Novella-in-Flash Award: reading notes by judge, John Brantingham

We’re very pleased to be able to announce, before the end of 2023, the short list of ten novellas in flash, selected by our judge, John Brantingham for our 2024 Bath Novella-in-Flash Award. It’s the eighth yearly Award we have run and during that time our small press publisher Ad Hoc Fiction have published over 40 novellas-in-flash. Thanks very much to John for his close reading of this year’s longlisted novellas in flash and for his brief essay below about his experience. We agree that all twenty five were excellent examples of the form and we hope that they will all find good homes in the expanding market for this form of writing. John will be choosing a winner and two runners up by early January 2024 and those three will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction in the New Year.

John writes: “It has been a pleasure to read the novellas-in-flash in the long list. I love the form. It can be powerful and heartbreaking, and all of these writers are using it to its full effect. Last year, when I judged the contest, I found that most of the work on the long list was deserving of publication. I had the same reaction this year.

What I find so inspiring about this work is the sincerity of it. These writers are writing with emotional complexity and compassion. Their work is often heartbreaking, often funny, and always human. It is the kind of work that ennobles the reader. For me, this is the greatest thing that fiction can do, and the novella-in-flash does so by stripping away the excess and artifice that be found in other long forms. These writers have gotten to the essence of their stories and characters, and I found myself lingering and rereading more than I should have. 

The novellas-in-flash on the short list have stayed with me. I work about an hour away from where I live. I would read these books before I left home, and all ten of these works stayed with me as I drove through the rolling hills of Upstate New York. I found myself remembering the characters and feeling for them when they were hurting, laughing about their absurdities, or daydreaming about their settings in parts of the world I have never seen, but they described so clearly that I knew them.

There is a need for more publishers of novellas-in-flash. Of course, not all ten of these collections will be published as a result of this contest. That’s the nature of contests. I do wish, however, that other people like me who love the form could have the chance to read them. They are rich and beautiful. They all have the potential to change the way we understand the world we live in.”

We look forward to hearing about the first prize and two runners up in early January. Best wishes to all writers.

December 19th 2023.

share by email