25 BFFA 1st prize stories 2016-2023

There’s just under three weeks left before Sunday February 4th, the deadline of our 25th Award judged by UK based writer, Susmita Bhattacharya, and I’m reposting a list I made a couple of years ago of all our first prize wins, linked to judge’s comments and author interviews and put into categories of subject matter and theme. There are four more first prize wins now. One other thing to consider if you read the stories — our Award word limit is 300 words but we welcome very short micros too. This might be of interest to those who recently subbed 100 word pieces for the Welkin prize. One of our first prize winners, Tying the Boats by Amanda 0’Callaghan from 2017 is just 180 words long.

25 first prize winning stories from BFFA Awards 2016-2023

The winners were selected each round, from a longlist of 50 in each round by 25 different judges. Although the stories could be categorised in many ways, I have settled on four themes: Grief and loss; Women’s Lives; Issues from Contemporary Life and Historical. Many could cross-reference between these themes. There are links to each story. And you can gain further insights into these brilliant and varied flash fictions by reading the judges’ reports and my interviews with the authors. The stories are (or will be) included in our year-end antholgies available from adhocfiction.com

Grief and Loss. There are several different angles on this theme in the stories I have linked to.

‘Sequelae’, our June 2022 first prize winner By Rachel Blake, selected by judge Tommy Dean concerns how a person searches for but cannot find a way to express their loss. Read my interview with Rachel here and Tommy Dean’s report here

Dawn Tasaka Steffler’s story, first prize winner in October 2023, Detente looks at the aftermath of a loss by suicide, but also deals with a mother’s relationship with a son after this event. Read judge Sara Hills’ comments and my interview with Dawn

‘Snow Crow’, By Doug Ramspeck the winner of the October Award in 2021, judged by Sharon Telfer concerns the coming to terms with loss of a parent. It was also selected for Best Small Fictions 2022 and is the title story for our 2021 anthology. Read my interview with the author here and Sharon Telfer’s report

Things Left And Found By the Side Of the Road’ by Jo Gatford (read our interview with her) the winner from Feburary 2018, also provided the title for our 2018 anthology. It is a one-sentence list story lament about collective loss, of people, of landscape and more. Selected by judge Tara L Masih

‘Sea Change’ by Fiona Perry won first prize in our 15th Award in June 2020. A beautifully written and mysterious dream-focussed story about loss of a father who returns from the dead. Read my interview with Fiona and the report from judge, Mary-Jane Holmes.

In Emily Devane’s first prize winning piece, from February 2017′The Hand That Wields the Priest’ we encounter a different kind of loss. A child’s loss of a certain perception of her/his father after watching him kill a fish. Read judge Kathy Fish’s comments about the story and my interview with Emily.

Extremites, by K.M. Elkes a first prize winner in June 2018, is about a forest worker who loses a hand in a chain saw accident. But many more losses are suggested in this powerfully moving piece. Read judge David Gaffney’s comments and my interview with Ken.

Women’s Lives

Kathy Hoyle’s winnng flash ‘The Metamorphosis of Evaline Jackson’ , the Oct 2022 first prize win, is about the precarious lifes of young teenage women and is ambiguous about what has happened to one of them. Read judge Emily Devane’s comments about the story and my interview with Kathy.

The Button Wife by
Dara Yen Elerath won in June 2021 with this story which uses the stunning metaphor of a cloth doll to suggest an abusive relationship. Read judge K.M. Elkes comments on it in his report and my interview with Dara.

Ingrid Jendzrejewski won first prize in February 2016 the with the deeply poignant story ‘Roll and Curl’. The story shows the relationship a young hairdresser has with an older woman in the salon of a care home, and the ways she tries to protect her, just for a moment from bad news. Read judge Tania Hershman’s comments and my interview with Ingrid about the story.

Louise Mangos won in February 2022 with A Roadmap to Woman Hood, which traces the map of the veins of a middle-aged woman’s body to show what she has been through over many years. It’s a very striking metaphor.
Read our judge Karen Jones’ comments and my interview with Louise.

Amanda 0’Callaghan flash fiction ‘Tying The Boats’ is a beautifully constructed very short piece about a woman who cuts off her hair as a small act of defiance against her husband. It won first prize in June 2017. Read judge Meg Pokrass’s comments and my interview with Amanda.

‘Siren’ by Fiona Mackintosh, who won first prize in October 2018 is written from the pov of a man who lusts after a woman in the Scottish fishing community (set probably the 19th century), who will always prefer the fishermen to him. ‘Siren’ was also selected for Best Small Fictions in 2019. Read judge Nuala 0’Connor’s comments and my interview with Fiona.

Blessings,1849. by Johanna Robinson, which won in October 2020, is another story about loss and the hardships of a woman’s life. Its backdrop is the Irish potato famine and emigration from Ireland to the US as a consequence. Read my interview with Johanna and the comments on the story by judge Nod Ghosh

Terra Incognta again references the life of woman in the service of men. This story, which won in June 2016 tells the story of the map-maker’s daughter, who is in service to her blind father, and draws maps for him ‘neither of them will see.’ Read judge Michelle Elvy’s comments and my interview with Sharon.

Candy Girls by Christina Dalcher won first prize in February 2019. It’s a story set probably in the mid twentieth century about how young women are exploited and referencesthe MeToo movement Vanessa Gebbie judged this contest. Read her comments and my interview with Christina.

Contemporary Life and world issues

William Davidson won first prize for the second time in June 2023 with ‘Remembered Yellow,’. A man believing he has seen a plant on a railway track that he thought had gone extinct may be contemplating suicide. Read judge Tim Craig’s comments here and my interview with William

Louie Fooks won first prize in February 2023 with Market Forces, a story with many levels of a refugee/asylum seeker in Milan taking the opportunty to sell umbrellas after a football match during a rainstorm. Read judge Sudha Balagopal’s comments about the story and my interview with Louie

‘Eight Spare Bullets’, which won in February, 2020, couples, as Sharon says,…” a central narrative of a failing relationship, with a core theme of the climate emergency.” The story is set in the far north in Svalbard where there is a huge seed vault.Read judge Santino Prinzi’s comments and my interview with Sharon about the story.

‘One in Twenty Three’ by Helen Rye, which won in October 2016 has since been translated into Vietnamese. It’s a story about a family who has to leave their home due to war and has to make the choice to eecape in a perilous journey in a boat to another country, Read judge Robert Vaughan’s report and my interview with Helen about the story.

‘Angie’ by Marissa Hoffman, which won first prize in October 2019 gives the pov of a refugee father trying to give instructions to his very youg daughter about clinging on to him as he swims a river to escape to another country. Read judge Nancy Stohlman’s comments about the story and my interview with Marissa

‘Let them Eat First’ by Geeta Sanker which won first prize in February 2021 is a story about the threat a young displaced woman feels in a queue to obtain food, where her family’s killer may be present. Read judge Charmaine Wilkerson’s comemnts and Jude’s interview with Geeta.

‘Cleft’ by Gaynor Jones, which won in June 2019, is a story that shows a rift between a son and his homophobic father, where the son is in a relationship with another man and wants a baby. Read judge Christopher Allen’s comments and my interview with Gaynor

Pony by Rose McDonagh won in October 2017. It is a story set in what seems like a poor housing estate, where the protaganist, who se partner appears to be cruel, has rescued a pony which she is keeping in a shared garden. Read judge David Swann;s comments and my interview with Rose.

Our inaugural prize from 2015, ‘Radio Alarm’ by William Davidson is a wonderfully vivid and humourous story about a drunken night out on the town told in the form of the UK shipping forecast as he bearily comes to. Read judge Anne-Marie Neary’s comments and jude’s interview with William here.

Jude Higgins, revised January 2024

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