In association with the Arts Council England, Bath Flash Fiction Award is sponsoring the first ever UK literary festival entirely devoted to flash fiction. Taking place on the weekend of National Flash Fiction Day UK, Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th June, the inaugural Flash Fiction Festival will be held in Bath.
Check out our action-packed programme; we've organised a great line up of workshop leaders, speakers, writers and teachers of the short and short-short form – Vanessa Gebbie, Paul McVeigh, Tania Hershman, David Gaffney, David Swann, Ashley Chantler, Peter Blair, K M Elkes, Kit de Waal, Michael Loveday, Christopher Feilden, Calum Kerr, Jude Higgins and Meg Pokrass.
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There’s much to learn about writing flash fiction in this interview with Nicholas Cook who won second prize in the February 2017 round of Bath Flash with his wonderfully titled and moving story, The Peculiar Trajectory of Space Objects. Nicholas tells us more about the structure of this piece, white space and about the title and the use of titles in general in short short fiction. We learn about his journey to flash fiction via screen writing and the parallels between writing and coding. He also mentions Jane, his most beautiful greyhound/part Saluki dog, who I think, from the photograph, would be most writers’ favourite muse. I love his writing tip that you can even write about a ‘toaster pastry’ as long as the emotion is there and the language interesting.
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You can now buy To Carry Her Home, Bath Flash Fiction Volume One, designed and published by Ad Hoc Fiction, from this site. It's a beautifully laid out book, with a striking cover, printed on quality paper and containing 145 fictions of 300 words or less from the first four rounds of the Bath Flash Fiction Award. These contests were judged by authors Annemarie Neary, Tania Hershman, Michelle Elvy and Robert Vaughan and the first twenty-one flash fictions are all the winning and commended pieces. The other 124 stories are a selection of the short listed and long listed pieces from the four rounds arranged in an order we thought worked well. There are 125 authors represented, from eleven different countries – some have more than one flash fiction in the book – a wonderful range of styles and themes. Something for everyone, and a book to read and come back to.
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Emily tells us about jotting down ideas for fictions in her notebook, wherever she is. Her habit has resulted in two flash fiction stories shortlisted in previous rounds of the Award and now published in To Carry Her Home: Bath Flash Fiction Volume One and her first-prize winning story from the February 2017 Award. It’s fascinating to read about what inspired all three stories. In her winning story, seeing an angling magazine took Emily back to past memories of fishing. She tells us how she shaped the story to include the child’s shift of perception, the central idea of the piece. Emily also describes how her former career as a history teacher helped her write stories that have subtext and certain inferences. We learn about her time as a Word Factory Apprentice and how it has taken her writing to different places. And she has some great tips for flash fiction writing at the end of the interview.
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Thank you to everyone who entered the February 2017 round of Bath Flash Fiction, those who've entered before and those new to the contest. This time we received seven hundred and thirty-two entries from thirty different countries:
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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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.
The Peculiar Trajectory of Space Objects
by Nicholas Cook
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.
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.
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.”
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.