Haleh Agar is a writer whose work has been published widely in literary journals and magazines including Mslexia, The London Magazine, Flash: The International Short: Short Story Magazine and Brighton Prize. She has recently won two literary prizes including the Brighton Prize and the London Magazine prize for her essay ‘On Writing Ethnic Stories’ She is represented by Darley Anderson Agency for her debut novel OUR FATHER.
Haleh is running a workshop on ‘The representation of People of Colour (PoC) in Fiction and Characterisation’ at the forthcoming Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol 20th -22nd July. A useful workshop for writers of any level and any genre who would like to work on characterisation and explore current issues on PoC in publishing. Booking for the festival closes on July 6th. We recommend taking a look on the site, linked above, to find out more details about Haleh’s workshop on this important subject, plus all the other workshops and events on offer. Continue reading
There are just eleven days to go before our £1750 prize fund award closes at midnight BST on Monday 23rd April. If you are thinking of entering your up to 2200 word story, check the following and make your story stand out from the crowd.
Think about your title. In 2015, Clarke’s World, one of the great SF/F literary magazines, reached 50,000 submissions and editor Neil Clarke decided to run an analysis to see what the most common titles were. Here are the fifteen titles which were most frequently submitted to the magazine:
Dust, The Gift, Home, Hunger, Homecoming,The Box, Monsters, Lost and Found, Sacrifice,The Hunt, Flight, Heartless, The End, Alone, Legacy
A post on Electric Literature referring to this article is worth a read.
We’ve also seen many stories with these titles and similar ones in all the six years of the competition. And we’ve read a few very good stories with such titles, which have been long or short-listed– but if you want to draw those first readers in, find a more arresting one that adds a further level to your piece.
You can also look at how your title relates to the first paragraph of your story. The beginning of the 2017 winning story by Kathy Stevens, pictured here, is a good example of this. The first paragraph complements the title and suggests the different personalities in the family and the conflicts between them. This whole first page shows a character with a strong voice who makes funny and astute observations.The voice and the humour were some of the things our short story judge, Euan Thorneycroft, who is judging again this year, particularly liked about the story. Nothing is wasted in this opening. We are straight into the situation at home and want to know what happens next.
Finally, is your story balanced? Does the ending balance the beginning, so that it ties up in a satisfying way. Satisfying does not usually mean a neat ending. In Kathy’s story, we don’t know exactly what will happen to the character after the end line, but the ending provokes further questions which are connected to the family dynamic that is set up at the beginning.
Remember to check the rules for the competition as a last thing. We always receive entries with the author’s name on the piece which means immediate disqualification as stories are judged anonymously. We always receive entries that are hundreds or even thousands of words too long.
We appreciate everyone who enters and supports the Award. Our filter readers are already on the case and are enjoying reading through the first batches. Good luck to all.
BSSA team member, Jude Higgins, April 12th 2018.
Anne O’Brien won first prize in the 2016 Bath Short Story Award judged by Radio 4 Bristol producer, Mair Bosworth. You can read Anne’s winning story, ‘Feather Your Nest’ in our 2016 BSSA anthology available to buy here. We’ve just heard the fantastic news that another of her stories, Taking Flight, has been translated into Vietnamese by award winning writer and translator Nguyen Phan Que Mai and is the title story of this anthology, which in Vietnamese is Bay Len. Other translated writers in the book include Margaret Atwood, Sara Maitland and Junot Diaz and also Helen Rye, whose story ‘One in Twenty-Three’ won the Bath Flash Fiction Award in October, 2016. All proceeds from the book will go to support the education of poor children in Vietnam.
Anne said her 2016 first prize BSSA win was a real turning point for her ” I’ll never forget the phone call and shouting out ‘but I never win!’ Reading in Mr. B’s and seeing my story in such a beautiful book was an endorsement like no other. I had a a lovely evening with the BSSA team and others whose stories appear in the same anthology. It was the first time I felt what it was like to be a writer among writers! I began to believe that perhaps people would want to read my stories. Since then I’ve had a number of long/shortlistings, I also came second in the 2016 London Magazine Short Story Competition and they published my story in June, 2017. I have been chosen as February 2018’s Hennessy New Irish Writer and Who Is The Fairest Of Them All was published in The Irish Times a few weeks ago. I also have some more good news on the way but I’m not allowed say anything about that yet.”
We look forward to hearing about Anne’s next success!
The 2018 BSSA short story award for short stories up to 2200 words closes for entries on 23rd April. The first prize is now £1200. Do enter. Who knows what might happen next?
Have you written a short story draft for our 2018 BSSA Award? It closes on 23rd April so there is still time to stand back and ask yourself some questions about it. We suggest you ponder this quote from an article by short story writer and novelist Tessa Hadley first published last year. Read the whole article and also search on the internet for the many other articles on the short story she has written. Her advice is invaluable.
‘Think about intensity – you only have a small amount of space, so you mustn’t waste it. You need to pick on something really burning. Even if you’re writing a simple story without any big revelations, you have to have a point. It has to mean something. It has to add up to something.
Sometimes I do read apprentice writers and I think it’s all very vivid with lovely sentences, but why are you telling it us, what are we to take away? You should be telling the story for a reason. It should reveal something to the reader, who will think, yes, that’s how things are, and it will feel like a surprise.’
Another tip from the BSSA team — don’t forget that you need a good title to help suggest what your story is about. it doesn’t have to be fancy –‘Rob Roy’ is probably the one simple title in this dated selection that has lasted the course. But your title does need to relate strongly to the story. And if it gains the interest of an initial reader you’ve made the first step towards being a winner.
Amazingly, two of our BSSA 2017 Award short-listed writers, Bridgitte Cummings who wrote ‘Hollow’ and Mara Blazic who wrote ‘Bionic girl’, live in Adelaide, Australia. While we struggled at the end of winter in the UK with a plunge in temperatures and the biggest snow fall for years, the temperature in Adelaide soared to over 45 degrees in January, the end of their summer. As soon as it was slightly cooler Mara and Bridgitte met up, took some photographs with the anthology and compared notes. Mara summarises their meeting —
“Adelaide is the driest city in the driest state in the driest continent on earth. So where else to meet but the beach! We had coffee where Geoffrey Rush filmed one of his scenes for the Oscar-winning ‘Shine’. We caught up on a) our writing projects: Bridgitte’s written her first novel, Mara hasn’t b) Adelaide: Bridgitte’s been living in Adelaide for a few years, Mara’s been living here too long and c) hair: Bridgitte’s been to the stylist for this photo-shoot and Mara’s wishing she had too”
To read Mara and Bridgitte’s short stories you can buy our 2017 anthology here. There’s six weeks left to complete a story of up to 2200 for the 2018 Award which closes at midnight on 23rd April. Enter here.
Stories from writers from around the globe in all genres and on all subjects and themes are welcome — climate change could be one of them
Its Shrove Tuesday, today, 13th February, 2018. The day is also known in many countries as Pancake Tuesday, or Pancake Day and is the day in February or March immediately preceeding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent). It’s celebrated in some countries by eating pancakes and is a carnival day — Mardi Gras — in other countries. You could use any of these facts as prompts for a short story. People feasting, people partying, people preparing for a long fast. Conflict, gluttony, celebration can all play their part. Anton Chekhov wrote a story called Shrove Tuesday, so you would be following the example of a master of the short story form.
This year’s Bath Short Story Award with its £1200 first prize ends 23rd April. So plenty of time to cook up your up to 2200 word short story, and toss it around a bit before its ready.
February 6th 1918 is the centenary of the first votes for women in the UK, though only women over the age of 30 who owned property were entitled to vote. It wasn’t until 1928 that the voting rights men enjoyed were extended to all women over 21. Even so, stories of the suffragettes who had been campaigning for almost 50 years (the first campaigns were in 1866) have become legendary and their names resonate today. Unsurprisingly, it was the Daily Mail (no doubt in derisory tones) who first called them suffragettes. The most well-known include the Emmeline Pankhurst, and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, who formed the Workers Social and Political Union and Emily Davison who died for the cause by throwing herself under the king’s horse at the Derby.
Today, Helen Pankhurst, Emmeline’s great-granddaughter is still campaigning for women’s rights. Lots of buzz on Twitter today so follow #Votes100 and be inspired to fight – and write. We’d love some stories on a political theme? Historical or contemporary setting, the choice is yours? Up to 2200 words by April 23rd
January 25th is the perfect excuse to ditch Dry January and raise a toast to Robert Burns, Scotland’s most celebrated poet. Born in 1759, the poet’s short life, till his death at 37, is immortalised in his verse: the robust, heartfelt rhythms in his local language and dialect that inspired the great Romantic poets Shelley, Coleridge and Wordsworth. Not just a poet, he was a covert radical and thought to be a supporter of the French Revolution. He clearly advocated freedom of the press when, in 1792, he challenged a royal proclamation banning seditious literature:
‘Here’s freedom to him that wad read
Here’s freedom to him that wad write!
There’s nane ever feared that the Truth should be heard
But they who the Truth wad indite.’ (From ‘Here’s a Health to Them That’s Awa”)
So, on Burns’ Night, do indulge in a dram or two of usquebae, tuck into a steaming haggis or the vegan alternative, but also read or, better still, listen to a recording of his mesmerising verse and be inspired to write.
We asked some of our favourite authors to tweet either a writing tip or a starting point for a story on a Burns’ Night theme and received responses from the celebrated Scottish writers Val McDermid
and, from this side of Hadrian’s wall, Sarah Hilary
Dark skulduggery, demonic ritual, mystery, pure romance or political intrigue? Lots of ideas to get you going, so a huge thank you to our inspirational authors, some of whom have new books out (please check out their websites). We’re looking for stories on any theme or genre, up to 2,200 words, by April 23rd. Just brilliant writing please. By the way, we’d be interested to know if you use our starters – though, please make sure you don’t identify the title of your story with your name.