Guess the 23rd Award Last Minute Club Badge colour!

Thanks so much flash fiction writers, for your fantastic support for our Bath Flash Fiction Awards. Our readers are very busy reading your entries for the 23rd Award, this time judged by award winning writer from the US, Sudha Balagopal. Have a final read of my interview with her to get you fired up to write or edit some last minute flash

To remind everyone, The Last Minute Club, for intrepid flash fictioneers is open only on the final day of this Award, Sunday 5th February. Anyone entering on Sunday will receive a (virtual) Last Minute Club badge. Everyone loves badgges don’t they? My first badge which I am sad to have recently lost was for entering a competition at Butlins holiday camp, when I was about nine. Our Bath Flash Badges are equally collectible. We’ve a mini competition beginning now over on Twitter where the first person to guess the colour of the new badge will receive a Bath Flash Fiction anthology.You won’t know the colour until first thing on Sunday morning.

We know posts on Twitter are disappearing into the shadows these days, but if you enter on Sunday and receive your badge, do share it there. We love that. It makes it such a fun day!

The first badge was introduced in June 2018. And the one you can collect on Sunday will be the fifteenth badge.Here they all are in the gallery. Many different colour combinations.

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Best wishes for all your entries. It’s always wonderful to receive stories from around the world.

Results out by the end of February.

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Hide, Show, Expand: Story Revision

Our 23rd Award ends this coming Sunday, 5th February. Results out by the end of February, when the snow drops will certainly be out, if they are not already. And we’re heading again for the Last Minute Club. Those submitting on the final day, get a (virtual) badge. There’s still six days to finish a flash but many of us flash fiction fans frequently ignore the best ways of getting a story ready for submissions. I certainly do. It’s not as if I say a stubborn ‘no’ to a great idea. It’s just that good advice seems hard to remember. Read in Full

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Happy 2023 News!

First up in our lovely 2023 news is that along with Ad Hoc Fiction, we are sponsoring the fifth in-person Flash Fiction Festival weekend, again taking place in Bristol UK, at Trinity College, 14th to 16th July For seasoned and beginner Flash Fiction enthusiasts from around the world. We have 28 flash fiction workshops/talks to choose from, led by well-known flash fiction writers and teachers from the UK, the US, Ireland and Germany, plus flash fiction readings, book launches, bookshop, a Friday daytime flashy fringe fete where there will be fun activites plus authentic paella to order in advance, and a Friday afternoon pre-festival three-hour workshop led by acclaimed writer and teacher Kathy Fish. We also have a bar where Smokelong Quarterly editors Helen Rye and Christopher Allen will be hosting evening karaoke (not to be missed!). The Pokrass Prize for stories of up to 300 words is judged by Meg Pokrass and is open to all those booked.
Booking opened six days ago and places with accommodation included are going fast. We do also have camping options on site. Hope you can come to meet flash fiction friends and make new ones It is very friendly and fun. All details and booking on the website Read in Full

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BFFA 7th Year-End Anthology cover reveal!

Thank you to everyone from around the world who entered our Awards this year. We greatly appreciate your support for the competitions and for our other projects. Our seventh year-end anthology has been a little delayed. The printing process has been slower than usual and we also didn’t want to dispatch copies to get caught up in, or lost, in the backlog of post due to postal strikes in the UK. For now, to mark the end of a year of fabulous flash fiction, here is a picture of the cover of the anthology. Dandelion Years is also the title of a story by Jonaki Ray, a writer based in New Dehli, India. The story is very moving and for the anthology, we also like the notion of dandelion seeds spreading far and wide, like the reach of flash fictions. Stories in the anthology are written by writers from all over the world.

Jude took the photograph of dandelion clocks in the lane near her house and we like the way John at Ad Hoc Fiction has somehow made the seedheads stand out and used the font colour to great effect. The anthology contains around 135 fictions from winning,shortlisted and longlisted authors in the three rounds of the Bath Flash Fiction Awards in 2022. It will be ready soon and posted out to contributors.
We’re hoping it will arrive with authors at some point in January.

It’s been another busy year for Bath Flash Fiction. Ad Hoc Fiction, our small indie press, which focuses on flash fiction, published fourteen books this year: nine novellas in flash, (seven from the Bath Flash Fiction Novella in Flash Award, 2022 and two others) – three more published shortly; two flash fiction collections; The Flash Fiction Festival anthology, Vol 4, (Vol 5 forthcoming); Bath Short Story Award Anthology and a guide book on writing the novella-in-flash. Thanks as always to John our Ad Hoc Fiction one-man production team, who produces such amazing looking books. This year, he also managed to squeeze in production of The National Flash Fiction Day Anthology as a freebie for them. We were also delighted, for the seocnd year running, that Ad Hoc Fiction was shortlisted in the South West regional category of the Bookseller’s Small Publisher Award.

Our other project, the Flash Fiction Festivals UK has had an exciting year. Jude’s hosted five online flash fiction festival days in 2022 and with Diane Simmons, organised the first face to face flash fiction festival since the pandemic in Bristol, UK. Another face to face festival is coming, July 14th-16th, 2023, in the same venue, Trinity College, Bristol UK. Booking open in January.

Our 23rd Award, the first one in 2023, judged by Sudha Balagopal, ends on Sunday February 5th.

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Q & A with Kathy Hoyle, first prize winner, 22nd Award

    We’re delighted to publish a Q & A with Kathy Hoyle who won our 22nd Award, judged by Emily Devane The picture here shows the coastal town where Kathy was born and brought up, with rainbow. And her stories always offer such a range of colour, tone and depth. She’s had a great year writing-wise and summarises her successes below. We’re looking forward to seeing her first prize winning story in print in the seventh Bath Flash Fiction Award paperback Anthology, which is a little delayed, but out soon from adhocfiction and Amazon and to seeing her at the flash fiction festival weekend, 14th – 16th July 2023 where she will be offering another of her high-energy, inspiring workshops. Another photograph in this interview, shows her in full flow at the 2022 festival weekend.

Read in Full

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Review of The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain, by Judy Darley

Judy Darley’s third collection, The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain’ was published by Reflex Press earlier this year and launched at Waterstones Bristol around the time of the spring equinox. Jude’s delighted to review this splendid selection of stories just before the winter solstice. Put it on your reading list for Christmas! It is available directly from Reflex Press.

Read more about Judy’s work on her website SkyLightRain, which includes links to her other collections, writing prompts, news of her teaching activities and her own excellent reviews of books and theatre productions. She has reviewed many of the books published by our small press, Ad Hoc Fiction and we are very grateful to her for careful and thoughtful reviews.

Review of The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain

There’s an elemental feel to The Stairs are A Snowcapped Mountain. Both because the stories are often located outside in the ‘elements’ and also because many include elemental themes. Judy Darley is skilful in her use of metaphor. She recasts fairy stories and conjures new mythological worlds including creatures and humans, showing how closely connected we are to other living things both physically and psychologically. Oceans,seas,lakes and rivers are frequently present. People traverse them, are soaked in a deluge or are on holiday in frozen landscapes. We learn about lonely and captive sea creatures. ’Honey in Solitude’ is from the point of view of a Bottle Nosed dolphin in captivity in Japan. ‘Why Rivers Run to the Sea’ a story from the point of view of a river, ends tellingly, with the line,”There’s a storm brewing, we’re all invited.”

One story with a title that suggests much about the very young protagonist’s life is called ‘The Sea Lives in Her Mum’s Head’. The girl’s Nanna has explained why her mother cries and wails. “Storms rile up the waves inside her, and tears happen when the spray breaks free”… “Her moaning, Nanna says, is the sound of the wind whipping salty air over the sea.” It’s only occasionally that the mother is calm.

Both the pieces mentioned above are very short and the collection comprises a mixture of short ‘flash fiction’ pieces and longer short stories. There are several stories concerning disrupted relationships — between sisters, parents and children and lovers. The use of the elements often echo themes in these stories. A favourite story of mine, ‘Fermented Cherries’, tells of a grandchild visiting their estranged grandfather in a Fado club to tell the old man the mother, his daughter, is dead. Again this begins with a metaphor of the sea: “The Fado rolls out, washing over me. It’s a salt-weighted tide that ebbs and rises above the listeners’ heads.” As in all of the stories in the collection, much care has been taken with the composition of sentences,the sensory details and the overall structure.The language is beautiful, metaphor deepening the story and adding universal resonance.

Another favourite story, ‘Old Friends’, does not involve the sea, but instead other aspects of nature. This is a touching story about a relationship between a father and a daughter, where the daughter joins her father’s dawn chorus walk with his old male friends. Everyone on the walk must tell a story. Her joining this long-standing group is an important occasion for the father. It evokes another much earlier shared father/daughter experience which she refers to in her story, reconnecting them all over again.

As well as stories successfully employing elemental metaphors, there are others with plainer language and excellent dialogue. Judy writes convincingly in the voice of children or young people. ‘In Kitten Shoes’ is a story showing the longing of a tall girl who wants new white patent leather kitten-heeled shoes but who only gets to keep the coveted pair for one day before her mother says they must go back. Judy also brilliantly captures an outsider adolescent’s breakthrough into being part of something, in a story about clubbing, called ‘The Go-Get-Gone’.

There’s humour, too, in these stories.‘Stealing from Windowsills’ is a darkly wry story based on the fairy tale Rapunzel, where ‘Zel’ hoodwinks the prince into letting her wear his jodhpurs and doublet and leaves him captive while she escapes on his horse.

I have read this collection a few times now and different aspects of these brilliant and varied stories strike me anew each time. The collection is a full and satisfying read.

Jude Higgins, December 2022

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BFFA Prize Nominations

We are proud to nominate stories by winning and commended writers selected by our three judges, Karen Jones, Tommy Dean and Emily Devane in our Awards this year for the Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions and The Pushcart Prize literary awards. We aren’t eligble for Best Microfictions, unfortunately, because they don’t allow stories published in print anthologies. Congratulations and best wishes to all the writers whose stories are going forward in these three longstanding and prestigious awards. These stories will soon all be out in print in our end of year anthology, which also includes other brilliant stories from the short and long lists of each round of the competition. Read in Full

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Interview with 23rd Award Judge, Sudha Balagopal

    Bio: Sudha Balagopal is honored to have her writing in many fine journals including CRAFT, Split Lip, and SmokeLong Quarterly. Her novella-in-flash, Things I Can’t Tell Amma, was published by Ad Hoc fiction in 2021. She has work included in both Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, 2022. Her work is listed in the Wigleaf Top 50: 2019, 2021, longlisted 2022. Find her on Twitter @authorsudha
    We’re delighted to welcome Sudha Balagopol as judge for our 23rd Award which opens November 1st and closes on Sunday, February 5th, 2023 (Results out at the end of February). Read Jude’s interview with her below, where Sudha tells us about her long writing journey and how she became interested in writing flash. There are links to some of her own wonderful stories, and stories by others, showing her interest in different styles and forms of flash fiction plus tips on what she is looking for in competition entries.

Read in Full

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Award Round Up, October 2022

This autumn,1248 writers entered our 22nd Award. Our team reads the entries as they come in, during the four months of the contest, and they are poised to deal with any last minute rush. We all enjoyed reading so many great stories on many different subjects.Thanks to everyone who entered from the 38 countries listed below.

Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

Thank you also to everyone who entered for supporting the Award in these difficult times. The Last Minute Club on the final day is always a wild ride. And the badge this time was a sophisticated black and gold. We appreciated all who sent in stories at any time, early or later, or at the last minute. Some of you said, although you weren’t longlisted, it was worth entering for the experience. Others said they had been successful in reaching the longlist for the first time after many attempts.As someone who enters big contests myself and is frequently not selected in lists, I know it’s a disappointment not to be chosen. We say it often, but it is always true that it is very difficult to whittle the entries down to a final long list of 50 stories from so many very good and inventive pieces. Big thanks to our 22nd Award judge, writer, teacher and editor from the UK, Emily Devane for selecting the final twenty for the shortlist, for choosing the winners and for her excellent report.

You can read these brilliant winning stories on our winners’ page. Many congratulations to the top five. The first prize goes to Kathy Hoyle from the UK for her story ‘The Metamorphosis of Evaline Jackson’, second prize goes to Sarah Freligh from the US for her story ‘McDonald’s’, third prize to Kathleen Latham from the US for ‘Fourth Grade Science Lession, Chickasaw City, Alabama’ and the two highly commended. Debra A Daniel from the US for ‘In the Darkest Dark She Takes My Sleep’, and to Sara Hills from the UK for ‘A Beachcomber’s Guide to Desert Grief.’
Our seventh anthology is due out at the end of this year. We’re very happy that most of the longlisted writers from the three 2022 Awards have agreed to be published. All contributors will receive a free copy, posted worldwise. It’s going to be a fantastic read. Our 23rd Award, judged this time by writer, editor and yoga teacher, Sudha Balagopal from the US will open on November 1st 2022 and close in early February 2023. We look forward to reading more wonderful flash fictions.

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Judge’s Report, October 2022

Our big thanks to Emily Devane for all her work! We so appreciate her comments here and for working to our quick turnaround time.

Emily’s Comments

First, I’d like to thank Jude for asking me to judge this round of the Bath Flash Fiction Award. It’s a competition that’s close to my heart – I’ll never forget the joy of having my story selected by Kathy Fish back in 2017. This award sets the gold standard for writing competitions in terms of organisation, engagement and quality. I love the buzz that surrounds deadline day, with entrants proudly sharing their Last Minute Club badges and cheering each other on. The reading team works incredibly hard to turn the stories around so fast. And goodness, what an amazing longlist of stories they picked.

The next stage – whittling down the fifty-strong longlist to just twenty stories – was quite a challenge. If you got to this point, seriously well done. It was such a pleasure reading your words. There was something to admire in every story on that longlist, and the selection was brilliantly varied – some made me laugh, some made me think in a different way, some took a piece of my heart, while others made me swoon at their boldness and originality. In a bid to ensure those stories were treated as if they were my own, I read them through then printed them out, shuffled them and read them again in a different order. It’s interesting how some stories grab you from the off, while others rise up the pile and demand more attention with each re-read. There were several stories I struggled to part with – stories which a different judge, or even me on a different day, might have put through. I’m excited to find out who wrote them all.

When it came to deciding the winners, I had a few sleepless nights, I can tell you. Every story on that shortlist was a potential winner. So, how to choose? Having read and re-read each one, I put them through a series of tests. Was there a sense of meaningful movement or shift? Was language used with precision? Was this story telling me something new or particular? Did this story resonate on an emotional level? There’s always that unknowable element, that magical alchemy that occurs between writer and reader. Ultimately, I had to be guided by instinct when making those tough final decisions. The stories I selected for my final five were those to which I kept returning. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

First Place: The Metamorphosis of Evaline Jackson
This bold and striking story got better with each re-read. There’s not a word out of place. The use of language is confident and playful, with brilliant flourishes and repetitions that mimic the ‘evolution’ of the titular character, Evaline Jackson. We have those ‘cling-cling shorts’, the ‘pop-pop’ of the boys and those dangerous rolling eyes. This is a writer absolutely in control of his/her craft. The theme is a resonant one, too. It tells us so much about teenage girls – how they long to be desired but they fear it, too. Here, the girls follow along behind Evaline Jackson, cutting and glinting and stealing and painting their way to Skittle Town Bowl, only to be appalled at what they’ve unleashed. I loved this so much.

Second Place: McDonald’s
This was one of the shortest stories on the longlist, but there is remarkable power behind it. McDonald’s is a gorgeous, unassuming story that sneaks up on you and leaves your heart in a puddle. The fast-food restaurant setting grounds us from the start. What I loved here was the elegant way in which the writer took us, in very few words, and with wonderfully specific details, into this mother’s experience, showing us how grief can ambush us in unexpected ways. We’re drawn in from the first line, which begins as if we’re already there: The boys again… I can’t read it without getting a lump in my throat. That last line is exquisite: it lands so gently, so beautifully.

Third Place: Fourth Grade Science Lesson, Chickasaw City, Alabama
I knew from my first read of this story that it would be among my top five. It’s a gorgeously written tale of hope. The clear, uncluttered prose brought to mind one of my favourite novellas, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. The central image of the papery, brown bulbs that seemed doomed to fail, becomes symbolic of our hope for Rylee’s future – that, contrary to Olivia Hewett’s assertion that ‘flowers are born looking beautiful’, they can be nurtured from very little, ‘those funny-shaped husks hiding something wonderful.’ I love what this story tells us about the transformative power of education.

Highly Commended:In The Darkest Dark She Takes My Sleep

What bowled me over with this piece was the grandmother’s voice, which feels so vivid and alive. It’s a story about loss, but this is also about the ongoing effects of trauma, how the stories we hold are passed on to those around us. And this grandmother is fiercely protective, with her warnings about lightning that ‘seeks out animals’ and ‘bursts through faucets and drowns you in electricity’. There’s a recognition here, too, about the importance of listening. This child’s simple act of sitting in the dark, while her grandmother sits in her rocking chair recalling the story of her sisters, is as moving as it is haunting.

Highly Commended: A Beachcomber’s Guide to Desert Grief
This is a dreamy piece of writing. I chose it because of how it made me feel. The joy of this piece is in the imaginative use of details and vivid sense of place: we have a character wishing to immerse themselves in grief – the exact nature of which we never find out – by pretending that the desert is a seascape. But the attempts at healing are thwarted by the presence of a boy whose breath ‘is root beer soda and barbecue sauce’. A boy who is ‘not dead’. The lines between what is real and what is imagined are blurred at the edges. This writer drew me into the dreamlike world of this character’s sadness with such quiddity, I kept returning to it, turning up more layers of meaning.

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