write using active voice and eliminate extraneous description;
Remember that every word counts;
Use a directive last sentence that gives narrative insight or opinion;
Make rereads necessary or at least inviting;
Close with a phrase that sends the reader back into the story;
Know when you’ve made your point.

SIX WEEKS TO GO

ISOLATION

2020 has been a checklist for global disasters: political; environmental, with bush fires and flooding and now a potential pandemic with new cases of Coronavirus or Covid-19 announced daily. Apart from the bizarre stories of stockpiling loo roll, we hear about people self-isolating and, in the case of the state of Lombardy, an entire Italian province under potential lockdown.
What must it be like to be removed or remove oneself from the world?

When I was a teenager, one of my favourite poems was Tennyson’s ‘Lady of Shallot’.  The hypnotic  rhythm of the verses as well  as the choice and placing of words build up to create the horror of her predicament. She must not look out of the window so has to view the outside world through a mirror.

There she weaves by  night and day/ A magic web with colours gay.

She has heard a whisper say/ A curse is on her if she stay

To look down to Camelot.’

She also has no idea what the curse might be ‘And so she weaveth steadily.’  This builds up to delicious, dramatic climax when ‘half-sick of shadows’ she leaves the tower and island where she has been imprisoned by the curse. You might also recognise her from the paintings of John Waterhouse and other pre-Raphaelites (see above).

This photo was taken in Marrakech a few years ago and made me wonder who might have once sat in the gloomy interior looking out onto a sunny tiled courtyard and, directly opposite, another dark room. Perhaps the room was a refuge from the searing sun? Or something else?

If you need inspiration for your story, think about isolation as a theme or use a poem, a painting or one of your own photos as a starting point. Your story (up to 2200 words) can be on any theme or genre but must reach us by midnight on Monday, April 20th. So get writing!

 

 

 

 

Seven Weeks To Go!


How are your stories coming on? Do you need to jump in and start writing or are you on the umpteenth draft? There are seven weeks to go until the deadline of our eighth yearly Award on Monday April 20th. Our judge this year is Kate Johnson from Mackenzie Wolf Literary Agency.

You still have time to write a new story or polish up an existing one and enter.
This picture of turtles taken in the Yves St. Laurent garden in Marrakech might prompt a new story. Perhaps a different angle on mothers and babies, perhaps a story in an interesting location. Perhaps a story actually involving turtles.
We’re looking forward to reading all your entries, almost as much as we’re hoping that we’ve seen the last of the recent spate of storms. But stormy stories are welcome, as well as quiet ones.

Q & A with Caroline Ward Vine, 1st prize winner, BSSA 2019

Caroline Ward-Vine

It’s just under three months until the Bath Short Story Award, 2020 closes on April 20th, 2020. To give you the impetus to finish that story or write a new one for our eighth yearly Award, here’s an interview with last year’s winner, Caroline Ward Vine. It was wonderful that Caroline was able to come and read at our 2019 Book launch last November at Mr B’s Emporium of Books in Bath. You can buy the anthology there and it is also available in a paperback from Ad Hoc Fiction, our publisher’s online bookshop in several different currencies and as an ebook from Amazon on Kindle.

Last year’s judge, Samuel Hodder said this about Caroline’s winning story ‘A Gap Shaped Like the Missing’:
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.

In our interview Caroline tells us how the story came into being and more about her other successes and writing process.

  • Can you tell us how your marvellous winning story ‘A Gap Shaped Like The Missing’ came into being? And how did you arrive at the title?
    It began as a fragment of description, written a few months after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. At the time, I sang with a community gospel choir; everyone had their place to stand, according to the part they sang. I was thinking about music in the aftermath of disaster and had the idea of a choir, gaps yawning in the rows where people had been lost. The image haunted me, but it took ten years to discover the story it was meant to be. Bizarrely, I struggled to find the right title; I tried several. It was only as I was giving the story a last read-through before submitting that the words jumped out at me from the text. I had described ‘gaps, shaped like the missing’ in the fragment I had first written. I now can’t imagine the story being called anything else.

    Caroline receiving her Costa Award

  • In 2018, you also won the Costa Short Story prize and were shortlisted for other major prizes. What is it that you most enjoy about writing short stores?
    I love the precision of the short story: its clean lines. The way in which a single phrase or image can capture a whole world. I have a natural tendency to waffle and always have to edit massively, so when I manage to chip away all that’s unnecessary and reveal that gem of simplicity, it gives me real joy. Short stories are also a wonderful way for a writer to try walking in the shoes of others; to inhabit worlds, points of view that might be difficult to sustain across a novel
  • Our judge Samuel Hodder said your character, ‘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.’ Do you think creating a strong voice and sense of place is a characteristic of your writing style?
    I think perhaps it is. Voice, certainly. Until that’s right, for me the story isn’t, and it’s often a strong voice that inspires the story itself. The point about place is interesting. I rarely describe characters in great detail, or even have more than a vague sense myself of what they look like, which probably flies in the face of most ‘how to write character’ tutorials. But I know exactly what space they occupy; what they see, even if the location is anonymous and less intrinsic to the story than in A Gap Shaped Like the Missing. So that may be right!
  • I know you are also writing a novel. Can you tell us how that is progressing and what it is about? (If that’s not under wraps).
    I’ve just finished the first draft. True to form, I’ve written long and now have tens of thousands of words to cut, but there I’m back in familiar territory. I’d rather not say too much about it at this early stage, but it has dual narratives, one in contemporary London, the other set in the Second World War, in the Far East.
  • Any other writing projects on the go this year?
    I’m planning a novel woven from interlinked short stories, set in a seaside town. There will no doubt be other short stories, as and when inspiration hits.
  • There are still three months before the 2020 BSSA Award closes in mid April. What advice would you give a prospective entrant at this stage?
    First of all, start soon if you can. In my experience, the more time you can give a new story to settle, the better. As you live with it, what is important and what less so becomes clear. You can play with the dials: turn up the volume here, tone down the jarring, cut the superfluous. If, like me, you naturally write longer than the 2200 limit, why not try a ruthless edit of that 3-4000 word story? You may just find the lean, pared-down core is a thing of beauty.

Above all, be brave, go for it, and good luck!

Q & A with BSSA team member, Jude, January, 2020.

BSSA 2019 Anthology launched!

The BSSA organisers Anna Schlesinger, Jane Riekemann and Jude Higgins were delighted to launch BSSA 2019, last night, 18th November at the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath. Nine of the twenty writers published in the anthology were able to come and read extracts from their stories to a large crowd of guests. It was wonderful to hear the story extracts come to life in the voice of the writers. For the first time, authors of the first, second and third prize stories were able to attend as well as the winner of the Acorn Award for an unpublished writer of fiction and those four writers as well as the five other shortlisted writers travelled from all over the UK to be with us. You can buy your copy from our publisher Ad Hoc Fiction and if you are in Bath, at Mr B’s.
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2020 Judge

Kate Johnson from the Mackenzie Wolf Literary Agency represents authors in both the US and the UK. Kate was previously an agent and Vice President at Georges Borchardt, Inc. She has edited and reported at StoryQuarterly, Bookslut.com, New York magazine, and elsewhere, and graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Her authors have won the PEN Faulkner Award, Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, Whiting Award, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize for Fiction, National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, Whitbread Award, the Nigeria Prize for Literature, and have been longlisted for the National Book Award in nonfiction and the PEN Open Book Award. Kate regularly visits literary festivals, courses, and events, and has chaired the judging panel for the Bristol Short Story Prize.

Kate represents literary and upmarket / book club fiction as well as a range of narrative nonfiction, with interest in food, running, feminism, obsessives, unconventional families, social history, art, travel and international stories, mental health, medicine, and the environment. She loves working with journalists. Across all her projects, she looks for authentic voices and books that uncover something off-kilter in the everyday, or conversely something relatable in the extraordinary. Kate handles contemporary, realistic YA on occasion.
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BSSA 2020 Results Out By August

Our seventh yearly international Short Story Award closed on April 20th 2020. The longlist is now announced and the shortlist will be posted on Tuesday 14th July. Our judge this year is literary agent Kate Johnson from Mackenzie Wolf Literary Agency She will choose the three winners and commended writers and final results will be out by mid August.
First prize, £1200; second prize, £300; third prize £100.

We have two further prizes, The Acorn Award for a unpublished writer of fiction, £100;
and the local prize, £50 in book tokens from Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath.
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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. Continue reading