Award Four

Emily Devane
February 2017 First Prize

The Hand That Wields The Priest

by Emily Devane

That evening, the fish left a strange taste in my mouth.

We’d gone together, Dad in his waxed jacket and waders, me in my parka and wellies. Flies hovered above the river, orange-tinged in the afternoon sun. He fastened together his rod and opened his box: flies lined up like soldiers on parade. ‘We’ll try the March Brown,’ he said, affixing one to the line.

I spied the metal hook; it glinted between his fingers.

‘Can you see him?’ he pointed to a pool of slow-moving water. ‘There,’ he said and I followed his finger to a set of tiny ripples where, seconds ago, a mouth had snapped.

While I sat on a long-rotten stump, he waded in. Shoulders stretched back then thrown forward, he cast the fly towards the pool to dance across the water’s surface. He held his body still a while, then cast again. Patience is required, he whispered. When I tried to speak, to ask if the fish had gone, he shushed me. A glimmer of something, more ripples.

The rod bent – and then jerked to and fro. Dad reeled him in, the fish fighting all the while to shake off the metal hook. On land, he thrashed and gasped for breath – the gills, Dad indicated with his fingertips.

One shiny eye gazed up from the bag. With his hand, the same one he used to stroke my head at night, Dad gave a firm whack with his metal priest. The thrashing stopped.

A priest, I wondered. Was that to save its soul?

Dad held the fish across his hands for me to see the tiny teeth that took the bite, the shimmering belly. ‘Would you look at that,’ he said.

That night, his hand felt different on my head.

About the Author

Born in Derbyshire, Emily Devane now lives and writes in Yorkshire. Having spent 10 years as a history teacher, she came to writing during a career break when her children were small – and has been hooked ever since. Her short stories and flash fiction can be found in Rattletales 4, The Bath Short Story Award Anthology (2015), A Box Of Stars Beneath The Bed, The National Flash Fiction Day Anthology (2016), The Nottingham Review (Winter 2016),The Lonely Crowd (Issue 6) and Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, Volume One. Last year, she was a Word Factory apprentice. Between the flashes, she’s tentatively dabbling with something longer.

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Interview with Caroline Reid
October 2016 Flash Fiction Commended

Caroline Reid’s flash fiction, Last Dog, commended by Robert Vaughan in the October round, with it’s energy and passion, cries out to be read out loud. She says that her first love was music and growing up with a Welsh mother and an Irish father, and singing around a piano as a child, might have helped her strong sense of rhythm and enjoyment of performance. We love the photograph of Caroline’s dog and the description of the walks they take morning and evening. Many aspects of the environment are there, as with her story. It’s also great to know where our international entrants live, and how settings are different and similar. And how wonderful that Caroline, a free-lance arts worker, can take on arts collaboration projects worldwide. We’d like to think our Award could help make those connections between artists. Her writing advice for entrants is very helpful – don’t give up on a piece you love – keep sending it out everywhere. Submitting outside of your own country gives a story another chance to be read and published. We’re looking forward to the publication of our anthology with all the winning and a selection of listed stories in print.
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Interview with Julianna Holland
October 2016 Flash Fiction Third Prize

juliannaJulianna whittled down a longer story to create her beautiful third prize winning story, White Matter. Her voice is strong in this winning piece, with its wonderful use of language. We like her advice to other writers who might enter Bath Flash Fiction Award – stay true to your writing voice and style and don’t be put off by rejection. She points out how our subconscious lends us a vast bank of memory and imagination to draw on for new flash fictions.The challenge is how to shape that rich wealth of material into meaningful stories. Julianna’s writing group is important to her for feedback and increasing her productivity. Members of the group recommend books to each other and invite guests as well as critiquing each other’s writing. We’d be interested see more of Julianna’s work – the longer piece, her labour of love mapping the story of an elderly eccentric woman sounds intriguing. And of course we’d love to read more of her flash fictions.
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Interview with Christopher M Drew
October 2016 Flash Fiction Second Prize

So many different experiences and images went into the creation of The Perfect Fall Christopher’s striking second-prize winning flash fiction from our October round judged by Robert Vaughan. He shows us how meticulous his writing methods are, from the arrangement of the words on the page, to his many, many rewrites. He carves out the basics in a quick rough draft, then chisels in the fine details. This process can take a few months or longer. The finished result in his winning story demonstrates the attention to detail very well. It’s a story with several layers and we like his advice for others — "remember to write two stories: the one on the page and the one between the lines." Christopher also points out that ideas can come from the most unexpected places and multiply once you get started. You can find flash fictions in your longer stories if you ruthlessly cut down the words. We look forward to seeing more of his fiction, both the long and short pieces and hope his intriguing George and the Dragon comic fantasy tribute to Terry Pratchett gets completed and into print.
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Interview with Helen Rye
October 2016 Flash Fiction First Prize

helen-rye-homeHelen entered her incredibly moving first prize winning story just before midnight on October 12th, the final day of our last Award, judged by Robert Vaughan. Her ancient computer kept crashing and nearly stopped her from entering and we’re glad to say the prize money made it possible for her to buy a new one, pictured in the photograph here. In this interview she tells us what the title of the story, One in Twenty-Three means – a deeply shocking and sobering fact. She also describes her writing life in the hotbed of talented writers in Norwich. Her supportive writing group played the theme tune to ‘Rocky’ when she walked in soon after her win! I think cake might have been involved too. Take note of Helen’s top tip for prospective entrants – don’t let a lack of self-belief stop you, just go for it.
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Award Round Up
October 2016

Again, we were thrilled to receive so many entries from around the globe – about a hundred more than the June round – seven hundred and forty eight – submitted from twenty eight different countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States

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October 2016 Judge’s Report
Robert Vaughan

Robert VaughanWhen Jude Higgins asked me to judge her Bath Flash Fiction Award, my initial excitement was checked by schedules. It would be October, my week of potential reading of finalists would follow my already booked trip to New York City to read at the venerable KGB Bar. Not once, but two evenings, Friday and Saturday, for both the ever-exciting F-BOMB series, and also the Best Small Fictions event. It was an incredible trip, but I arrived home depleted, exhausted. And now I had the task of turning to the 50 awaiting stories, the vetted Long List of Bath Flash Fiction semi-finalists.

As I read through them the first time, I was stunned. Not a single story that didn’t fit, that was not rightly placed among the stunning 50. I started sweating, drawn into these unique landscapes, the unusual words, startling sentence fragments, the odd characters. These were highly unique and remarkably crafted stories. I’ve been a judge more than a few times, also have edited for several magazines (and still do). These were not “normal” submissions. So, I got to work. I read them each two more times, separating them with a numerical system. Narrowing down the 50 stories, over the next three days, to an eventual Short List of 20.
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Helen Rye
October 2016 First Prize

One in Twenty-Three

by Helen Rye

Our land was beautiful. You should have seen the cherry blossom in the springtime, the foot of our mountain was clothed in it. And the sweetness of the figs in autumn – there is nothing like it anywhere.

Figs were our country’s first gift to the world. Anzuki, Halabi, Bouksati, Oubied - such poetry there is in the names, and in the soft, ripened flesh you could taste the warmth of the sun that falls on the land of my grandfather’s fathers.

We burnt the trees to keep our child from dying of cold, the winter after the power went down. My husband wept as he carried the branches from the orchard, but the snows were coming and we had nothing left to burn.

He spared one.

The last fruit was ripe on its branches and the leaves had almost gone, the day the rebels took him away.

I took my son to my sister in the city, but then the bombs came. They fell on the library. On the marketplace. On the internet café at the corner of the next street. On the hospital. On the people who were fleeing from the hospital.

Our lives compressed to the twelve-metre span of this boat.

I called my son Ocean, because once I loved the sea. Now our land lies scorched and turned toward the earth, and ten thousand have fallen like leaves beneath these waters.

Did you know that the fig is not really a fruit? No, it is a flower that has turned in on itself, so that all of the beauty and goodness lies hidden on the inside. All the colour that could in another life have become bright petals is wrapped in darkness, away from the world. But it is in there.

It is in there.

About the Author

helen-ryeHelen Rye lives in Norwich, where she juggles part-time work with parenting and writing. She has benefited from tutoring by some of the absurdly talented writers who live in the city. Her first piece of flash fiction was shortlisted for the 2015 Bridport Prize. She is writing a novel, very slowly, and the occasional picture-book text.

She has loved writing since she was a child but returned to it only relatively recently via workplaces including a physics lab, a needle exchange and a theatre company.

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Christopher M Drew
October 2016 Second Prize

The Perfect Fall

by Christopher M Drew

You twist your tiptoes into the textured edge of the board and rock up and down in perfect pace with the lullaby lilt of water far below.

Hush. Hush.

You taste sweat and urine and skin and blood and inhale the sterile chemical remains of a thousand nameless souls that float beneath you like flotsam.

Breathe.

You close your eyes as the massless void inside you dilates like a black hole and collapses, pulling you into its gravity.

You bend your knees and push, and push, and push.

Your arms stretch in an ichthys over your head and curve through the apex of the dive like a breaching dolphin.

This is the moment, in the soft blue silence between the leap and the fall, when the world ceases its incessant spin. When agony and ecstasy fuse into numb oblivion and all you can feel is...

...the rush of hot air over your skin. The fizz of adrenalin through your blood. The shock of your flattened palms, as pitiless and precise as a scalpel, slicing the surface of the water with a rip like torn tissue.

You disappear piece by piece by piece until you are submerged, invisible, spinning through the viscous fluid like the sombre cycle of the seasons.

Light, dark, light, dark.

You link your arms around tucked knees, empty your lungs in silent scream, and ascend inexorably towards the shattered surface.

In. Out. Breathe.

You lie still, weightless, and listen to the muted white noise of splashing, laughter, music, life. Your heartbeat slows, echoing the rhythmic lap of water in your ears.

Hush. Hush.

You cradle your arms and try to remember the weight of him, the tufts of his satin hair, his skin like folded silk, his infinite smile.

But all you can feel is the fall.

About the Author

chris-drewChris has always been a writer. His earliest memory is composing a short poem in primary school (which could be described as flash fiction, although he didn’t know it at the time) about a deer running through the woods. In between writing, he works for a University and spends as much time as possible with his wife and two children. He is currently writing another flash, two short stories, and has an idea for a novella-in-flash that almost certainly won’t be ready by January. He is also working on three novels, but really needs to pick one and finish it.

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Julianna Holland
October 2016 Third Prize

White Matter

by Julianna Holland

Through the smoke and the opaque mantle of my cataracts and bee veil I note that the waxing honeycomb has filled with a hatch of eggs, the mass of white absurdly distinct. All my life I have been hounded by the gleam of whiteness. In the snowfall of my childhood, a ram’s bone remains in a ditch, the pearl germs in my children’s teething gums, the hoar evinced itself in sharp focus.

It has dogged me since my fifth year when my brother died one Sunday in spring. That afternoon I stood before my mother and the still baby in her bedroom gloom holding a spray of tiny, white buds. A tea tray on the dressing table glistened with a spoon, half-harrowed in the sugar, tempting as a spade in sand. I ventured closer holding out my wilting flowers. A meagre offering. My lowered stare took in her swollen chest and, startling me, her breasts cried first. Milk tears spilled and spread across the strained fabric of her nightdress. My infantile bravery shattered. Dropping the white cluster on her bed, I ran from the room. I see them now, the same restive sprays, dancing boundless beyond the bulk of the hive. Were they meadowsweet or cow parsley or Queens Anne’s lace? I had neglected to learn the name of the spirited white flowers, paragons of remembrance, tenacious souvenirs of my boyhood. I turn to my wife and ask at last. ‘Baby’s breath’ is her reply and my mourning carries on.

About the Author

julianna-hollandJulianna Holland is a writer living and working in the North West of Ireland. She studied Film and Psychotherapy in Dublin and Galway.
Julianna is a member of The Sandy Field Writers' Group based in County Sligo and has previously been shortlisted by Fish Publishing and The Bridport Prize.

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