Author Archives: Jude

Judge’s report

Michael Loveday, who is judging the Novella-in-Flash Award for the second year running, has been busy reading and re-reading the long list of twenty-seven novellas for the past five weeks. We thank him very much for his work so far and wish him well for the next tough stage of choosing winners from this short list of fourteen excellent novellas-in-flash. Best wishes to all on the list for his final choices and good luck to everyone else on the long list for future publication of their novellas. We agree with him that the standard was very high and we so appreciate all those who tackled this form of fiction and sent entries in to us in this our fourth year of the award. It's all very exciting. Michael will write a further report on the winners and commended writers which will be added to this page when final results are announced in early April.

Michael's comments on the longlist

Every manuscript had genuine merits and I feel for those authors who haven’t made this shortlist; there were some very marginal calls.

My initial “long shortlist” of manuscripts I thought might make the final shortlist (based on a first read) had two-thirds of the novellas on it! There are some astonishingly good novellas in the list of fourteen. The overall consistency across the longlist made for some tricky/tough/brutal [delete as appropriate] decisions. My expectation is that many of these novellas, including some on the longlist, will eventually find publishers and that other readers will experience the same visceral thrill as I did when encountering these stories.

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Novella-in-Flash 2020 Award Short List

Congratulations to all the authors who have made our Award short list and huge thanks to all who entered.

To preserve judging anonymity, author names are yet to be announced. While we are happy for authors to share that they are on the short list, we ask that writers do not identify themselves with their particular work at this stage.

Read in Full

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Vote for us in the Saboteur Awards, 2020

Will you join us voting for some of our Ad Hoc Fiction published authors in the Saboteur Awards 2020? And we'd love votes for our other projects too. We are so happy that Saboteur secured Arts Council Funding for another year. It is such a brilliant thing they do. And there's nothing like a nomination for cheering up authors and organisers. And cheering up these days is definitely required.
Voting for the first round to find the short list is open now and finishes on April 6th.
If you have read and loved some of our books listed below or attended and enjoyed the Flash Fiction Festival last year in Bristol,here are some options for you:
Best Short Story Collection: K.M. Elkes', sparkling and acclaimed collection of flash fiction, All That Is Between Us. Published by Ad Hoc Fiction in June, 2020

Best Literary Festival: Vote for our Flash Fiction Festival UK, 2019, which took place in Bristol in June 2019. It was such wonderful occasion with around 120 enthusiasts, (some pictured below) of flash fiction coming from all over the world to write and learn more about flash fiction as well as meeting friends, making new ones and having fun. It is the only festival of its kind totally dedicated to flash fiction. And possibly the only literary festival that has karaoke in the evenings!

Best Novella: We published six amazing novellas-in-flash this year, winners and highly commended from the 2019 Bath Flash Fiction novella-in-flash Award. For this UK based Award, we are asking you to support one of our UK based authors. Either Birds With Horse Hearts by Eleanor Walsh who is based in Cornwall or Homing by Johanna Robinson, from the North of England. Both published by Ad Hoc Fiction in June, 2019.

Most Innovative Publisher We would love it if you voted for Ad Hoc Fiction,our small press that focuses on publishing short short fiction. In 2019 our tiny,tiny team (basically one person doing all the layup and design) published 12 new books: 6 novellas-in-flash; two single author collections; two anthologies of flash fiction and one of short fiction; and one 'small novel in small forms. Ad Hoc Fiction also found time in 2019 to continue publishing a weekly ebook from their micro competition. Truly flying the flag for flash fiction!

Best anthology: We think Bath Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 4,With One Eye On The Cows is a cracker. 135 excellent and varied micro fictions from world-wide authors, published by Ad Hoc Fiction in November, 2019.

Switzerland based Louise Mangos own artwork plus her anthology

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Interview with Mary-Jane Holmes, Judge, March-June 2020.

Mary-Jane Holmes is a writer, teacher and editor based in the Durham Dales, UK. She has been published in such places as the Best Small Fictions Anthology 2016 and 2018, and the Best Microfictions Anthology 2020 Her work can also be found in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Spelk, Cabinet of Heed, Flashback Fiction, Mslexia, Fictive Dream, The Lonely Crowd, and Prole amongst others. She is winner of the Mslexia Prize (2018), the Reflex Fiction prize (Autumn 2019) and the Dromineer Fiction Prize (2014).In 2017, she won the Bridport Poetry Prize and her poetry collection Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass was published by Pindrop Press in 2018. She is currently studying for a creative writing PhD at Newcastle University and she has an unpublished flash collection knocking about that was recently short-listed for the International Beverly Prize for Literature.
@emjayinthedale

  • You have been very successful in major competitions with your flash fiction over the last couple of years, winning both the Mslexia flash fiction competition and the Reflex Flash Fiction competition as well being listed and commended in other Awards most recently in the International Beverly Prize for Literature for a flash fiction collection. What do you enjoy about writing flash? And have you a favourite piece among your winners?
    I think flash fiction is one of the most flexible genres around given that it can occupy that liminal space between prose and poetry. It is also a place that can absorb risk and experimentation because of its brevity and of course it is a great discipline. I would urge anyone who wants to write in longer forms, to first cut their teeth on a genre that will teach them how concision and compression drive prose to be the best it can be. ‘No decorative humbugs’ as George Orwell said. Out of the pieces, that I have been lucky enough to have done well with, I think 'Down the Long Long Line' that will be in this year’s Best Microfiction Anthology is a favourite as it is very much tied with my PhD that deals with looking at history and the female voice.
  • You are a poet as well as a flash fiction writer. Do you find you can move easily between the two forms? Some people make a strong distinction between prose poetry and flash. Others don’t see much difference. Do you have a view on this? 
    I always set out knowing whether I am going to write either a poem or a flash fiction. There has never been anything I have written where I have thought - oh this isn’t a poem, it’s a piece of flash, so I must, on some level see a difference between the two forms although it is hard to pin that down. I suppose that something that has more narrative drive, suits flash fiction and perhaps that is where the distinction lies for me.
    • Which flash fiction writers do you currently enjoy reading? 
      Oh gosh - well pretty much all of the writers that Ad Hoc fiction published last year. Michael Loveday, Charmaine Wilkerson, Ken Elkes, Meg Pokrass. Amy Hempel is probably the writer that got me into considering the short form and Lydia Davies of course. There are many many others….
    • Teaching flash fiction is something you have done for many years, both single workshops, like at The Flash Fiction Festival in 2019 and longer courses. What do you like about teaching this form? In your longer courses, do you find that  there is a point where writers suddenly grasp what flash fiction is?
      I think that teaching flash fiction is ultimately so satisfying because it provides a writer with everything they need to know about narrative structure, style and the character’s dynamics of desire that are key to animating any story. Whether that writer wants to move to the longer form or not, the thing about flash is that the image rather than the idea (Nabakov said ‘all ideas are hogwash’)  drives the tension. Readers really only connect with the emotions a writer is trying to convey when the image is at the forefront, and students of flash fiction quickly understand this and use it to great advantage. If just starting out, this saves a lot of time realizing that summary and explanation aren’t as resonant as drama and action and that as writers our responsibility is to give just enough detail for the reader to build the picture and the story on their own. We want readers who actively participate in a story, not passive listeners being told everything, Flash Fiction is by far the best genre to learn this and to learn it quickly!
    • Have you got any up and coming workshops or courses, people can book on?
      I am really sorry to be missing this year’s Bristol Flash Fiction Festival but unfortunately it clashes with running the Casa Ana writing retreat in Granada, Spain which I facilitate two to three times a year. I have a new online Memoir Flash course that I will be running with Retreat West later in the year and I also run an online course with Fish Publishing Ireland which you can sign up to any time.
    • What makes a winning micro fiction for you?
      A great opening that will draw me in, after all in micro, we are finishing the story almost as we start it. After reading the story, I want to feel that the story’s ending was inevitable and yet surprising at the same time. That doesn’t mean that the ending needs to be nice and neat but I do want to say ‘Wow, of course!’ and not ‘where did that come from?’
    • Tips to help writers  create their best story of 300 words or under?  
      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.
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  • 14th Award Round Up

    Thank you very much to all the world-wide Flash Fiction writers who entered stories in our 14th Award. I's wonderful that so many people from around the world are writing flash fiction. Our entries increased again, this time to 1367. There were so many inventive stories, so many good ones to choose from to find our long list of fifty. Entries came in from the following thirty-one countries:

    Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

    The last weeks of the Award were very busy and the Last Minute Club writers who, on the last day, 16th February, received their badge pictured here, this time a sunny yellow, were jostling at the door up until the very last seconds before midnight. We've produced badges for the last six awards and I am sure several writers have collected all of them.

    Several different countries were represented in the long and short lists and this year, our five winners come from four different countries/continents. Many congratulations to our first prize winner Sharon Telfer, from the UK who has now won first prize twice, the last time in Summer 2016. She also had a story commended in February 2019. What a fantastic achievement! And many congratulations also to our second prize winner, Simon Cowdroy from Australia, who has had a story commended by us before, and third prize to Christina Dalcher from the USA, who was also a first prize winner in February 2019. Many congratulations also to Remi Skytterstad from Norway, who was highly commended and Claire Powell from the UK, also highly commended. All five stories are brilliant examples of flash fiction and you can read them on the winners' pages on this site and later in our print anthology.

    It's always exciting to compile the first part of the year-end anthology and many long and short listed authors have already accepted our publication offer for the fifth BFFA anthology, which will be published in December this year, after all three yearly awards have been completed. We hope those who have booked for the flash fiction festival, 19-21st June and who are winners or listed writers, might like to read their pieces in our Open Mic Sessions. It is always great to hear them read out loud.

    This time the Award turn around was even quicker than usual. We wanted to complete it by the end of February and we are very grateful to the reading team for dedicating many hours of reading during the life of the Award and in particular in the last few weeks and the final weekend and afterwards and for our judge, writer, editor and tutor and one of the Directors of National Flash Fiction Day UK, Santino Prinzi, for immersing himself in the longlist over several days to select the short list, find the winners and achieve a very fast result. He told us the whole process was a blast which he greatly enjoyed. Read his report and comments here.

    The next Award judged by writer and writing tutor, Mary-Jane Holmes opens on March 1st and ends on Sunday June 7th. Results will be out by the end of June. We look forward to reading more flash fictions and be astonished, moved, humbled and amazed all over again.

    Jude Higgins
    February, 2020

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    Judge’s Report, 14th Award, February 2020


    Our 14th Award Judge, Santino Prinzi selected the short list of twenty from the fifty titles on the longlist we sent him. We very much appreciate him for his hard immersive work over several days reading and re-reading the stories, to achieve a very fast result. Read his general remarks and specific comments on each of the five top stories below. You can read all of them on our winners' pages now and they will be published in our 5th Bath Flash Award anthology in December, this year.

    Santino Prinzi's Report
    It’s always an honour to be asked to judge a competition. It’s thrilling and fun, even though it can be daunting. When an author sends you their work, they are entrusting you with something special, so I want start by thanking and congratulating every single author who submitted to this competition, who trusted us with their words. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

    In my interview about judging this competition I said I had no idea what I was looking for, however, I wanted you all to share with me something you truly love. Reading the fifty longlisted flashes I received, I knew these stories were – are – loved by their authors. But they were also so much more than that. Each story had its own distinct quality, its own voice, its own style and structure. Each had sentences I underlined and words I circled. Not knowing what I was looking for, I found everything. This made my decisions unfathomably difficult, and I’m indecisive at the best of times…

    In the end, finalising the everchanging shortlist and deciding the winning and highly commended stories it came down to which stories I gravitated towards more, which ones woke me up in the middle of the night, which characters and their worlds I found my mind drifting off when I was supposed to be doing other things. I chose the stories that simply pulled me in and wouldn’t let go.

    It’s tricky to quantify what qualities a story needs to have this unrelentingly pull on a reader – and there are certainly different qualities that will appeal to different readers – but I’m going to try my best. Failing that, there are the stories and the words themselves that these writers have generously shared.

    First Place: Eight Spare Bullets
    I love flashes that are structured as a series of fragments because the fragments allow you to piece together the wider story, to read between the segments. I’m a sucker for stories told in this way. The fragments used to tell this story have been meticulously arranged to form a stirring depiction of a relationship between two individuals living in the world’s most northernmost town. Each fragment drew me in so deeply I felt like an intruder. The images – so clear, so vivid – that the author has used fills me with both admiration for their precise rendering and foreboding at the reality they contain. This is a haunting flash that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.

    Second Place: The Dissolution of Peter McCaffrey
    It will be difficult to forget this flash, too. A man is faced with the remains of his family’s legacy after the ravaging Australian fires, and is burdened with the weight of his promises. There is so much in this story that lingers after reading, so many sentences that are so honestly wrought and alive from beginning to end. I’d even go as far to say that they pulse with urgency. Again, the images in this story were so clear and vivid, and I felt the heaviness of the protagonist’s responsibility, the heat of the unforgiving fires, in every word. The ending is especially powerful.

    Third Place: Dressage
    Likewise, this is another flash I kept coming back to. I love the movement and musicality that brings this one to life. I was immersed each time I read it, and I found myself savouring each reading and discovering something new every time. The structure and repetition are incredibly effective and well-executed, enhancing and enabling this story a real impact by coming “full circle” in its own way. Each word feels handpicked, which makes this is a delicate and wonderfully crafted flash fiction.

    Highly Commended: Valentine
    This flash has a filmic quality that really appeals to me. Both its action and how this action is structured allows this story to unfold in a truly evocative manner. Nothing is lost through the different shots being shown. I could see and feel the protagonist’s realisation at what he has lost, I could see the climactic moment blooming in slow motion and hear the song’s chorus blaring. Deceptively straightforward, this is an enjoyable, effective piece with so much woven between the lines.

    Highly Commended: [No Audible Dialogue]

    What I love about this flash is the distance the author adopts for the onlooker narrating this event, and how this distance doesn’t sacrifice the emotional impact of the story’s ending. I’m confident we have all played the game while people watching where imagine the conversations between people that we cannot hear, and this flash uses this as a device to tell the story of a family. A powerful moment with wider implications.

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    Sharon Telfer February 2020 First Prize

    Eight spare bullets

    by Sharon Telfer

    1
    The front windows refuse to shut. The house droops, as after a stroke.
    They drink in the kitchen. Under the slanting floor, they catch the trickle of thaw.

    2
    Everything here is the northernmost. Town, church, store, pub. The last.
    She replays her field recording, bowhead whales, all booming fuzz and feedback.
    “Harmonics!” Erik applauds. “That’s freeform jazz.”
    The last blues festival.

    3
    He softens in her mouth. It’s okay, she whispers, though it’s not. She’ll be gone six weeks.
    From the boat, she had watched an iceberg tumble, head over heels, like a clumsy toddler. Not playing, but dying.
    Erik kisses her, has to go. Husky safari, tomorrow’s fresh batch of tourists.
    He kisses his dogs too. Erik loves his dogs.

    4
    Everything slides. The wooden stilts sink beneath the houses. A landslip buries the play park. The ground heaves the dead from their graves, sends coffins tobogganing down the road.
    She wakes. Remembers. Not a dream. Last summer.

    5
    Her breath freezes in her nostrils.
    Reindeer antlers heap by the roadside. They gleam in her torchlight, like bleached coral.

    6
    Time loses its way in the permanent dark. The once-white mountain looms black. Deep below, one million seeds – a world’s worth – lie buried. They called it the doomsday vault, fast as a dragon’s hoard. Nine years after opening, meltwater has already flooded in.

    7
    Beware of polar bears.
    A mother and cubs wandered down this street, past the last post office, the last chocolaterie.
    If you leave town, you must take a gun and eight spare bullets.

    8
    The plane spins her back into sunrise.
    She thumbs up a clip. Erik dancing with his dogs, a circling, shuffling waltz.
    At the northernmost, there are more polar bears than people. If you meet a bear, pull back quietly.

    About the Author

    Sharon Telfer won the Bath Flash Fiction Award in June 2016 with her story, ‘Terra Incognita’, and was commended in the February 2019 round. She has also won the Reflex Flash Fiction Prize (June 2018). Her stories were selected for the 2019 ‘BIFFY50’ and Best Microfiction 2019. She lives near York and was the New Writing North/Word Factory Northern Short Story Apprentice in 2018. She is an editor at FlashBack Fiction. She tweets @sharontelfer.

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    Simon Cowdroy February 2020 Second Prize

    The Dissolution Of Peter McCaffrey

    by Simon Cowdroy

    Heat-ravaged rivets explode off the corrugated iron roof of our milking shed like corks from shaken champagne bottles.

    A long drought wind scalds in from the north and the thermometer leaves 50 behind as pitiless gusts scour every nook of the farm. No easy pickings to be found; all that could be taken is long gone.

    Dad wasn’t a man you made a promise to lightly, his plea for me to stay burdened with the heft of eight generations. I crane my neck, spot his cross, remember the soil being so unyielding we used up all our dynamite. Not enough time or faith left over for funerals, so his pension cheque still ghosts in.

    I lost Annie to the highway a week back. No goodbyes, only the midnight creak of our front door, the bloom of liberated fuel as her car engine fired.

    Well rid of her two-faced grace, the lies that fell from those blue eyes as acid rain, but I can’t seem to shake that afternoon before she left. The brutal whisper of, ‘Pete, we’re in this together’, as my tired, fractured head folded into her shoulder.

    Joe at the Co-Op rings. The water tankers aren’t coming. He chews my ear about it being the start of Australia’s climate change but sure feels to me like we’re already at the end of everything.

    Three hundred cattle are all that remain and I’ve enough feed to get half through next week. The cull is almost a familiar dance now. I never remember grabbing my gun; never forget to keep a bullet in the chamber after it’s done.

    I’m not a brave man, and if soft bovine eyes ever boiled over in accusation it would unbind me. Turns out, their gratitude is what keeps me awake.

    About the Author

    Simon lives as part of a dog dominated family in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne, Australia. He returned to fiction in 2017 after a long absence and in 2018 two of his initial pieces of Flash Fiction were published in Bath Anthology Three (one of which was commended).In 2019 he joined @VirtualZine as editor/reader and can also be found tweeting away at @virtwriting (#VWG).
    His first crime novel,Cut of a Knife, was a Pitch Perfect finalist at Bloody Scotland in 2018. Described by a reviewer as ‘Dark, disturbing but startlingly humane’ this novel is currently out in the world looking for a home. His hobbies include writing, reading, the art of Caravaggio, lifting heavy objects and awful puns.

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    Christina Dalcher February 2020 Third Prize

    Dressage

    by Christina Dalcher

    And she rides.

    She prances the beast sideways, backwards, up, down, feet in the air, falling, balancing, tumbling, perfect circles carved on the red dirt of Spain. Ten years, twelve years, fourteen. Fly a thousand miles from home. Fly south, jump left, skip right. One, two, three. Uno, dos, tres. Één, twee, drie.

    And they watch.

    Pay your thirty euros; see the Andalusian horses dance. Piaffe, pirouette, travers. Impossible, unnatural gymnastics. Watch the braids in their manes and the flowers in their tails. Watch the girl, ten years, twelve years, fourteen. Watch her fly one last time.

    And he bucks.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him dance. Because a beast is a beast, mare or stallion, Arabian or Andalusian. To its ears, Ravel and Offenbach and Sousa make noise, not music. Once a day, twice on Thursday, thunderclap roars of olé-bravo-jolly good show. So tired. Weary of spurs and bits and reins and weight.

    And she breaks.

    She breaks in the middle and at the ends, bones flattening, nerves singing. She breaks sideways and backwards, young flesh sinking into old earth. She dreams a dream of gold, silver, bronze. She wakes.

    And they gasp.

    Pobrecita-poor dear-die arme-shame-tragedia-so young. Dangerous beast-willful-cattivo-too green. Mobiles ping as news travels. This is Thursday. Next show at three o’clock.

    And she mends.

    At the sea, she sits, legs bound in plaster, braids in her hair. She sees the wild ponies lope and trot and gallop. Sees their manes free of flowers, sees their legs naked of wraps. Riderless, they fly to the rhythm of wind and waves, When they come to nuzzle her wounds, she wonders, Who is the trainer, and who is the trainee?

    About the Author


    Christina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction addict from Somewhere in the American South. She is also the sole matriculant in the Read Every Word by Stephen King MFA program (which she invented). Find her sometimes-prize-winning work in The Molotov Cocktail, Whiskey Paper, and New South Journal, among others. If you’re looking for Christina, she might be here: @CVDalcher, www.christinadalcher.com, or hiding in a closet re-reading a tattered copy of The Shining. Also, she made a book called VOX and another one called Q (Master Class in the US).

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    Remi Skytterstad February 2020 Commended

    [No Audible Dialogue]

    by Remi Skytterstad

    The commotion and clamour of the airport is deafening. We are turned to lip-readers by the pack of people and their cacophonic humming composed and orchestrated by a medley of goodbyes / stay safes / I love yous.

    Like a ray of sunshine through a patchy carpet of clouds, is our attention drawn to a child / boy / son. The crowd of the airport manoeuvring around him—a crop circle of bodies—in unobtrusive / comfortable / safe distances.

    The child is fighting tears. His bottom-lip quivers, and it’s apparent he’s trying to be brave / strong / a big boy.

    He is embraced by a man / soldier / father. Together they ripple like a wave when he breathes in his son’s hair, to treasure / remember / survive. And for a moment time slows inside their circle. The crowds bend past them like light around a black hole—a time lapse of bodies, around their sculpturesque scene. The quivering lips—now still—are stretched from cheek to cheek, in a frozen, soundless cry, revealing gritted milky teeth.

    Like this we watch them, as the crowds pour and murmur around them, like a river around an islet.

    A woman breaks their event horizon, and the boy and the man come alive again.

    The son is nodding to the movement of the father’s lips. He straightens his back and wipes away the tears that forced themselves through—his skin darkened in their wake. He moves his mouth in whys / do you have tos / please don’ts.

    When the man / soldier stands, he leaves—like the shed skin of a snake—the father around the neck of the son. A translucent outline of a man, only hinting at who used to hold the boy.

    The boy is embraced by a woman / mother / widow.

    About the Author

    Remi Skytterstad is from Norway where he studies educational science. He writes in English as a second language. He is currently in recent issues of Barren Magazine, Flashback Fiction, and Lunate. Find him on Twitter @Skytterstad.

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