Winners

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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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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