Winners

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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Emma Zetterström
February 2017 Third Prize

Manganese

by Emma Zetterström

We’re like magnets, I say.
More like velcro, the distance scratches your voice.
Velcro lies flaccid until you stick it together. We snap, I say.
Not anymore. I stamp the snow on the platform.
We should repel, by the laws of nature, and my mum, because we’re the same. You ignore that. In ancient times minerals had a gender, I don’t want you to say what you want to say, but I want you on the line. My credit will run out in minutes.
Why can’t a stone just be a stone? you spit.
Manganese used to be, in, like, ancient times, two black stones. The male one attracted iron and the female one didn’t, I am stalling for you. The train arrives. I learned that at school today.
And only males have magnetism? you’re raising your voice. The train pulls away. Outside, winter has surprised autumn, stumbling in before the leaves have gone.
Magnets don’t work at a distance. Here it comes now. Tear apart the velcro. It’s time to end this.
What about the moon? I plead. It pulls the sea from afar.
I need more than a lunar body to tug me, your voice merges with the train’s rattle.
But I’ll be back once I leave school. Once Mum can’t decide. The words catch in the tiny holes covering the microphone. High rises become houses with junk-shaped snow in gardens. They become fewer. Until there are only white stretches interspersed by black trees. I hold my phone and watch the warning message light up. The money’s almost up. Rooks rise up in fright from the train’s trundle. Their outlines vivid against the snow.
All I hear before the phone cuts is Good.
Good.

About the Author

Emma is a Scot living in Sweden. She writes short stories from a red house on the edge of a forest north of Stockholm. Some of them have been published in the Island Review, Dactyl, Valve and one was long listed for Radio 4’s Opening Lines. She also translates, helps refugees with Swedish and English. She tweets @cookazstorm.

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Barbara Mogerley
February 2017 Commended

Cups

by Barbara Mogerley

Two artists shared a studio in Montmartre. The younger slept on straw in the corner of the room. His desire for realism tormented him, “Art is truth and truth is art,” he used to say. He rose at sunset, worked ‘til dawn; forgot to eat and rarely slept. He worked outdoors, he worked indoors; his inspiration had no limits.

The elder drew forks. His creations included: Fork with Still Life, Fork at Rest and Fork City, the latter inspired, he said, by Elliott’s Preludes. Celebrities appeared in them: Fork and Bono, students copied them, art collectors collected them. The New Yorker featured an article on his work: Is the fork what separates man from beasts?

One day, the younger – tired, dishevelled, hungry, broke - watched the elder complete Fork and Knife: A Study in twelve minutes, then eat a bacon roll. ‘Simplicity’, the elder advised, is the key. The younger bought a beginner’s art book. He mastered the outline of a cup in five minutes; produced four paintings an hour; named the naturalists as his inspiration. He drew cups with saucers, cups with plates, cups with teaspoons, cups with cups. His most fêted piece was a collaboration with the elder called, Cup and Fork: It took them fifteen minutes to complete. A dissenting voice called it ‘pretentious fork’, another called it ‘passé’. The world’s attention soon turned towards a young spoon artist.

About the Author

Barbara Mogerley lives in Dublin where she is researching and writing about her German grandfather's internment as a civilian P.O.W. Barbara is also working on some personal essays and short stories. She has been longlisted for two Fish Prize competitions and long listed and shortlisted for writing contests at the online journal, Someblindalleys where she was also one of the winners of their 'Fiction of the Future' competition. Other wins include a place on writer Molly McCloskey's workshop organised by Trinity College, Dublin.

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Elisabeth Ingram Wallace
February 2017 Commended

My Thirty-Eight Step Korean Cleansing Routine

by Elisabeth Ingram Wallace

Six months ago, my Mum and I started to get serious about skincare.

Mum’s goals were to be ‘barely there’, ‘flawless’ and ‘age-defying.’

My goals were to ‘go big’ and ‘colour!’

Mum tried ninety-eight Concealers and Foundations.

I tested Highlighters (for inner glow) and Contouring kits (to define).

You can find all our reviews on YouTube. With the product placement offers rolling in, we took things up a level.

Mum had her tummy tucked.

I got a bigger bum, bigger boobs, and bigger lips.

We weren’t getting the impact we wanted, YouTube viewer wise, so we upped our game.

Mum spackled plaster into her wrinkles and applied beige masonry paint.

I had my forehead surgically removed and replaced with the skull of a tiny baby bird. I’ve always felt insecure about my skull, ever since I was a toddler and I first noticed my cranium was disproportionate to my mandible.

Mum started sleeping with a bucket full of slugs on her face, so the slime would infuse her epidermis overnight.

I killed a man and climbed inside his body and wore him as a moisturising onesie.

That week, we got 4.8 million followers on Twitter!

Yesterday Mum filled the bathtub with sulphuric acid. Overnight, her body fizzled and melted into slime. By dawn, she was barely there. I drained her away this afternoon.

With Mum gone, I need to find myself. Centre myself. Be Me.

That’s why I’ve established my thirty-eight step Korean cleansing routine.

Self-care is a core component of mental health.

No more drama, surgery or make-up. Just clean healthy skin; twelve toners, three ampules, eight serums, nine moisturisers, and six sheet masks, twice a day.

It’s me time. No more Twitter, no more YouTube, no more Facebook. No more sharing, friending, following. No more words.

About the Author

photo credit Rob MacDougall

Elisabeth has worked as an art director, production designer and prop maker in adverts, horror films, music videos and Kids TV. She’s made (fake) bombs, torture dungeons, flying sandwiches, vegetable rock-bands and giant emus.

In early 2017 she received a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust, which means she can now spend less time building murder lairs in the forest and more time writing.

Elisabeth is currently writing ‘The Precinct’, an apocalyptic short fiction series, and is in the middle of writing her first novel. She can be found @shortstoryprize.

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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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