Read BFFA second prize winners: 2015-2022

We recently published a list of and links to all our first prize winners from our thrice-yearly Awards, categorising them into themes. With one week to go until the deadline of October 9th for our 22nd Award, judged by Emily Devane, I’ve now listed second prize winners from the Awards, 2015-2022. Judges often say it is hard to order the top stories, there is only a hair’s breadth of difference between them. These flashfictions, 300 words or under, are all brilliant. I was struck by how many authors used unusual structures for their stories, which added to their impact, in an unforced way. Again, the same sort of themes as those in the first prize winning stories are present. I have categorised them loosely, as before into Women’s Lives, Relationships, World and Life Issues and Childhood and there could be several cross references. Thanks to all the judges for their great comments. I have linked to those as well as to the stories.

Women’s Lives
Our most recent second prize winner is ‘Between’ by Madeline Byrne which won 2nd prize in June, 2022.Madeline Byrne June 2022 Second Prize It poignantly tells the story of a woman alone, who hardly thinks she exists, trying to make ends meet as a house cleaner in a city under the shadow of war. Read judge Tommy Dean’s comments.

‘Edging’ by Iona Rule second prize winner from Feburary 2022, is a darkly surreal and mysterious story about a woman who doesn’t fully exist, after losing herself to other people, one of whom is the male narrator, who seems to use her to lose himself. Read the comments of judge Karen Jones.

‘The Mothers’ by Jo Gatford, who won second prize in October 2021, describes in brilliant detail, in a one sentence story, the experience of one mother at a party with other mothers and children, who is under the pressure of their silent judgements of her parenting. At the end of the story, when she is alone with her child, there is no judgement, only love. Read judge Sharon Telfer’s comments on the story

The Species of Pangolin Compromise Their Own Order:Pholidota’ by Hannah Storm , which won second prize in June 2020, uses a framing device of a description of a Pangolin, an endangered species, to show the efforts a mother takes to escape from the abusive father and protect her daughter. A powerful and very impactful story. Read judge Mary-Jane Holmes’s comments.

’Mother,before’ by Tara Isobel Zambrano won second prize in October 2020.It is another extremely powerful story where, in three paragraphs, the repeition of ‘before’ helps emphasize details of a single mother’s hard life with its terrible working conditions, which cause her illness and death. Read judge Nod Ghosh’s comments.

‘Car Trouble, Spartenburg, August, 2002’ by K.S.Dyal,which won second prize in February 2021, is a vivid story using fantastic sensory details to great effect, showing the unspoken attraction between two young women, while one of them is fixing the other’s car in a neighbourbood where people always seem to be watching. Read judge Charmaine Wilkerson’s comments

‘A God and His Famous Digging Stick Dug This’ by Anita Arlov won second prize in June 2019 is another story, that in wonderfully poetic and sensuous prose shows a relationship between two young people as they discover each other’s bodies.Read judge Christopher Allen’s comments.

‘Snow Falling Upwards’ by Fiona J Mackintosh won second prize in February 2019. This is another beautifully told story, using weather imagery, telling the loss of a love after years apart. Read Judge Vanessa Gebbie’s comments

‘The Pecularity of Space Objects’ by Nicholas Cook, won second prize in February 2017. Nicholas uses the framing structure of voyaging satellites to write a story about twins, where the girl is dead, and her brother, older by one minute, is alive. Through the structure, we see how the brother tries to come to term with what has happened. Read judge Kathy Fish’s comments

‘The Perfect Fall’ by Christopher M Drew , which won second prize in Octoner 2016,is another story about loss, where the narrator, who is at a swimming pool, is coming to terms with the loss of a child possibly through still birth. Another story which uses white space and metaphor brilliantly. Read judge Robert Vaughan’s comments/

In ‘The Undertaker’s Jolly’, by Conor Houghton which won second prize in June 2018 there is a different take on relationships and loss.The Irish undertakers (men) with their wives have a weekend away. In this vividly described story, the men use the occasion to often joke about death with each other. One of the wives tires of this banter and goes out to think about life and death by herself.
Read David Gaffney’s comments on this story


Catherine Edmunds won second prize in October 2017 with ‘The Hierarchy of Substances’. Catherine Edmunds October 2017 Second Prize This story is from the point of an old man, talking to school boys who ask questions about coal mining for a history project.The boys want to know about accidents, tragedies, he wants to tell them about rock crystals and flowers. But he still has the memory of being a boy himeself; a barefoot boy picking through the coal fields. Read judge David Swann’s comments

The Wild West’ by Francis McCrickard won second prize in October, 2019 This is another story about boys unaware of or uninterested in danger, playing freely out in the countryside until one of them falls through the ice and drowns.The story has a great build up and uses the metaphor of the Wild West, very successfully to evoke childhood. Read judge Nancy Stohlman’s comments on the story.

‘This is How we Drown’, by Eileen Merriman won second prize in the Inaugural Award in 2015 with a story about a teenaged boy on the beach with his girlfriend who fails to notice his young brother is drowning. We flip between both scenorios in terrifying exact detail. Read judge Anne-Marie Neary’s comments.

World and Life Issues

‘The Dissolution of Peter McCaffrey’ Simon Cowdroy February 2020 Second Prize won second prize in February 2020 and was selected for Best Small Fictions, 2021. A wildfire in Australia has completely destroyed a farmer’s land and livelihood. His relationship has ended and now his livestock must go. This is a heartrending story, vivid and dense in metaphor. Read judge Santino Prinzi’s ocmments.

‘Rags,Riches’ by Shelley Wood, second prize winner in June 2016 is another story set in the Australian heat, this time on a beach. A homeless man, ignored as he suffers alone in a heatwave, as boys swim and play, as he walks into the water, to cool off, maybe, but probably to end it all. Written in tight, vivid prose this perfectly captures the situation. Read comments by judge Michelle Elvy.

When the Rubber Hits the Road by Lee Nash won second prize in February 2018. In one long paragraph and tight writing, with the elements shapes the piece over decades Lee brilliantly shows a modern day eco warrior and how the rubber industry began.
Read judge Tara L Masih’s comments The story was selected for Best Small Fictions in 2019.

‘The Coast’ by Zahid Gamieldien won second prize in October 2018. It describes a woman’s perilous journey to escape a country in a small boat after her baby has been killed in war. The boat sinks, and although she nearly drowns, it seems she might reach the coast ‘for what it is”. This is an incredibly moving and sad story. Read judge Nuala O’Connor’s comments

‘Strong Like Carp’ by Emma Phillips won second prize in June, 2021. Another story about the impact of war, this time set in Japan just pre and post the atomic bomb, this story shows how a girl tries to survive the bombing by being ‘strong, like carp’.
Read judge K. M. Elkes’s comments

Nod Ghosh won second prize in June, 2017 for ‘The Cool Box’ Nod Ghosh June 2017 Second Prize In one breathless pararaph,the narrator of this piece suggests all the facets and layers of life in one short moment from the mundane to the mysterious with a shooting star traversing the sky at the end. Read judge Meg Pokrass’s comments

‘You have so many more choices than fight or flight’ by Al Kratz won second prize in February 2016 with this second person pov story which uses encounters from the wild and the choices to make in those circumstances and pairs them with a person’s life choices. Another really successful existential story. Read judge Tania Hershman’s comments

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