Molia Dumbleton won third prize with 'Why Shit is Still Like This Around Here and Probably Always Will Be' Our judge Tara L. Masih said it was ‘a precise and perfect’ micro and we agree.
Kathy Fish, who judged our February 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award is renowned for sparking stories that get published and win contests in her Fast Flash intensive writing online course. Molia’s piece was partly inspired by attending one of these amazingly productive courses and also from a random event that stuck in her mind. Her advice to other writers of flash is to sometimes just let the writing ‘come out’ and if this was the case with her piece here, it has worked very well. She also has interesting things to say about finding a title – how it is worth thinking about them for a long time. We think her long title for this story adds much to the story itself and it’s interesting that other story titles reference Shakespeare and the Bible and enhance the layers of the stories in question. She also has another discussion starter in her view that collections can contain a mix of flash fictions and longer short stories. And why not? We’re certainly looking forward to reading her collection that contains both. Finally, we thank Molia very much for her kind words about the Bath Flash Fiction Award and for being ‘with us’ from Day One over three years ago. We love flash fiction, and enjoy helping to build a friendly writing community.
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Our judge Tara L Masih, was struck by the tight writing style of ‘When the rubber hits the road’ by Lee Nash and the way so much is covered. Many decades are traversed in the one long paragraph and like Tara, we love the way the elements shape the piece, and show how the events that take place instigated by one real and one imaginary man in different centuries, are sometimes out of human control. Henry Wickham, who the story is about, is pictured below along with some pictures of rubber sap collection. Lee writes in several different condensed forms, and her recently published poetry collection Ash Keys includes haibun, sonnets, a prose poem and haiku. She also enjoys writing poems based on historical figures. We think it’s interesting to find a way into a historical character’s life by thinking of how they have overcome incredible hurdles and failures. She has a floating ‘muse’, pointing out that inspiration is all around, and that she combs through all manner of experiences to find an ‘entry point’. Take on her tip to read your flash again and again for syntax, vocabulary and rhythm and maybe try writing your own historical flash fiction for the next round of the Award, which closes in June.
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Jo tells us how she moved from writing her prize winning story in her head while driving, repeating the words out loud and then shaping the story on the page later. A busy writer, with all sorts of projects on the go, she is drafting a second novel with an interesting theme about survival in an apocalyptic world, has given herself the challenge of making 100 submissions this year and also co-runs the inspiring Writers’ HQ which gives opportunities, encouragement and support to writers from all backgrounds and income brackets. Whenever she’s lost for inspiration in her own writing, she always returns to Shakespeare and points out that reading Shakespeare, or “Shakey P” as she calls him “will tell you everything you need to know about writing”. Her other great writing tip for those wanting to enter Bath Flash Fiction Award is to find the “fundamental nugget of human truth in a story; something that resonates with a reader, almost on an unconscious level.” I am sure Shakespeare would have agreed with that.
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David Gaffney lives in Manchester, UK. He is the author of the novel Never Never (2008) plus the flash fiction and short story collection Sawn-Off Tales (2006), Aromabingo (2007), The Half Life of Songs (2010) and More Sawn-Off Tales (2013). The Guardian said 'One hundred and fifty words by Gaffney are more worthwhile than novels by a good many others.' He has written articles for The Guardian, Sunday Times, Financial Times and Prospect Magazine and was judge for the 2015 Bridport Prize. His story 'The Staring Man' is featured in the 2016 collection Best British Short Stories, his new novel, All The Places I've Ever Lived came out in February 2017 on Urbane and his graphic novel with Dan Berry, The Three Rooms in Valerie's head is out now with Top Shelf.
- In your excellent article for the Guardian in 2012 about flash fiction, you listed the following tips for writing micro fiction – start in the middle, don’t use too many characters, make sure the ending isn’t at the end, sweat your title, make your last line ring like a bell, write long then go short. Is there anything else you would add six years down the line?
Thank you to everyone who entered the February round of Bath Flash Fiction Award. You kept our readers busy during the four months of the competition and as usual we had a deluge of entries at the end, which made it all very exciting. We received nine hundred and thirty-two submissions, from thirty-three countries:
Stephanie Clement Photography
Consider my introduction to the following Bath Flash Fiction contest results as a kind of Thank You letter. A Thank You to the many contestants who participated, and to the staff who had to create the long list. But mostly this is a Thank You to the writers who listened. In my judge’s interview, I asked entrants to “Try to do something unique. Unique can mean using different subject matter, vocabulary, format, syntax, punctuation. Experiment a bit. Let loose. Find a story that has to be told. Make the judge forget the outside world for a moment.”
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Things Left And Found By The Side Of The Road
by Jo Gatford
Baby car seats, sometimes with babies in them, swiftly recovered. Nettles flourishing in the face of toilet breaks. Things said in anger and in tiredness, whipped free from wound down windows. Singular shoes. Houses turned into islands, refusing to bow to the bypass, clinging to their land. Roadkill; fox-ochre and badger-stripe and innards turned outer. And crows, wherever things are dead and forgotten. Shopping lists never fulfilled. Plastic bags, flocks of them, as everlasting as the old gods. GPS-related swearing. A horse, filthy white, the same colour as its hay, watching the traffic, dreaming of leaping three lanes to greener grass. Dozing lorry drivers, longwave sewn into their sleep. The shouts of children: Cows! Red car! Lions! Lions? No. Cows! The snap-shut replies of parents who should have stopped for a wee miles ago. Imaginary friends, abandoned because of older sisters who said they were babyish. Garden centres where time is liminal and space folds in on itself somewhere between the box shrubs and the trellis. Petrol stations, though never when you need one. Yawns no longer suppressible. A cigarette butt flicked through a window slot, its glowing ash streaking back inside to burrow into denim thighs. Traffic cones like shells for urban hermit crabs, crushed and dented, flashing silently into the night. A moment of lapsed concentration. A time when you wouldn’t make it home for Christmas, or the weekend, or at all. A time when these were Roman roads and the unexpected turn would not have existed. A time when all of this was nothing but fields. Car parts, tyre skids, blood spots, and perfect cubes of safety glass. The knowing sighs of EMTs. Roadside recovery phones standing at respectful intervals like neon orange sentinels. Angels, fallen, bewildered in concrete, wondering where all the souls have gone.
When The Rubber Hits The Road
by Lee Nash
Everything conspired against him: the wind, first stealing the flames he’d kindled and torching his thatched cottage, then tearing away the corrugated iron roof of the home he’d built in its place; the Amazonian climate that finished his mother and sister; the mosquitoes and sandflies, maddening and everywhere. Everything and everyone: his business partner who walked; his long-suffering wife who at last set sail for Blighty, never to see him again, leaving Henry to his new conflict, a chain of coral islands off the coast of New Guinea; Queen Victoria and her version of justice. Still, he managed to pack those 70,000 seeds into the Amazonas, safely tucked between banana leaves, and now the wind was with him. Fast forward to the flames that clear the land in Malaysia and Myanmar, China and Cambodia, making room for neat rows of Hevea brasiliensis, to the demands of industry, the elastic bands and erasers, the half of all our tyres, engine belts, gloves, electrical wiring, emulsion paints and condoms – rubber smoothing and cooling us all the way. Fast forward once more to the infamous bio-warrior, carrying spores of South American leaf blight; with a nod to Mr Wickham he’s brought an ample supply and under a dubious guise. As the aircraft touches down, he bites on a rubber bullet, thinks of the Indian slaves castrated by the barons, the cash-rich labourers’ lust for cars, and welcomes the chaos that will ensue. With a measured pace, he walks his infested Wellington boots over the ripe plantations, clipboard in hand, while latex drips from the spiral scores into the waiting cups. The scarred trees recede in every direction; he flexes his leg muscles, still stiff from the flight, and starts to relax. The wind will do the rest.
Why Shit Is Still Like This Around Here And Probably Always Will Be
by Molia Dumbleton
Joey says his crispest memory of his mom is that ticky-ticky click-click-click of high heels on linoleum in the mornings and the clatter of plastic dishes and bracelets and curse words in the sink and her insistence that he hug her low and fast before she put on her pantyhose Jesus c’mon hurry now be a good boy because they’re expensive and runs were always blamed on him Goddamnit Joey even when he didn’t touch her legs not at all and all his trucks were in the other room besides.
The sound of those wind chimes she hung on the front porch still gets to him now he swears they put him in some kinda mood real fast whenever some girl he’s trying to go home with has them outside her apartment when they get there For fuck’s sake chimes you gotta be kidding me rubbing his nose in the way her sweet smoky smell used to go out the door with her into the cold air and into that loud car of hers down the road and away again an entire heart’s lifetime tick-ticking away in his chest before Mrs. Lewin and her big smell would get there to find him alone truck-handed and gob-faced at the plastic glass of the storm front door.