Tag Archives: short stories

Toss out a story for Pancake Day

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.

 

Interview with Kathy Stevens — BSSA 2017 1st Prize Winner

We’ve more inspiration for would-be entrants to BSSA 2018 in Jude’s interview here with our first prize winner from the 2017 Award, Kathy Stevens, who was also commended in BSSA 2016 with her story, ‘A Marriage of Convenience’. Kathy is currently writing a series of linked short-stories and we hope the recent announcement from The Bookseller, that there is a boom in short-story collection sales, will mean that we get to read a published collection of her work soon. Judge Euan Thorneycroft from A M Heath. who is also this year’s judge, said of Kathy’s story:

I loved this story from the word go. Both funny and heart-breaking. We are immediately grabbed by the unique voice of Elsie, a teenager with unspecified personal problems (although this point is never laboured), and who reveals her acerbic family dynamics through frank observations.”

Please also take note of Kathy’s writing tip about biting the bullet and submitting your work. It certainly worked for her.

Interview

Jude: Can you tell us how your wonderful first prize winning Story  ‘This is All Mostly True’ came into being? 

Kathy at the our 2017 launch in November at Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath

Kathy: One of my tutors at UEA had spoken about how giving young characters a ‘fixation’ – music, sport, anything  — can help to bring them to life. I’ve never been very good at plots. I prefer to let character control story, which works well in the shorter fiction forms but explains why I’ve never finished a novel. I started with the zombie film idea, and Elsie grew from that. It seemed natural for Elsie to have inherited the zombie film interest from someone else, and it made sense to use the movies to bridge the gap between her and her father. Elsie’s mother has her own ways to relax; she has friends and a social life and enjoys alcohol. Of course, none of this really involves her daughter.

People’s fixations can often be a way to anchor themselves. Obsessing about something apparently trivial can help to quieten a world which doesn’t make sense

Jude: You have recently completed an MA in Creative Writing  at the prestigious University of East Anglia, as the inaugural recipient of a Kowitz scholarship. Can you tell us what is was like studying creative writing there?

Kathy: It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’d strongly recommend studying Creative Writing, and UEA. The course was only a few months long, but I’ve met some friends for life there, and become a far better writer than I was when I started.

Kathy reading an extract from her story, ‘This is All Mostly True’ at our November 2017 anthology launch

It’s quite bizarre, going from a soul-destroying minimum-wage job, to a classroom full of adults who write their own fiction and take yours seriously. The tutors were all brilliant and all very different. The students came from every continent, age group, and possible walk of life. I’m certainly less ignorant for having attended UEA, and abolishing your ignorance is an important part of becoming a better writer.

To be awarded a full scholarship was life-altering. I’m extremely grateful to Sarah and David Kowitz for selecting my application.

 

Jude:.In your bio on our winners’ post  you said you are currently working on a literary novel about a dysfunctional family. We’d love to hear more about it and if it’s nearing completion.

Kathy: Nearing completion? I wish! I’m horrendous at finishing anything longer than 5,000 words. The ‘novel’ has been shelved for now. I’m trying to get a linked collection together at the moment. Working in retail over Christmas hasn’t left much time for writing, but I’m scribbling away a couple of days a week. I hope to make serious headway with the collection in the new year.

Jude: Your beautifully written and memorable  story ‘A Marriage  of Convenience’ was commended in our 2016 Award and is published in our 2016 anthology.  Are you putting a collection of short stories together?

I’ve heard that collections are far more appealing to agents and publishers when they’re linked. I’m not putting any of my old material into the collection. I’m starting again from scratch

Jude: We also know from your bio that you are a keen guitarist. Do you write songs as well?

Kathy: I don’t write songs, no. I wasn’t blessed with that skill. I played classical guitar from the age of six. These days I’ll pick up somebody’s guitar at a party and play half of ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’, before I forget the words and give it to somebody more talented.

Jude: Who are your favourite short story writers and why do you like them?

Kathy: Roald Dahl’s adult writing is wonderful. He gets straight to the point and doesn’t waste any words on long-winded description. The profundity of his work can be found in what he leaves out. I also like Hemingway, for similar reasons. I recently read Annie Proulx’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’ on a friend’s suggestion, having never seen the film, and was profoundly moved.

I read a lot of collections, The Best British Short Stories series is a favourite, which comes out every year and is edited by Nicholas Royle, creative writing professor at Manchester and judge of the Manchester Short Story Prize. I also really enjoy Philip Langeskov’s short fiction. Joe Dunthorne’s novel Submarine was one of the most entertaining books I’ve read for years. My coursemates were a very talented bunch. I expect great things (short story wise) from John Steciuk, Cara Marks, Senica Maltese and Tithi Mukherjee in particular. Kelleigh GreenbergJephcott’s first novel, Swan Song, is coming out later this year, and it’s going to be brilliant.

Jude:Finally, your top tip for anyone wanting to enter our short story competition?

Get a calendar, fill it with deadlines, keep to it. Write, write, write. Read a lot. Enjoy it, but be focused. You’ll be rejected and for a while, and you’ll feel you’re getting nowhere. But if you stick to it and keep becoming a better writer, there’s no reason at all why you can’t get there. I wrote and sent work out for almost 2 years before anything was published at all. After than, it became a steady trickle of acceptance. There’s a lot of talent in the Bath Short Story Award anthology, and all the writers have something in common – they bit the bullet, they finished the work and they sent it out into the world. Good luck

Interview with Sarah Mackey, BSSA 2017, third prize winner

Sarah reading at the BSSA 2017 anthology launch in November 2017

 

For those of you who have made New Year’s resolutions to write short stories for competitions or for other reasons, we decided it was fitting to start the New Year with this interview with our third prize winner from BSSA 2017, Sarah Mackey, who began her story, Forget Me Not, which  judge Euan Thorneycroft described as ‘A beautiful, sad study of a family buckling under the weight of memory loss,’ a year ago, in January 2017. It’s inspiring to know what can be achieved in just a few months. You can read it in in our 2017 anthology, available on this website and from Amazon. 

Interview

Jude: Can you tell us how your third prize-winning story, Forget Me Not came into being?

Sarah:I started writing Forget Me Not in January 2017 as a piece for National Memory Day. Initially I had just wanted a prompt and a deadline to get me writing after a prolonged Christmas break but I was instantly drawn to Virginia and her garden and what began as an exercise soon became a ‘proper’ story. It didnt fit the word limit for NMD so I put the first draft aside for a couple of months before revising it.

Sarah with her sister and Jude at the BSSA launch at Mr B’s Bookshop, Bath

We’ve all known people who can get confused or unfocused on day-to-day matters but who are razor sharp when talking about their passions and areas of expertise – the things that underpin their identity. Forget Me Not picks up Virginia’s story at the point where age and illness first start to attack that core part of her life. I wanted to show the impact that this had on Virginia and the people around her and how both fear and love drive us to try and mend things that are ultimately outside our control.

I stole slivers of story from various sources – the plants from my mother’s garden, the names of friends – but the majority of it just came from the characters of Henry and Virginia. Someone has since told me that some undertakers send Myosotis seeds to bereaved partners after a funeral, which seems very fitting.

Jude:In your bio, you said that this is the first story you have had published and I think you have recently given up another job to concentrate on your writing. Can you tell us more about your writing life at the moment and any writing projects you currently  have on the go?

Sarah: I decided to take a year off work to allow myself to reconnect with all the things that I never seemed to have enough time for: writing, taking classes, culture, visiting new places, seeing more of family and friends and getting involved in local initiatives. Several people told me that I was ‘very brave’, which I think was shorthand for ‘crazy’. It’s been enormously rewarding and I’m so pleased I did it. My working life has always involved writing for business and I wanted to concentrate on purely creative projects for a change.

The Bath Short Story Award was my first placement in a competition. I have since won the Ilkley Festival Short Story prize and a couple of my shorter pieces were selected for City Lit’s 2017 anthology, Between the Lines. I love writing short stories and have got several on the go in various stages of development. There’s also a character currently occupying many pages of notebooks who may have a longer story to tell…

I’ve gone way over my allotted time off now so my objective for 2018 is to find a job that pays the mortgage and allows me the time and mental space to continue writing. I can’t imagine stopping now.

Jude: When did you first become interested in writing?

Sarah:I’ve always been interested in writing. I wrote a couple of (unpublished) novels for older children in the distant past but for many years my main outlet has been writing for business. It can be a good discipline – writing for different audiences, finding hooks to engage the reader, using narrative arcs – but unfortunately you have to stick to the truth, which can be very limiting.

Jude: You studied at the City Lit in London recently. How has that helped your writing?

Sarah:At the start it was just helpful to have assignments and deadlines, and to give some routine to my life when I stepped out of the work environment. Also to build up a number of short pieces that might get ultimately be developed into longer stories. Later it occurred to me that I ought to learn something of the theory behind writing short stories, so that I would at least know the rules before I broke them. However, that’s all stuff I could have achieved on my own. The big value came from exposure to other people, other writing, other ideas. It was a great forum to test out work and to meet fellow writers. I am now in two writing groups with people I met in City Lit classes. I don’t act on every piece of feedback I receive, but I do make sure I think it through. Generally when I take a draft to a writing class or group I then put it aside for a while before revising. Then I can come back to both the piece and the feedback with more objectivity.

Jude:Who are the short story writers you admire, and what do you like about their writing?

So many! I came to short stories via contemporary writers — Alice Munro, Tessa Hadley, Stella Duffy, George Saunders. One of my recent reads is Mark Haddon’s ‘The Pier Falls’. I loved the whole collection but that title story in particular. It is almost journalistic in style, telling a shocking story in a very matter of fact way.

I’m currently reading Claire Keegan’s ‘Walk the Blue Fields’ collection, which is beautiful and sad. Her insight into human nature is incredible and she has the ability to switch the tone of a story when you are least expecting it. All using very simple prose.

The writer I have been reading for the longest period of time is Helen Simpson. I’ve read each of her collections since the 1990s, during which time her subject matter has progressed from dating to marriage to motherhood to ageing. I feel I’ve grown older with her work so each collection has struck a chord.

Jude: Can you give us a tip for those who might want to write a story for our next Award, ending in April, 2018?

Sarah:The time spent not writing your story is an important part of the writing process. Get at least one round of feedback on your story but don’t act on it immediately. Never submit anything that you have only just finished. Always leave time to come back at it afresh. Even if it’s only a few days.

BSSA 2017 Anthology Launch

 

Anna, Jane and Jude, the BSSA team, launched the 2017 BSSA anthology at Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath yesterday, 28th November. Around 50 guests came to the event and eleven of our eighteen anthology authors attended — a couple of them travelled from France and others from all over the UK. Here they all are at the end of the evening.

 

All our authors read short extracts from their stories, stopping at  tantalising places. Here’s Kathy Stevens, who won our first prize and £1000, reading from her brilliant and moving story, ‘This is All Almost True’. Judge Euan Thorneycroft said he loved it from the beginning.

 

And here’s a picture of Kathy later on enjoying a glass of wine next to our book display. You can buy the books at Mr B’s. Or from our website here. And via Amazon

 

Mary Griese our second prize winner read an extract from her atmospheric story ‘Perfomance in the Hills’, set in a welsh farming community, which Euan Thorneycroft admired for its unique theme.

 

Our third prize winner Sarah MacKey read from her story ‘Forget Me Not’ which Euan Thorneycroft described as a ‘beautiful sad story of a family buckiing under the weight of memory loss.’

 

 

Chloe Tuner, our local prize winner read an extract from her story ‘Breaking the Glassblower’s Heart,’ a great title for a story which Euan Thorneycroft said was very well written and full of fantastic descriptive detail.

 

 

 

Sandra Marslund won the Acorn Award for an unpublished writer for her story ‘Everything Must Go’. The BSSA team thought it was a story with great suspense and structure.

 

We also heard extracts of their stories from Emily Devane, Joe Eurell, Catherine Finch, Judith Wilson, Alexander Knights and Harriet Springbett. It was a great evening. We thank everyone who came and all the authors in the anthology. Some of the others who couldn’t come live in Australia, Brazil, Ireland and Belgium. A truly international crowd. Do buy the book and read all their wonderful stories.

Thank you very much to writer, Crysse Morrison who took most of the individual  pictures of the authors here.

Interview with Mary Griese, BSSA 2017 2nd Prize Winner

Mary seeing her story in print for the first time at our anthology launch at Mr B’s Bookshop Bath in November, 2017

 

To inspire you to write for the 2018 Bath Short Story Award, with a first prize of £1200 this year, we’ve interviewed some of our winning and short listed writers in the 2017 competition. Here, BSSA team members, Anna and Jude talk to Mary Griese, our 2017 second prize winner, who lives locally to Bath. You can read Mary’s story Perfomance in the Hills, in the  BSSA 2017 Anthology which is available to buy here on the website, in Mr B’s Bookshop Bath and via Amazon

 

Interview

Jude:Euan Thorneycroft our BSSA 2017 judge said ‘Performance in the Hills’, your second prize winning story, was one of the most individual of all he read, with a totally authentic depiction of life in rural Mid Wales. Can you tell us how the story came into being?

Mary reading ‘Performance in the Hills’ at the BSSA 2017 anthology launch

Mary: I often begin stories with an incident from my life, however small and then embellish it. On this occasion, a man at the 2016 Royal Welsh Agricultural Show asked if I remembered him. He was the boy in the story – the ‘misguided’ child who almost killed the baby birds, and in the past I took him to task for such an incident on the farm where I lived. I also incorporated the ‘golden horse’, which belongs to my neighbour into the story. My neighbour is an incredible and courageous horsewoman. Her golden horse was unmanageable and she rescued him from slaughter and re-broke him, Monty Roberts style. We were talking one morning, with him dancing politely around me and she was telling me about his wonderfully kind character/changing coat/golden eyes etc. I had been walking my dog trying to come up with a story-line to go alongside my misguided small boy and the baby birds. And there it was, the spark for the rest of the story – a magical five minutes. Today, I just met my friend in the lane riding that same beautiful horse. He looked absolutely amazing in the morning sunshine. She said he’s the most spiritual creature, born a thousand years ago! I expect there’s another story in there too.

Anna:What was the first short story you wrote?

Mary: I remember the title even now – ‘Fire on the Moor’. I was about 12, on a remote farm in Cornwall. The traditional burning of the gorse got out of control – a little girl saved the day!

Anna: Do you find there are particular themes running through your stories?

Mary: Certainly. Farming/dark country matters/sheep/nuns/eccentrics.

Jude: Does your completed novel, which is with your agent Jane Conway Gordan,who is seeking publication for it, contain these themes? Can you give us a brief synopsis of the plot?

A card of one of Mary’s paintings of sheep.

Mary:Yes, my novel, Man in Sheep’s Clothing, does contains these elements. It’s a darkly themed coming-of-age story set in the 1960s in the Black Mountains in Wales. Bethan, the young protagonist, the only child of a bohemian family who have moved to the area, becomes mesmerised by the dysfunctional Williams family who rent Cwmgwrach (valley of the witches), an isolated sheep farm. Bethan is particularly drawn to Morgan, the wild son who both frightens and fascinates her. She’s a rebel too, and after she is expelled from the local convent school for standing up to the sadistic nuns, her love of animals and farming grows. When the Williams’ lose their tenancy of Cwmgwarch a few years later, Bethan’s father buys the farm and he and Bethan begin sheep farming themselves. Morgan, now a loner, with delusional tendencies, helps when they struggle with lambing, but his intentions are much darker, and eventually Bethan, alone and friendless after her father dies, has to find a way to get rid of him.

Jude: That’s a very intriguing summary, with echoes I think of the entanglements in Wuthering Heights – a wild remote setting, a rebellious female protagonist, dangerous obsessions with unstable men, and brooding revenge. A great mix. We wish you all the best for publication and hope to see it in print soon.

Anna: You are a successful artist, writer and farmer – how do these three important parts of your life interact?

Mary:Today I wrote, walked the dog, helped turn the cows out, wrote and began a commission of a painting of a labrador. Farming is very important to me and no doubt inspires my writing. I’ve always thought my painting comes automatically, but as I can’t ‘get into’ my current writing projects while I’m wielding my paintbrush, maybe not!

Anna: Who is your favourite short story writer and why?

It’s difficult to choose just one. Alice Munro and Katherine Mansfield hold my attention with their beautiful, clever subtle prose and (seemingly) little plot. They always provide good examples of ‘show, don’t tell’ and ‘less is more’.

Anna: Have you any tips on entering a competition for prospective writers?

As I said earlier, I recommend beginning with an event however small from your own life and then fictionalising it with more details. Entering writing competitions is exciting and an excellent discipline. Many people work well with a deadline. Keep trying.

December, 2017.

Winners, BSSA 2017

Huge congratulations to all our winners in the International Bath Short Story Award 2017. The shortlist was judged by Senior Literary Agent Euan Thorneycroft from A M Heath. Of the winning pieces he said, “I was looking for three things – originality, authenticity and confidence – and in the stories here, all three of these were in ample evidence.” Read about our shortlisted writers and his general comments on the shortlist here and his specific comments on the winners and commended below.

First Prize, £1000, This is All Almost True by Kathy Stevens.

Euan comments: “I  loved this story from the word go. Both funny and heart-breaking. We are immediately grabbed by the unique voice of Elsie, a teenager with unspecified personal problems (although this point is never laboured), and who reveals her acerbic family dynamics through frank observations.

It leaves its emotional mark by offsetting the casual, frank tone of the narrator with the obvious severity of her episodes, the frictions of her family home and the sad sense of her isolation. Elsie’s absorption with storytelling is, on the surface, an inventive, amusing lens, but it becomes a desperately sad force for the reader as her difficulties show through behind that drive for escapism. It finishes with a gut-punch as her fascination with writing has equipped her with a language to articulate the distance between her and the rest of the world. A writer of huge confidence.”

 

Kathy Stevens  was born near Stratford-upon-Avon in 1991. She has a BA English Literature from Bath Spa University, and is the recipient of the Kowitz Scholarship at UEA, where she’s near to completing her MA in  Creative Writing. Her short stories have appeared in Litro, Prole, the Bath Short Story Award 2016 and Bath Flash Fiction Award anthologies, Supernatural Tales Magazine, The Literateur, The Cadaverine, Patrician Press and Firefly.Besides writing, Kathy is a keen guitarist and music fanatic, who enjoys 1950’s fashion, rock’n’roll dancing and anything involving boats. She’s working on a literary novel about a dysfunctional family.

Second prize, £200 Performance in the Hills by Mary Griese.

Euan comments:”I thought this story was one of the most individual of all that I read. A recently bereaved woman, alone on her farm, dealing with her grief. There’s a heavy, heady atmosphere to this piece, the tone being set from the captivating first line, with an almost dreamlike quality in places. But the author doesn’t overstep here. The story is also grounded in the reality of rural Wales. The depiction of this rural landscape feels totally authentic. I loved the seemingly small, but keen-eyed observations that appear along the way – a blue tit’s frantic descent through the branches, the young boy changing direction to take the gate rather than the bent down fence. I think the emotional tone is handled incredibly well. We don’t dare feel hopeful at the close, but the vision of the young boy working with the horse – in the dark – and the widow unseen and ignored is a beautiful and haunting ending. I found this to be a story that got better and better with each read.”

Mary Griese is a novelist, short-story writer and artist with an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. She is currently seeking publication for her debut novel Man in Sheep’s Clothing and is represented by literary agent, Jane Conway Gordon. Her memoir, Sand on the Mountain won third prize in the Fish Memoir Prize, 2017. She has written articles for the Guardian and farming magazines. Thirty years ago, whilst running a sheep farm on the Black Mountain, she formed her arty business: ‘Slightly Sheepish’. She recently published and illustrated a picture book: An Alphabet of Farm Animals.

Third prize, £100, Forget me not by Sarah Mackey.

Euan comments:” A beautiful, sad study of a family buckling under the weight of memory loss. Virginia’s memory has been fading out for two years, forcing her into retirement and pulling away many of her relationships. Her beloved garden is the last sanctum of peace and stability, and through Virginia’s husband Henry, we feel the pain of its loss, and the conflict as their well-meaning daughter repeatedly gets the tone wrong in her attempts to help. The husband’s love for his wife and his desolation at the end of the story –after a brief moment of hope– are extremely moving. As is the strained relationship between mother and daughter. This is a well-constructed story.”

 

Sarah Mackey grew up in the West Midlands and lives in London. Over the past year she has attended creative writing courses at City Lit, which has inspired her to write short fiction. Sarah was long-listed for the 2016 Words and Women prose competition and has been selected for inclusion in the Between the Lines Anthology, 2017.

 

 

Commended and recipient of the BSSA Local Prize£50 in book vouchers from Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath,

Breaking the Glass-Blower’s Heart by Chloe Turner.

Euan comments: “This is a very confident story of a young Spanish au-pair finding herself working for a middle-class family in England. The breaking of a vase ripples out so that we see the strained dynamics of this tense little pocketed family, with its suggestion of infidelity and lovelessness. This is a very well-written story, full of fantastic descriptive detail.”

Chloe Turner’s stories have been published in online and print journals including The Mechanics’ Institute Review, The Nottingham Review, For Book’s Sake Weekend Read, Kindred, Halo, The Woven Tale Press and Hark. Long-gone Mary was published by InShort Publishing (Australia) as a standalone chapbook in 2015, and Waiting for the Runners is one of a series of six chapbooks available this autumn from TSS Publishing. Chloe won the short story category of the Fresher Prize 2017, and received a Special Commendation in the Elbow Room Prize 2016. She tweets at @turnerpen2paper, and blogs about books and writing at www.turnerpen2paper.com.

Commended, £30 in book tokens,  North Ridge by Fiona Rintoul.

Euan comments: “A short story with a brilliant, powerful conceit which packs a real emotional punch as we near the inevitable ending. We are sucked into the claustrophobic wait as a woman minds her child in a car, coming to terms with what she knew from the day’s outset: that her husband did not intend to return from his mountain climb.

The decision to tell the story from the husband’s point of view is a brave one. Are these the real-time thoughts of a man dying of exposure, his only comforts, the clammy car below, where he knows his wife waits, bracing herself against the agony of accepting her loss?”

Fiona Rintoul is a writer, journalist and translator. She is author of The Leipzig Affair  and translator of Outside Verdun by Arnold Zweig. The Leipzig Affair was short-listed for the 2015 Saltire first book of the year award and serialised on BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime. Fiona’s most recent book, Whisky Island, a non-fiction title about the Isle of Islay and its whiskies, was shortlisted in the 2017 Fortnum & Mason food and drink awards. Fiona lives in Glasgow and on the Isle of Harris.

 

The Acorn Award for an unpublished writer of fiction, £50 Everything Must Go by Sandra Marslund. Selected from the shortlist by the BSSA team. Click on the title to read her story.

The BSSA team loved the suspense and structure in this story, which builds,  as the seasons unfold, over one year. A woman whose husband has died in a roof accident, is troubled by a persistent knocking in the attic. But she can’t bring herself to climb up and look. As time passes, the complex relationship between husband and wife is slowly revealed. We very much liked that nothing is completely spelled out. Eventually, the woman, with the support of her teenage daughter, is able to visit the roof space to find out what is there. The striking last line says it all.

Sandra Marslund is a translator of Danish and Norwegian books and commercial texts and also contributes book reviews and literary articles to national and local publications such as the Guardian, Mslexia and Manor Magazine. She has always written, but only started writing ‘seriously’ after completing an MA in Creative Writing from Exeter University in 2016, for which she received a Distinction. She recently began entering her short stories to competitions where she has been both long and shortlisted. She now dreams of getting published and is working on her first novel. She lives in Devon with her two teenage daughters..

 

Time is running out

We close at midnight Monday 1st  May. Give yourself the chance of hitting the bull’s eye and winning £1000 first prize, second prize of £200, third prize of £100, £50 prize for an unpublished writer or  £50 local prize by checking —

  • The rules — there are  always a number of writers who  submit stories way over the word limit of 2200 words. Or put their names on stories.  Don’t risk getting disqualified for those reasons.
  •  Give our readers a pleasant reading experience by writing in a clear font. Bold fonts are not easy.  Or any fancy italics or Comic Sans. Times New Roman is a safe bet.
  • If you are entering online, please be sure to  send your stories and paypal receipts to the correct email address which is on the entry page.
  • Put the correct postage on your hard copy stories.

Finally give your story a final once over for typos etc. We’re not too strict here, but a beautifully presented story, is a bonus. Zap a few adjectives and adverbs maybe,. Check the beginning paragraph. Does it hook the reader in? Check the final paragraph. Does it feel satisfying, not too cosy, not too obscure? What about the title? Does it add something to the story

Good luck!  Our readers are already on the case and results will be out in mid or late July.

Jude,

BSSA team April 28th.

 

 

 

 

Road trips

In most short story contests,  filter judges say they see a lot of stories on similar subjects – relationship break downs feature strongly in their many different forms. Affairs, death of a hated partner by nefarious means, abuse.  I don’t think we’ve seen many road -trip stories at Bath Short Story Award.  These feature strongly in films of course. Thelma and Louise is a famous example. You can’t fit too many road-trip events into a short story of 2200 words or less, but you could include a vehicle as a setting and see where that takes you. Colin Barrett, a short story writer our judge Euan Thorneycroft likes very much, writes a great description of the inside of a car at the beginning of  Calm With Horses, a wonderful story from his prize winning debut collection Young Skins (Vintage Books, 2014). This car doesn’t feature as a major player in the story, but it does show much about some of the characters.

“The car was orginally Dympna’s Uncle Hector’s, a battered cranberry Corolla Dympna labelled the shit box, its interior upholstered in tan vinyl that stank of motor oil, cigarette ash and dog. Recessed into the dash was a dead radio, its cassette tape slot jammed with calcified gobs of blue-tack, butt-ends and pre-euro-era Irish coins. The dash smelled of fused electricals. Above Arm’s head, a row of memorial cards, their laminate covers wilted by age and light, were tucked into a sun visor and a red-beaded rosary chain was tangled around the inverted T of the rear-view mirror.”

So why not write about a car of your acquaintance past or present. Create a fiction around it.  Remember its smells and its quirks. That car could take your story on a road trip you never expected.

Jude. March, 2017.

Q & A with Euan Thorneycroft, BSSA Judge,2018

Euan Thorneycroft has been at AM Heath since 2005, and is one of the senior agents there. Before that, he was an agent at Curtis Brown. He has always loved finding new authors and working with them. He represents a range of different kinds of fiction, from the very literary to the more commercial. He’s looking for strong prose, unique voices and a compelling narrative. In terms of genre, he’s most interested in crime, thrillers, and historical fiction. He is also open to well-written speculative fiction in the vein of STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel or UNDER THE SKIN by Michel Faber. His non-fiction tastes are for memoir, new nature writing (think Robert Macfarlane), “Smart Thinking” books, and current affairs. He has been a committee member of the Association of Authors’ Agents as well as serving as the external examiner on one of the country’s leading creative writing courses. He has also recently been a judge for the Bridport First Novel Award

  • You represent a wide range of prose writers, including authors who also are well-known for their short stories including Vanessa Gebbie, Ruby Cowling and Fflur Dafydd, who was short listed in our 2016 Award. Do you accept submissions of short story collections? If so, can you say what you would be looking for in such a submission?

I do. But they need to really stand out. I’m looking for collections that have some unifying factor – be that a theme, an idea, a setting, or a collection of characters. This can often help sway a publisher’s decision. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule so if something is simply brilliant, I want to see it!

  • You have recently been a judge for the Bridport First Novel Award. Can you tell us what, for you, makes a stand-out story in both long and shorter fiction?

Originality – this could be a totally original plot or it could be something that on the surface sounds pretty ordinary, but which the writer approaches from a fresh angle.

Authenticity – do I completely believe in the world and characters the author has created?

Confidence – I’m looking for writing that feels so natural that I forget I’m reading a story.

  • Do you think that the popularity of short story is still gaining ascendancy in this country? Short Story writer and novelist, Sarah Hall thought it was back in 2013. Perhaps publishers are more interested?

I do. And technology has played its part. Short Stories are the perfect fit for our hectic modern life and tablets and Smart phones have enabled people to read on the go. There are also more competitions and prizes for short stories, and you can see authors who are often associated with the longer form, turning their hand to them. I’m thinking of Hilary Mantel, Lionel Shriver and Jon McGregor.

  • Which current short story writers do you admire and what do you like about their writing?

Lots but the one that stands out is Colin Barrett and his collection Young Skins. Of course, his language is brilliant – there’s a poetry to it but it is also very exact – and the stories are unexpected in terms of where they start and where they end up. But overall, I think it’s the emotional intelligence that he shows as a writer. His characters seem utterly believable to the reader.

  • Our award is for stories of 2200 words or under. Have you some top tips for writers writing short stories to this length?

Find your voice, make every word count, commit totally to your character, setting and story. The latter is particularly important – if you can do this, you stand a chance of writing something that isn’t merely technically competent, even brilliant, but something that is memorable and long-lasting.

 

Latest Author News

Fourteen weeks to go now until BSSA 2017 ends on May 1st, 2017. To inspire you to enter this year, here are some recent further success stories from our  BSSA 2016 award winners and other authors whose stories you can read in our 2016 short story award anthology

Anne O’Brien reading at the BSSA 2016 anthology launch at Mr B’s Emporium of Books Bath, with our cover designer and BSSA 2014 winner, Elinor Nash, in the background

We were delighted to learn that Anne 0’Brien, our first prize winner, BSSA 2016, has just won second prize in the prestigious The London Magazine’s short story competition and her story, I Have Called You By Your Name will be published alongside the winner, writer Emma Hughes and Dan Powell, our BSSA 2015 second prize winner, who won third prize in the contest with his story The Ideal Husband Exhibition. William Pei Shih, shortlisted for BSSA 2016 with his story Mrs Li was also shortlisted in The London Magazine competition as was one of our BSSA 2016 longlisted writers, Marie Gethins. Congratulations to all!

Ingrid Jendzrejewski ,shortlisted for BSSA 2016 with her story We Were Curious About Boys was successful in many different competitions in 2016 and has started off 2017 in great style by winning the flash fiction competition in the long-established literary journal Tears in the Fence.  Her story, Many a Pearl is Still Hidden in the Oyster will be published in their next issue due out in February.

US writer, Thomas M Atkinson, shortlisted for BSSA 2016  with his story Dancing Turtle, has, among several other 2016 successes, had his story ‘Grimace in the Burnt Black Hills’ selected for New Stories from the Midwest 2016  (New American Press) along with such writing luminaries as Joyce Carol Oates, Charles Baxter, and Laura van den Berg. The publication is due out soon. The guest editor was author and Pulitzer finalist Lee Martin. Grimace in the Burnt Black Hills first appeared in The Sun magazine and received two Pushcart Prize nominations.

Clare Reddaway’s  story Avocet which you can read in the BSSA 2016 anthology is also going to be published in the lovely Project Calm magazine’s third issue out in the late Spring. We’re sure it will be illustrated beautifully there.

We hope we’ve included all recent successes. Do let us know your news, authors!