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.
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.
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.
Our seventh yearly international Short Story Award is open now for international entries and closes on April 20th 2020 at midnight BST.
This year, we’re delighted to welcome literary agent Kate Johnson from Mackenzie Wolf Literary Agency as our short list judge. Read our interview with her and find out about the sort of stories she is looking for.
We have five prizes: First prize, £1200; second prize, £300; third prize £100, The Acorn Award for a unpublished writer of fiction, £100;
and £50 in book tokens from Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath.
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
|A Drinker’s Face
|A Gap Shaped Like The Missing
||Caroline Ward Vine
|At The Very Top Of The World
|Circling The Chicken
|Every Ninety Seconds
|For Some Time Now
|Goya In The Deaf Man’s House
|The Sweet Business
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
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.