Reflections

Knowing When

Editor's Note

We now have entry closing dates for reasons explained here. This page simply remains to give a historical context to the development of our Award.

There is an aspect to Bath Flash Fiction Award which sets us aside from any other writing competition. Namely, our deadline date. We don't have one. Our award closes when we have one thousand entries.

In most writing competitions with deadline dates and big prizes, a large percentage of entries – often more than 50% – arrive during the last two weeks of the entry period. Knowing the deadline in advance means writers tend to wait several months after the competition opens before sending in a submission. We thought it would be interesting to try something different. We want to give entrants ownership of the deadline. "When is the deadline?" becomes "Is my piece ready?"

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What is flash fiction?

Flash fiction refers to stories 1000 words and under. This very short form has been growing in popularity since the 1980s gathering many names along the way. Some examples are: sudden, micro, nano, smoke-long, skinny, hint fiction and for tiny stories of 100 words and 50 words respectively – drabble and dribble.

In the article The Remarkable Reinvention of Very Short Fiction, Robert Shapard gives some history and possible explanations for this expanding surge of interest. One suggestion is that these days, readers love to be able to read short pieces on phones, tablets and other devices, then forward them to friends.

Attempting to define what flash fiction is, Shapard includes the following metaphor by Luisa Valenzuela:

"I usually compare the novel to a mammal, be it wild as a tiger or tame as a cow; the short story to a bird or a fish; the microstory to an insect (iridescent in the best cases)."

The comparison works for me. Writers and readers say, despite the brevity of flash fictions, the best echo long after reading. To sight an Emperor Dragonfly is a wondrous event for me. If I can get close to one, even for a moment while it hovers on a leaf, it's even better – the memory, with its myriad of connections and sensory impact will stay for years.

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