Winners: Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award, 2023

We’re thrilled to announce the three winners and two highly commended writers for the 2023 Bath Novella in Flash Award, selected by our Judge, writer, editor and teacher, John Brantingham. Many congratulations to all five writers. John’s comments on the individual novellas-in-flash and all his comments on the process are in his judge’s report. As part of their prizes, the first prize winner and the two runners-up will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction later this year.

First Prize Winner: A Learning Curve by Jan Kaneen (UK)

John Brantingham commented:

A Learning Curve was personal and profoundly moving. The author draws us into a world of deep pain and helps us to understand the motivations of people whose actions might be dismissed by those on the outside. We are given an inside look at mourning and postpartum depression. The individual flash pieces vary in style and structure. Sometimes they are lists or hermit crab stories. Sometimes they play with punctuation. Always, the style is a new way into the emotional realities of the characters. This is a master class in the form, but I certainly wasn’t thinking about the control that the author had over structure. I was simply drawn into the stories and was moved by them. These are absolutely brilliantly written.

Jan Kaneen has loads of names – granny, mum, stepmum, wife, sister, auntie, daughter, carer and now, writer. She has an MA in Creative Writing (with distinction) from the Open University and writes as a form of exorcism – to leave overpowering emotions on the page and not in her. Her short and tiny fictions have won prizes in places like Flash 500, National Flash Fiction Day, Bath Flash, Molotov Cocktail, Segora, Ellipsis and Retreat West, and she’s been nominated for a Pushcart/Best on the Net every year since 2016. Her debut memoir-in-flash The Naming of Bones was published in 2021 by Retreat West Books.

Runner-up: Prodigal by Anna Wang (UK)

John Brantingham commented:

Prodigal uses the form to its full advantage. The author of this novella-in-flash understands the iceberg theory (that what we see in a brief scene can suggest a much fuller and complex reality) in a way that few writers do. The writing suggests the years of struggles it takes to become a woman, both the good and the bad. We are given insights into the small details of eating disorders and painful relationships. We understand what it means to grow and the difference between adulthood and adolescence through the small moments, what a haiku writer might call the moments between moments.

Anna Wang is a Bristol-based librarian and writer. Born in Malaysia, her family moved to the UK in 2005 when she was eleven years old. She has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London, specialising in flash fiction. Having bounced around a few UK cities she settled comforatably in Bristol, where you can often find her at brew pubs with friends, or at home with her cat (Pendle).

Runner Up: The Top Road by Fiona McKay (Ireland)

John Brantingham commented:

The writer of The Top Road draws us into the consciousness of a small boy, which is often dangerous. People can underestimate the intelligence and sensitivity of children, and these stories can become overly sentimental. Not so here. The writer understands what it is to be a child in a way that Dylan Thomas and Charles Bukowski did. The writer also draws us into the consciousness of a fox. Writing from the point-of-view of an animal is also dangerous. Doing so can also be sentimental. Not so here either. In the tradition of Virginia Woolf’s Flush, the writer uses the perspective to complicate our understanding of the story. Rather than being sentimental, it is moving. We grow to care for the fox and the people with whom it interacts.

Fiona McKay is a SmokeLong Quarterly Emerging Writer Fellow for 2023. Writes with Writers’HQ. Words now or forthcoming in Bath Flash, Lumiere Review, Janus Literary, Pithead Chapel and others. Her writing has been nominated for Best Microfictions and Best Small Fictions. She is supported by the Arts Council Ireland Agility Award and lives beside the sea in Dublin, Ireland, with her husband and daughter.
Tweets about writing @fionaemckayryan

Highly Commended: Dancing in the Burning Fields by Karen Jones (UK)

John Brantingham commented:
As I read Dancing in the Burning Fields, I was reminded of Waiting for the Barbarians somehow, but I’m not exactly sure why. It has something to do with the tone of it or what the author chooses to focus on or think about. In any case, it’s an exceptional novella-in-flash. The chapters here are shorter than most other novellas-in-flash that I have read and the compactness of the writing draws us into what matters in the pieces. And I have to say, the imagery and language throughout is exceptional. The first moment of the manuscript drew me in, and there was never a page that did not move me.

Karen Jones is a flash and short fiction writer from Glasgow, Scotland. Her flashes have been nominated for Best of the Net and The Pushcart Prize, and her story ‘Small Mercies’ was included in Best Small Fictions 2019. She has won first prize in the Cambridge Flash Prize, Flash 500 and Reflex Fiction and second prize in Fractured Lit’s Micro Fiction Competition. Her work has been shortlisted for To Hull and Back, Bath Flash Fiction and Bath Short Story Award and longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her novella-in-flash When It’s Not Called Making Love is published by Ad Hoc Fiction. She is Special Features Editor at New Flash Fiction Review and an editor for National Flash Fiction Day anthology.

Highly Commended: The Rupture Gene by Jeanette Lowe (UK)

John Brantingham commented:

I found myself harboring a deep affection for Jack, the main character of The Rupture Gene. He is quiet and thoughtful. That he cares deeply for the people around him is apparent. I found myself thinking about a passage from The Catcher in the Rye about the books Holden Caufield likes: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” I felt that way about Jack who is sensitive and thoughtful, and it made me think that the author is as well. Maybe the author is, who knows? The point is that the characterization here is beautiful, and this is a book I hope many people will read.

Jeanette Lowe, born in Dorset and now resident in Sheffield, is a former journalist and special needs teacher who is now devoting her time to writing fiction. Jeanette has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing (distinction) from the University of Sheffield, and writes short stories and flash fictions, which have been published by Writers Magazine, Brittle Star, Flash500 and Dorset Voices. Her flashes have also appeared in three Bath Flash Fiction Anthologies. Her first novella-in-flash, Let the demons tiptoe, won second prize in the inaugural National Flash Fiction Day novella-in-flash competition (2021). Her novella-in-flash Pixie Lore is published by Ad Hoc Fiction (2022).

Further congratulations to all the other shortlisted writers and best wishes for their wonderful novellas in flash. We hope they will be out in the world soon: Me, I Call Myself Girl by Francine Witte (USA; Not Visiting the SS Great Britain by Emma Phillips (UK); His Raucous Girls by Kim Henderson (USA); A Year in Philadelphia Melissa Rosato, USA Melba Toasts Copy of the St Albans Register and Seed Co. Almanac by Electra Rhodes (UK)
And more congratulations and best wishes for publication to all the longlisted writers (names now included on the longlist announcement list).

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