Tag Archives: Blake Friedmann

Judges’ Report, BSSA 2019

Comments from our 2019 BSSA judge, Samuel Hodder from Blake Friedmann literary Agency.

Judging this year’s shortlist has been a joy – the hardest part was to accept that I couldn’t give a ‘Highly Commended’ to more entries. Within the constraints of just a few pages, these stories succeeded in drawing the reader into their worlds and making them care for characters they only had just encountered. So many of the stories were deeply moving or poignant. What struck me most of all was the inventiveness of the stories, whether in their structure, their voices, or in the wonderful range of vivid imagery. A girl suspended in mid-air, survivors healing through song in a candlelit chapel, two streetlamps leaning into each other, in love in the twilight. These were images that remained with me long after reading.

A GAP SHAPED LIKE THE MISSING (First Prize)
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.

MURMURATION (Second Prize)
A tense and brooding study of alienation and anxiety, portraying a man trying and failing to navigate an unexpected crisis in his marriage. It’s deeply atmospheric – a triumph as a mood piece – but also brimming with tension, and the shock of the revelation is expertly handled. The ways in which this story shows us the character’s coping strategies, in a situation he is ill-equipped to manage, is deeply moving, and the description of landscape and weather artfully builds our understanding of his inner world.

FOR SOME TIME NOW (Third Prize)
One of the most formally inventive stories on the shortlist and also one of the most rewarding – as the pieces fall into place the story builds and builds to deliver a powerful emotional punch. The story is successful at convincingly representing mental illness, capturing its language and disorientation, while sustaining the reader’s empathy for the character, which is no easy task. An original, thought-provoking and deeply humane story.

THE STEPWELL (Highly commended)
A kaleidoscopic story centred upon a brief intimacy between two boys, during a period of great upheaval in India. With remarkable economy it successfully interweaves the personal with the political, interlacing the narrator’s feelings for his new friend with a portrayal of his family, his community, and his country at a historic time. It’s alternately dreamlike and matter-of-fact, sensual and confronting, poignant but not sentimental. A deeply evocative story of desire across social fractures. 

SADNESS (Highly commended)
One of the greatest achievements of any fiction is to inspire and extend readers’ empathy and reading SADNESS might do more to make the reader consider their own meat-eating than a hundred newspaper articles. Not only the narrator but also the ‘character’ of the doomed cow are brought powerfully, briefly, to life. An affecting, controlled, elegantly written story that, despite being just a few pages long, lingered in my mind for days afterwards.

Comments on the Local Prize and Acorn Prize winner from BSSA team.

Local Prize Winner
BREAST PLUCKER

What happens when you don’t conform to the norms of the society in which you live? Discrimination and violence in Uganda combined with the brutal questioning of a home office official make a powerful story about Gamisha/Aaron, a young trans person, trying to find a life path. We were drawn to this story because of the compelling theme and, at times, strong lyrical writing.

Acorn Award for an Unpublished Writer of Fiction
JUNGLE

Life is tough in the ‘jungle’ at Calais. ‘So many men,’ says the young female volunteer as she mulls over how to record her impressions on Facebook. This story explores the refugee crisis from a fresh angle and what impressed us most was the lack of sentimentality and unstinting honesty of the writing.

Shortlist BSSA 2019

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
Title Author
A Drinker’s Face Karen Jones
A Gap Shaped Like The Missing Caroline Ward Vine
At The Very Top Of The World Peter Jordan
Beautiful Things Kate Vine
Breast Plucker Tannith Perry
Circling The Chicken Vijay Khurana
Every Ninety Seconds Rupert Dastur
Fish Face LM Black
For Some Time Now Derek Routledge
Goya In The Deaf Man’s House Dan Coxon
Grandmas Perfume Dave Wakely
Indian Summer Karen Ashe
Joyriders Chloe Wilson
Jungle Lucy Emma
Murmuration Christina Sanders
Sadness Bruce meyer
Silver Foil Eleni Polychronakos
The Armchairs Flora Neville
The Stepwell Melody Razak
The Sweet Business Mary Griese

Longlist, Bath Short Story Award 2019

2019 Bath Short Story Award Long List
Title Author
5 Things I Can See Melanie Jones
A Drinker’s Face Karen Jones
A Gap Shaped Like The Missing Caroline Ward Vine
A Little Cloud AJ Black
At The Very Top Of The World Peter Jordan
Beautiful Things Kate Vine
Because We Are Weak KL Jefford
Bellissima Emlyn Williams
Blue Reflective Andrew Bartlett
Boxing Like Butterflies Jan Kaneen
Breast Plucker Tannith Perry
Candie Klosse, Chuckie, Wolf And Me Joyce Wheatley
Circling The Chicken Vijay Khurana
Even The Silence Keren Heenan
Every Ninety Seconds Rupert Dastur
Everybody Wants Baby Girls KL Jefford
Everything But The Squeal Trasie Sands
Exposure Nicola Borasinski
Face It Val Bodurtha
Fish Face LM Black
For A Patient Julie Rea
For Some Time Now Derek Routledge
Goya In The Deaf Man’s House Dan Coxon
Grandmas Perfume Dave Wakely
How Megan Taylor
Hungry Roads Maire Malone
I Just Like Visiting Museums Derek Routledge
I Told You So Tamsin Cottis
In The Name Of Andrew Haysey
Indian Summer Karen Ashe
It’s A Trap Tomas Furby
Joyriders Chloe Wilson
Jungle Lucy Emma
Kirabiti Claire Griffiths
Legacy David Butler
Les Nuits D’été Rebecca May
Limbo Emily Sharma
Meet Me At The Rendezvous Café Elena Stephenson
Mrs Da Costa Takes It For The Team Nicola Catton
Murmuration Christina Sanders
Nevermind Julie Evans
October 1961 Emma Roussel
Of Salt And The Raw Flesh Of Fish L. Van Rensburg
Only Connect Lisa Phillips
Opening Night Katie Young
Picking Through The Bones Clare Howdle
Pockets Lucie McKnight Hardy
Sadness Bruce Meyer
Said The Monster Rob Johnston
Salacia Fiona Sherlock
Saver Girl Guy Mitchell
Secrets Mona Dash
Side Order Alec Hutchinson
Silent Witness Graham Sillett
Silver Foil Eleni Polychronakos
Slip In Time Natalie Smith
Snowdrops Cathy Lennon
Strawberry Picking Stephen Gibbin
The Armchairs Flora Neville
The Barrier Alex Osborne
The Butcher Of Bakewell Rupert Dastur
The Cubby House Terri Armstrong
The Electric Historian Hazel Osmond
The Hunting Of The Masu’wa Sam Derby
The Jaws Of The Wolf Nick Petty
The Jinn Sagnik Datta
The Listening Grandmothers Katie Lawrance
The Orchard Stephen Gibbin
The Priest’s Daughter Jo Tiddy
The Road Trip Anne Manson
The Stepwell Melody Razak
The Sweet Business Mary Griese
The Untelling Of Suzie Mckellar Julie Martis
Tina Jonathan Saint
To The Sea Laura Church
Trust Fall Adam Seccombe
Underneath The Lightning Tree Ray Cluley
Up In The Air – A Story Of Snot And Grazed Knees Benny Allen
Water And Oil Anneliese Schultz
What Next Jenny Firth Cozens

Interview with Samuel Hodder, 2019 Judge

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).

Interview

  • 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!