Winners

June 2017 Judge’s Report
Meg Pokrass

I could not believe how many powerful stories I read in the long list of fifty stories. It was very difficult to select the short list of twenty and then to choose the winners. I noticed that many stories involved a longing for lost innocence, equilibrium, and trust—a feeling that seems to be with us so much these days as the world becomes an increasingly chaotic place. What sensitive, strong voices you all have.

First Prize
Tying the Boats In 164 words, the shortest on the long list, 'Tying the Boats' is an elegant, masterful piece in which every word is essential. The author makes brilliant use of metaphor, yet her touch is gentle. The power in this story involves what is not said, which leaves the reader on-edge. We can't help but identify with the main character, who we see is in emotional danger.
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Amanda O’Callaghan
June 2017 First Prize

Tying the Boats

by Amanda O'Callaghan

A week after she married him, she cut her hair. The scissors made a hungry sound working their way through the curls.

“You cut your hair,” he said, when he came home. Nothing more.

She thought he might have said, “You cut off your beautiful hair,” but his mouth could not make the shape of beautiful, even then.

She kept the hair in a drawer. A great hank of it, bound together in two places with ribbon almost the same dark red. Sometimes, when she was searching in the big oak chest that she brought from home, she’d see it stretched against the back of the drawer, flattened into the joinery like a sleek, cowering animal.

Once, she lifted it out, held it up to the light to catch the last of its fading lustre. She weighed it in her hands. The hair was thick, substantial, heavy as the ropes they’d used when she was a girl, tying the boats when storms were coming.

About the Author

Amanda O’Callaghan’s short stories and flash fiction have been published and won awards in Australia, UK, and Ireland. A former advertising executive, she has a BA and MA in English from King’s College, London. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Queensland. She lives in Brisbane, Australia. More details and links to Amanda’s work can be found at www.amandaocallaghan.com

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Nod Ghosh
June 2017 Second Prize

The Cool Box

by Nod Ghosh

Ross opened the cool box and removed remnants of his wife's wedding gown, a pair of pliers, the telephone from his grandmother's hallway, a light moment, two books of paramount importance, his daughter's milk teeth, effervescent conversation and a piece of sky, the tenderness of his mother's bosom, the sweat of children running from parents shot by insurgents, a medley of vegetables, the disappearance of two American teenagers, refusal to use dental floss, a holiday in Tyneside, the temperamental nature of a wolf's disposition, his brother's charm, latex gloves, his drama teacher with the blood disorder who walked on crutches after bleeding into his knees, a deformed cactus, the visages of two cats, disparaging and cruel, an engineer's rule, Bach's cello suites No. 1-6, a Mexican wave, ten pins, all the reports he'd produced in the last hundred and fourteen months, a dinosaur tooth, non-iodised salt, a mission to eradicate multi-drug-resistant organisms, a punnet of strawberries, the plagiarism of fools, dormant mushroom spores, a glass table he had coveted but never bought, dielectric grease at three hundred and nineteen dollars for ten millilitres, a tablespoon, a symphony of simultaneous orgasms, cream, manufactured dreams available on-line, developmental delays, a red squirrel from France, two plastic wine-glasses, seven long-playing records he'd never owned, a tomato, mustard, meringue nests, soft cheese, a low-carb sandwich for Rita, and he still couldn't find the paper plates.

'Are you sure you packed them?' he asked.

Rita's hair blew across her eyes.

'Here they are.' She pulled out a pack wrapped in plastic. 'Honestly, I don't know what you were thinking. You seemed lost.'

An invisible comet may or may not have streaked across the sky.

'They were right in front of you'.

About the Author

Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Nod's work appears in anthologies: Love on the Road 2015 (Liberties Press), Landmarks (U.K. 2015 NFFD), Sleep is A Beautiful Colour (U.K. 2017 NFFD), Horizons2 (Top of the South NZSA), Leaving the Red Zone (Clerestory Press, N.Z.), and various publications. Further details: www.nodghosh.com

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David Rhymes
June 2017 Third Prize

The Place We Live Before We Don’t

by David Rhymes

He sat by the window recalling everything; the new-born infant, toddler, son; the brother, friend and boyfriend; Janie’s date, her husband; Jack and Hannah’s dad; watching the bin men slot the wheelies on the cart. A bleating baby when his mam’s milk wouldn’t come. An empty belly raging, dozing in a pushchair, watching sparrows on the ledge, waiting for the microwave to heat the formula. The way the binmen always wore those bright flourescent uniforms during the day. The bin men they. At junior school, a rainy day inside; the warm fug of the form room; outside in the wintry half-light, crows; Mrs. Moncrieff, who wouldn’t give permission to turn on the lights; no quibbling boys, you know we must save electricity, we want to see the birds now, don’t we? Yes. And then the day that Angela was hit on Plessey bridge. Your sister in a coma at the QMC. Though things got better, slowly: by any reckoning it was just six weeks later she stood eating grapes at Daddy’s bedside, reeling out a stream of Knock-Knock jokes. But that shook us, till Grandad Albert shook us more, then Dad got sicker still and went. And Janie pregnant with our second then, with Jack, and little Hannah only three and toddling still, and I thought Mam would say that’s bad but I’ve got worse, I’ve got this thing, this what-do-you-call-it? The unthinkable, growing in me, a black crow roosting somewhere in my blood. And one day look it’ll flap out too big, and what comes finally to everyone at last will come to me, that big black crow that’s roosting somewhere in my blood. Well, yes, he thinks, it will. The signal beeper on the cart. The noisy bin men backing out. The place we live before we don’t.

About the Author

Born in Nottingham, David has a degree in English from the University of Warwick and an MA from the University of East Anglia. He lives with his wife and children in Eneriz, a village near Pamplona, Spain, where he works freelance as a language trainer, course writer and translator. He has written across many different forms, both poetry and prose, and is currently finishing a novel set in early Victorian Nottingham, based on the life of Bendigo, a champion bare knuckle boxer who later became a preacher.

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Melissa Goode
June 2017 Commended

Acute intoxication

by Melissa Goode

We arrive home from the hospital and you lean hard against me as we walk up the front stairs. Sweetheart, you say, straight into my ear. You smell of chemicals and antiseptic. The children in the school playground opposite our house scream and play, mad animals, running around their cage. They squeal and laugh.

“I’ll go to bed,” you say.

You sway down the hallway. You sail. The drugs make their way through your body—I don’t know their names, their compatibility. The ones the doctors put into you and those you put there yourself. Don’t fucking freak out, you said. I kept waiting for your heart to stop. I did.

The curtain rings rattle and you make the room dark, your skin white-green, your hair black-green. I put your suitcase at the end of our bed. You slide between the sheets, still clothed. It slithers into my stomach, acidic, and it stays. I don’t know what it is, maybe anger. Or rage.

“I thought you were going to die,” I say.

You open your eyes and close them again. “Nope, still here.”

“I don’t think you heard me,” I whisper.

You open your arm wide and beckon to me. I lay down beside you, on you. Your heart pounds beneath me, your chest rises and falls, your skin is warm, dense. I hear the children play. They shout. The bell rings for them to return to class. In another hour and ten minutes, the bell will release them from school.

As the sun sets, I will get out of bed and you will be asleep, peaceful, your chest barely moving, as if I have risen from your burial place. Outside it is quiet and then it is not. The birds sing all at once.

About the Author

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in Best Australian Short Stories, New World Writing, Split Lip Magazine, Atticus Review, Cleaver Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Litro Magazine, and Jellyfish Review, among others. One of her short stories has been made into a film by the production company, Jungle. She lives in Australia. You can find her here: www.melissagoode.com and on Twitter @melgoodewriter

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Novella-in-Flash 2017 Winners

I was honoured to be asked to judge Bath Flash Fiction Award’s inaugural novella-in-flash contest. There were many strong novella entries making the competition fierce. It was fascinating to see the different way each writer approached this challenge!

One of the most important traits of the flash novella is in creating a sense of urgency that pulls the reader in quickly. This is achieved through pacing, stand-alone story strength, and the creation of unforeseeable dramatic tension. Ultimately, success relies on the crafting of an inventive, non-traditional narrative arc. The short nature of the novella-in-flash does not allow for much context or rumination. Instead, it relies on tragic urgency.
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February 2017 Judge’s Report
Kathy Fish

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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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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Nicholas Cook
February 2017 Second Prize

The Peculiar Trajectory of Space Objects

by Nicholas Cook

Voyager 1
Nothing’s farther out of the solar system than Voyager 1. And even that still talks back. So I wondered what she meant when she wrote let’s keep in touch. I imagined her looking into outer space for something blinking, not quite sure what was a star.

Voyager 2
Her brother was older by a minute. We sat on his bed, rocket covers and all, everything taking off, sucked into the vortex that was his new ceiling fan. “Why is that so strong?” I asked, but he didn’t answer, said it was okay if I wanted to touch him.

Pioneer 7
Telemetry’s just a fancy word for data transfer. In school they talked about the tail of Halley’s Comet, how it’d be back in seventy years. More time than Pioneer’s been alive. The entire comet eventually worn to a stub. My teacher played his favourite song, I Dreamed a Dream. “People disappear into the ground all the time,” he said. “Not like it’s a world away.”

Mariner 9
When I closed my eyes I imagined levitating under the sucking power of her brother’s ceiling fan. Air enveloping me like a reverse descent into the red planet. The soil was so dry they had to delay imaging from Mariner 9 for months. We learned a body underground will take ten years to decompose, add in the coffin and you’re up to fifty. “Satellites are just pieces of metal eventually falling to Earth,” I told her brother when he started crying.

About the Author

Raised in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, Nicholas Cook has lived in New York City and San Francisco before settling in an 80-year-old house in Dallas with a grey-faced greyhound named Jane. His fiction has appeared in 100 Word Story, A Quiet Courage, New Flash Fiction Review, Camroc Press Review, and elsewhere. He works in technology and drinks too much iced tea. He’s currently at work on a novella-in-flash. Find him at nicholascook.com.

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