Meg Pokrass is a flash fiction writer, poet, writing tutor and Flash Fiction Editor and Curator at Great Jones Street. Her books include flash fiction collections, Bird Envy (2014), Damn Sure Right (Press 53 2011) and The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down (Etruscan Press 2016) and an award-winning book of prose poetry Cellulose Pajamas (Blue Light Book Award Winner 2015). Among her many other publications, she has a flash-fiction novella and essay on the form in My Very End of the Universe, Five novellas in flash and a Study of the Form published by Rose Metal Press. Meg has recently moved from the United States to England.
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First, I’d like to thank Jude for inviting me to judge this wonderful contest. What a tremendous honor! I’m so impressed with how organized and efficient all of the Bath contests appear to be, especially how quickly the long list is chosen and announced. The production of a beautiful anthology from the contest long list is also very impressive. This all takes hard work and demonstrates huge respect and appreciation for your contestants. Kudos to everyone involved!
I’m also very taken with the spirit of this particular contest. By that I mean the attitude of the contestants. There’s a feeling of camaraderie I picked up on on social media. A spirit of encouragement and high energy. A willingness to go for it and cross your fingers, but if you fail this time, never mind, there is always another great contest coming up. It makes me feel good for the writers involved. Writing is a tough gig! The best way to survive as a writer is to cultivate a sense of lightness, boldness, and playfulness around your work. Not lightness around your material (although that’s okay too), but lightness around the results. If you can keep showing up, keep playing and learning in the face of disappointment and rejection, it gives you a tremendous advantage in the long run. So kudos to everyone who submitted!
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We’re delighted that renowned American flash fiction writer and teacher, Kathy Fish is judging our next award, which opens on November 1st.
Kathy teaches flash fiction for the Mile High MFA program at Regis University in Denver. She has published four collections of short fiction: a chapbook in the Rose Metal Press collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008); Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011); Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2012); and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). Her story, “A Room with Many Small Beds” was chosen by Stuart Dybek for inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2016 (Queen’s Ferry Press).
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Robert Vaughan teaches workshops in hybrid writing, poetry, fiction, and hike/ write. He has facilitated these at locations like Alverno College, UWM, Fox Valley Technical School, JMWW (online), Red Oak Writing, The Clearing and Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos. He leads writing roundtables in Milwaukee, WI. He was twice a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award for Fiction (2013, 2014). His short fiction, ‘A Box’ will appear in the Best Small Fictions 2016 (Queen’s Ferry Press). Vaughan is the author of four books: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press, 2012); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps, 2013); Addicts & Basements (CCM, 2014). His newest, RIFT, is a flash fiction collection co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press, 2015). He blogs at www.robert-vaughan.com.
- You've been senior flash fiction editor for JMWW literary journal for six years and have also been fiction & poetry editor for Lost in Thought Magazine and guest editor for Smokelong Quarterly. What makes a piece of flash fiction stand out for you?
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This was a marvellous long list. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the stories several times. There were stories in flight, secret meetings, barbershop chats, runaway brides; there were mystical yearnings and mythical transformations; there were stalkers and lovers, nuns and tattoos, jam and germs. Such riches, such variety.
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It's just under five weeks until this round of the Bath Flash Fiction Award ends on June 12th. Writer, editor, manuscript assessor and director of National Flash Fiction Day, New Zealand, Michelle Elvy, who is based in New Zealand but has been sailing the coast of East Africa this year, will judge a fifty-strong long list. A feature of our contest is the quick turnaround and we expect results to be out by the end of June.
We are delighted to welcome renowned flash fiction writers and tutors, Robert Vaughan and Kathy Fish who are based in the United States, as our judges for the next two rounds of the Award. Robert will judge the round that begins at the end of June and ends in mid October, this year. Kathy will judge the following award that is likely to begin at the end of October and finish in February, 2017.
Kathy and Robert's collaborative book of flash fictions. Rift is reviewed here by Al Kratz who won second prize in the last round of the competition judged by UK based flash fiction writer and poet Tania Hershman.
Do buy their book. It's wonderful and very instructive. More exciting news about our judges for the final two contests in 2017 coming soon.
We're delighted that writer, editor and manuscript assessor, Michelle Elvy who we interviewed in January, has agreed to be our judge for this round of Bath Flash Fiction. Michelle reads and selects flash fiction on a daily basis for the online journals Blue Five Notebook and Flash Frontier and has judged many flash fiction competitions in recent years. She also organises New Zealand's National Flash Fiction Day competition which is now open for entries to New Zealand writers.
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First, to say: choosing the winners was difficult! Going from longlist to shortlist was a matter of what grabbed me on first read, whether it was the story, the freshness of the language, the structure, or something unique and surprising that I'd never seen before. But the next stage is when I got tough, because I was actively looking for reasons not to pick stories. I had to get to my top 5 from 20. This is when a judge gets ruthless. A story has to give something back on a second read - and a third read! Any even slight laziness in language - an overused phrase bordering on cliche, a typo - and that made it far more likely that I would discard that story. Also, if the premise was great, an intriguing idea, but the follow-through and the ending just didn't do it for me, that landed the story in my No pile.
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- You've judged many other flash fiction and short story contests in the UK and elsewhere and have also selected flash fictions for journals. There's a wide variety of styles in the flash fiction genre, but can you tell us what stood out for you in the winning entries and submissions?
Things that stand out for me – and I am only one reader, with my own tastes and preferences – are a love for language, a delight in what words can do, especially in such a short space. Also, a sense that the story was made for the length it is, that it is not a longer story compressed, that it is wonderful not despite but because of its brevity. As for styles, I am open to anything at all, I love being made to laugh and cry, but the main thing is: move me, surprise me, delight me. This can be done without fireworks, without car chases, without much action at all. Or: with all these things! I am looking for stories that sing, that I can hear in my head as I read and for hours, days afterwards. But sing in your own way, not in a way to please anyone else. Send us your best.
Tania Hershman is the author of two short story collections: My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions (Tangent Books, 2012), and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008) and co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers' & Artists' Companion (Bloomsbury, Dec 2014). Her début poetry chapbook is forthcoming in February 2016. Tania's short stories and poetry have been widely published and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4. She is curator of ShortStops (www.shortstops.info), celebrating short story activity across the UK & Ireland, a Royal Literary Fund fellow at Bristol University, and is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.