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Round- Up, 2021 Novella in Flash Award

Thank you to all those who entered our fifth yearly Novella-in-Flash Award. We received just over one hundred entries from around the world, about the same number as last year. It’s a difficult genre to write in, and we very much appreciated the range and variety within the entries both in style, setting and subject matter. There were many themes about relationships and family and also wider political issues and contemporary concerns. It was so enjoyable reading them and making the decisions, although hard, on which ones to include in the long list of twenty-five novellas. Michelle has written a wonderful report with comments on her process of selecting for the short list and choosing the winning novellas. We thank her very much for the extreme care she took over this process; many, many hours mulling over the choices for the shortlist and then choosing the three winners and two commended authors.

We love the novella-in-flash ‘genre’ at Bath Flash Fiction Award, and are so pleased that Ad Hoc Fiction is able to publish the entire short list of ten novellas this year. Many congratulations to all authors: our first prize winner, David Swann; our two runners up, Tom 0’Brien and Al Kratz; the two highly commended Hannah Sutherland and Sudha Balagopal and the five shortlisted authors; Michelle Christophorou, Debra Daniel, Tracy Fells, Jupiter Jones and Ali McGrane. You can read the biographies on our winners and shortlisted writers pages on this website and we will be publishing short interviews with them soon.

We are also much looking forward to seeing all these novellas in print to join 14 novellas-in-flash series already published by Ad Hoc Fiction since we ran the inaugural Award in 2017. Hopefully, the books all be available from Ad Hoc Fiction in paperback and from Amazon worldwide in paperback and digital versions by the end of this year or early next year. We will keep you posted.

The 2022 Novella in Flash Award will be open soon.

Jude Higgins
April 2021

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Novella-in-Flash 2021 Judge’s report, Michelle Elvy

What a very fine set of flash novellas! And what a daunting task – perhaps the most difficult reading I’ve done. A huge congratulations to every writer who completed a novella-in-flash and submitted, and then a further round of applause to the writers whose work is in the Long List. Wow.
Many thanks also to Ad Hoc Fiction/ BFFA for entrusting me with this challenging and rewarding task. I learn so much every time I read new sets of flash fictions – and this collection of novellas certainly raises the bar.
It’s no easy task writing a collection of stories with a narrative arc, with overtones and undercurrents, with full yet flawed characters, with suspense and mystery in such a small space. Every one of the novellas in the long list has something special about it – many of them intense family portrayals, many of them drawn from history of a place and the nuances from a time long gone, several of them capturing innocence and loss. The form is evolving; writers are taking more chances in the way they write novellas-in-flash, as this long list demonstrates. Some experiment with time; some explore voice and point-of-view in inventive ways; a few play with dialogue and the vernacular; one begins with a recipe.
This long list takes us from Augusta to Reykjavik. And the names: imaginative and evocative, from ‘Fishing Lines’ to ‘Throw A Seven’, from ‘Wild Boys’ to ‘His Raucous Girls’ – I wanted to meet the people in these pages.
The stories captivated me from the opening lines, too. Here are few memorable ones:
I’m starting to believe my own stories. – Remembering What the Doormouse Said

“Two girls in thrift-store broomstick skirts leap from the dinner table, two girls in the
desert smell rain.” – His Raucous Girls

“Sixty-one paces between the Pool of the Monster and the Elm Field. Cara says fifty-five. I don’t argue. Never argue. She’s a year older. Knows things I don’t know.” – Long Bend Shallows

“Greedy and selfish. That’s babies for you,’ said the old woman.” – The End of History

Arriving at the Short List took ages. I moved back and for the between stories, I examined beginnings, middles and endings. I examined dialogue and pacing. I walked away and let them settle into my brain and heart. I read them again. Finally, the ten on the short list emerged as they each took all of the things we love about the short form one step further. They took risks, and I admired them for that. Here’s a hint of what the short list holds:

A Family of Great Falls. Two sisters growing up with a sense of the potential promise that life may hold, as well as the dark realities that are unavoidable with a father who, as an undertaker, is the ‘keeper of the dead’ and a brother buried in the town cemetery. Oh, and a name that must be buried and farewelled, too. Tender but not sentimental, this is a balanced set of stories that reveal the bonds of sisterhood and the way two young girls face the hardest challenges.

Hairy on the Inside. A group of flatmates try to hold onto their compassion and civilising tendencies in the face of pestilence and plague – mostly. Their new lockdown lives include all the typical things, from counselling sessions to book clubs. But this is no ordinary tale: you will howl when the moon is full and grimace when there’s a hunger for blood. A funny and irreverent monster mash-up, with love in the mix, too, and a serious message about how to be the real you. Carefully written with excellent pacing but also: it’s clear how much fun the writer had writing this!

Kipris. New life, and repeated death on the island of Cyprus. A story that intertwines people and politics, historical drama and myth, in an intricate and lyrical way, moving from the oceanside to the mountains to lemon and orange groves, and then to Liverpool and back again. Spanning across generations from the 1940s to the 1980s, this is a study in self-determination and love, on many levels. And goats – filling us with warm frothy milk, filling the stories with sustenance.

The Death and Life of Mrs Parker. Set in the structure the title suggests, this novella brings the reader into the moment of Mrs Parker’s demise and then, with swift moves and snappy dialogue, takes us through her life (moments both special and mundane), all while the ambulance lights flare and the compressions are counted. A life lived, a life revived, a life lost: there are many wonderful moments in this clever set of stories.

The Listening Project. A boy lost to his family; a young girl growing up without her brother. This is a beautiful story of grief and the way it changes us. It’s also about tuning in, and learning to hear, as the title suggests: to both outside and inside worlds. Moving across generations and sometimes navigating delicate moments and thin ice, this novella takes us through a family’s sad story, but also rebirth – in more ways than one. Musical and rich in tone.

And now, here are the top placements…
HIGHLY COMMENDED
Small Things. A beautiful story of loss, told in a way that surprises you, because love is expansive between the people in this story – between Jude and his Da, between Jude and the memory of his Ma, between Jude and Una, between Jude and Kit. And even as the love is grand, the moments are captured with subtle storytelling, and the heart shines with all the small things between them. These stories hold sharp dialogue and sometimes uncomfortable encounters; these feel like real people building real relationships. Friendship and love resonate in these pages, and the ending is both surprising and perfect. The story is layered over the years, from Jude’s first encounter with the new boy Kit (age 7) to his early adulthood when the world is baffling and unbalanced, where weaknesses and strengths come to light. And Kit, Kit Kit, at the centre of it all. Exceptional storytelling!

HIGHLY COMMENDED
Things I can’t tell Amma. A coming-of-age story of a young woman studying abroad, reaching across oceans and time to her family back in Calcutta. Deepa misses the spices and comfort of home, but she embraces the newness and choice that this new world has to offer. Deepa’s encounters captivate the reader. The details take us there; this in 1981 America: giggly girls tune into General Hospital and Good Morning, America, President Reagan is shot, Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer. Deepa is far from the traditions and expectations of her known world, and she opens her mind and her heart. It’s a world of jalapeño and new spices and even danger. And humour, too: there’s a clickety typewriter with a missing letter and ‘Whats-his-name’, the pet bird she can’t name. And there is love, first hinted at when Deepa does not pull back as Theo reaches for her hand, and then told delicately in second person and closing the set with a wonderful, gentle ending.

RUNNER UP
One for the River. An economy of words that tells a richly layered story. This is one of the shortest collections in the batch, and yet here we have so much as the writer shows the death of a boy from many views and paints a picture of the people who inhabit this small town. A great deal of control is exercised here; both the writing and the story are restrained but full. The themes intrigue: impermanence versus permanence; a fleeting moment versus decisive finality; an encounter observed as chance but with clear results. A photograph not taken encompasses the idea of ‘would have/ could have…’, while a stone carved with hammer and chisel reminds us of what can be said without words. This story leaves me with images of these people, and the moments between them – some wicked, some funny, some full of sorrow and also grace. And there’s a play with language, too: the chip van, the chipping of the stone; the rock of one’s life, the rock that Aiden drags, Sisyphean, to the bridge where the drowning boy was first observed. The idea of change, too: what happens to Fat Barry; what happens to Aiden. And then there’s the drowning itself – the five stages that are essential and eloquent, placed between the scenes. Spare in style, this small set of pages resonates with the complexities of an entire novel.

RUNNER UP
The Tony Bone Stories. A strong and sure narrative, this lively set of stories explores truth and fiction, the line between reality and make-believe, and the way one story will influence the outcome of another. It is worth noting that this is one of the few novellas in the Short List that does not deal with death and grief; this is a completely different take on The Meaning Of Life. I applaud the writer for taking a route that is fresh and fun. Rich in layers and confident in voice, the writing is witty, humorous and charged – and leaves the reader with a delicious set of questions to ponder, without being overly ponderous. It’s a romp through Tony Bone’s world – the good moments (he has a girlfriend!), the sleepless nights, the trip to Vegas – all the while working alongside his, and the narrator’s, existential crisis. Tony Bone has to exist, yes, but there must be a reason; as we learn here: you can’t just take someone from a news story and create a character to bring to your writing group, right? The narrator must build Tony – and plausibility – before our eyes. What a fun and rewarding exploration of the relationship between character, narrator and reader, and a reflection on possibilities, down to the very last marvellous line.

FIRST
Season of Bright Sorrow. A girl lives by the sea, and the rhythm of life both lived and observed emerges in these pages. Here we have a gathering of things unexpected: an external exploration of young Lana’s world, and the internal workings of her imagination, both built artfully by the writer. This collection stands out for the rhythmic storytelling and the variety the reader encounters in these small fictions – told in fragments, in lists, in long breathless sentences, in repetitions, in sharp and believable dialogue. There is great care here, and yet the stories spill from the page seamlessly. We peek into a bag and see what’s being collected; we have glimpses of a map, shards of shining things. There is both breadth and depth in these stories, and each page reveals something more: faraway objects and items close up need examining, need understanding. The strong characters are woven together beautifully: Lana with her missing father, her not-too-sober mother, an old man collecting objects along the beach and an unlikeable boy. The encounters are poignant and surprising. And we get the sense that, despite a yearning for order and control, there is a wildness, too: from lions to spiders to whelks to whales to the sea itself. By the end, Lana – and the reader – come to terms with realities and limitations that this life delivers, but there is an innocence and a hope that lingers, too. A superbly designed set of stories, from beginning to end. And although the style and confidence of the prose itself is enough to garner the top prize in this competition, it is worth mentioning here that the sketches that accompany the writing add another intriguing layer.

An extraordinary set of novellas-in-flash! I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

-Michelle Elvy
April 2021

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Round up for 2020. Thank you to all our supporters!

At the end of another decade this is the fifth year of the Bath Flash Fiction Award.Thank you very much to everyone who has submitted to our Awards over the years. It has been a wonderful experience reading so much exceptional flash fiction. In 2020, despite everything, even more writers from around the world entered the 2020 Awards. In total, there were 4235 entries from 49 different countries and people tell us we have been part of putting flash fiction on the map. Which is a lovely thing to hear.

In recent weeks, our fifth anthology, Return to Factory Settings. has been arriving in many different countries. And we hope all 136 contributors, writers who were longlisted, shortlisted or placed in the three Awards will have received their copies. We love the fact that writers new to flash fiction are published in the anthology as well as those who have been published before. The brilliant cover, designed by Ad HocFiction, was inspired by a story within the anthology by UK writer J A Keogh, who explained that it was last year’s Bath Flash Anthology that got him started on writing flash fiction. We think that’s a great circle to complete.
This year, the judges were Santino Prinzi from the UK, Mary-Jane Holmes who is based in the UK and the USA and Nod Ghosh from New Zealand. We’re very thankful to them for the hard work and comments on the listed and winning stories.
You can buy all five anthologies, pictured in the gallery here, from adhocfiction.com

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Interview with Johanna Robinson, 1st prize winner, BFFA October, 2020

We’re delighted to share an interview with Johanna Robinson, who won first prize in the October 2020 round, which was judged by Nod Ghosh. The story plus two other listed stories of Johanna’s is included with all the other winners and longlisted writers who agreed to publication in Restore to Factory Settings Bath Flash Fiction Vol 5. released this week from Ad Hoc Fiction. Johanna was a runner-up in our Novella-in-Flash award in 2019 with her wonderful NIF, Homing. It is now available as an ebook from kindle as well as in paperback from the Ad Hoc Fiction Bookshop. Links to worldwide kindle are on the bookshop page. So if you want to read more of Johanna’s work, it is instantly available. We’re so interested to learn that her win, ‘Blessings 1849’, another historical piece, is a story which had been submitted into various competitions previously in different forms and had actually also been sent to BFFA before and not been listed. Johanna describes here how she edited it and we’d love to take up her offer to show the various versions of the story, in a new post on the site. It also gives encouragement to others, as she said, not to lose heart over a piece you are dedicated to. It might need working on, but it can still be successful in finding a home as a competition winner or in a magazine.

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Novella-in-Flash 2019 Winners

Read about our winners and highly commended writers and go to our judge Michael Loveday’s report to see his comments on their wonderful novellas-in-flash. All six novellas-in-flash will be published in separate single author books by our small press, Ad Hoc Fiction and will be available to buy in paperback on the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop and in ebook formats on Kindle and Nook in due course. We are thrilled to publish such a brilliant variety flash fiction novellas by these authors and to further support a form of flash fiction growing so much in popularity worldwide.
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Winner, Ellie Walsh, with Birds with Horse Hearts. Ellie is a PhD student at the University of Plymouth, where her research focuses on Nepalese feminist literature. She has short stories and poetry published in UK, Canadian and Indian journals, and her play was produced in London. Ellie spends much of her time in Chitwan, Nepal, where the villagers teach her how to farm rice and often tell her to lighten up. Read in Full

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Interview with Tim Craig, June 2018 Third Prize Winner

Tim Craig, who won third prize in the June Award judged by David Gaffney with his story ‘Northern Lights’ only recently began writing flash. We love how Tim was prompted to write in this form by his friend, Mandy Wheeler’s suggestion that ‘Life’s too short to write long things’. It’s a great incentive to get into writing short short fiction and then perhaps to stitch the pieces up into longer fictions like novellas or novels. After I received Tim’s answers to my questions, I asked him for a photograph of his dog, as he mentioned it. We’ve noticed many of our prize winners for this contest own dogs. He’s included a picture of it looking very chilled under a lattice of shade. We hope he gets some quiet time himself soon to do some more writing. He’s a very good reader and we’d really like to hear more of his stories. The other picture included here of what he calls ‘the hairy babies’ he saw in a French cafe, looks like a perfect story prompt. And his tip quoted from Ray Bradbury, to think of rejection as nothing more than a wrong address is a further incentive for anyone to get those words down on paper and not worry about how they will be received.

  • Can you tell us what inspired your powerful and atmospheric flash fiction ‘Northern Lights?
    I did a fair amount of hitch-hiking when I was younger, and came across some interesting people on the way – a bit like my character Pavel the truck driver, so maybe it was that. There’s certainly something magical about entering a stranger’s life and hearing their story in such a confined space and limited amount of time. In that respect, I suppose it’s a bit like flash fiction itself.

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Interview with Jack Remiel Cottrell — Runner-up, Novella-in-Flash Award, 2018

Jack Remiel Cottrell is one of two runners-up chosen in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash award judged by Meg Pokrass Here he describes how his novella ‘Latter Day Saints’, published in our trio of winning novellas-in-flash In the Debris Field emerged from one single line which sparked his imagination and how he gets inspired from authors in many different genres and forms, including writers of ‘Twitter’ stories. We very much like his advice not to worry about what you are writing, or get hung up about different genres and making your novella fit under a ‘Literary’ label. Jack often writes in one of the most mesmerising locations we’ve heard about yet  the laundromat. We haven’t a picture of Jack in the laundromat, but we’ve included his note book and beer picture, his comment being “Are you really a writer if you don’t have a large stack of half-filled notebooks on your kitchen table? (Beer added for scale. Also for drinking.” In the second photograph taken by his writing teacher Kathryn Burnett, Jack can be seen “hunched over second from the left at the back, trying not to be distracted by the outside world.”

  • Will you give us a brief synopsis of your wonderful novella-in-flash, ‘Latter Day Saints’ for those who haven’t read it yet?
    A young man is attempting to find his patron saint, and in doing so meets a number of patron saints as they live in the 21st century.

  • At Bath Flash Fiction, we think ‘Latter Day Saints’ is a very inventive quest story. Can you tell us more about what sparked the idea to write it?
    I was 20 tabs deep in the mire of TVtropes.com when I came across something which prompted me to think of the line “It’s dark at the end of the universe.” If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good line. So I needed to find someone to say that line. I gave it to St Dominic, who is the patron saint of astronomers, who didn’t end up making the cut for the novella. From there, I wanted to explore the idea of patron saints in a modern setting. My narrator was initially supposed to be a reader proxy rather than a character. I wrote about three chapters before my writing group told me the narrator was actually the most interesting character, and they were right.

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In the Debris Field
Three Novellas-In-Flash

A collection of three flash fiction novellas from the second Bath Flash Fiction Award which demonstrate the range and scope of this exciting and innovative genre.

In the Debris Field by Luke Whisnant… chronicles the unconventional experiences of a male protagonist from childhood through middle-age. It is a breathtakingly imaginative study of the strangest ways family members will accidentally scar one another. Readers will relax and enjoy the ride, because they’re in the hands of a flash fiction master.
A Slow Boat To Finland by Victoria Melekian… in which we are not sure how a bereaved mother will recover after losing her toddler daughter in a car accident. Especially when the little girl’s heart saves another child. The strong and convincing writing will pull you right into this story and make you want to know what happens next.
Latter Day Saints by Jack Remiel Cottrell… is a highly inventive quest story. A young man tries to find answers about life and whether it is worth living, from his visits to ‘saints’. Flawed characters, the saints include a labourer, a celebrity, a taxi driver, a city business woman, a second-hand dealer, and an old and frail man. They sometimes help him, and often make him question more.”

—Meg Pokrass, writer, poet, editor, tutor. Author of Bird Envy, Damn Sure Right, The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down and Here, Where We Live and Alligators at Night.

196mm x 134mm, 112pp
Paperback ISBN 978-1-912095-61-2

£9.99 GBP Buy Now

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How to Make a Window Snake
Wins at the Saboteur Awards 2018

We’re thrilled to announce that How to Make a Window Snake, the novella-in-flash by Charmaine Wilkerson and published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2017, won the best novella category in the prestigious Saboteur Awards 2018. Charmaine also won first prize with this novella in the inaugural novella-in-flash Award 2017, judged by Meg Pokrass. When Meg heard about the Saboteur results she remarked – “There was no question in my mind about this novella. Finding a gem like this was a gift.”
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We the Animals
by Justin Torres
Reviewed by Stephanie Hutton

We the Animals is a novella-in-flash by Justin Torres. The stories add up to a brutal and believable insight into family life for three boys growing up in a troubled family in New York. Despite its short length at only 125 pages, it covers big topics including racism, consent, domestic violence and sexuality. The choice of form is interesting – what does the piece gain from being written as a series of flash fictions that could stand alone rather than as continuous prose?

The first story We Wanted More throws the reader into the children’s desperate situation of hunger. The language is poetic and raw – ‘we had bird bones, hollow and light, and we wanted more density, more weight.’ We are introduced to these fighting boys surviving in dire circumstances with a violent father. This first piece reads like a flash, it contains a whole world and ends on a line that stops you from turning the page.
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