Author Archives: Jude

Shortlist, 2023 Novella-in-Flash Award

Congratulations to all ten authors who have made our 2023 Novella-in-Flash award shortlist, selected by our judge, John Brantingham.

Judging is still in progress so while it is fine to share that you are on the short list, please do not identify yourself with your particular work at this stage. Thank you. The winners will announced early in April.
Below, John writes about the process of selecting the shortlist from the longlist of twenty-six novellas we sent him. So many wonderful novellas to choose from in the longlist and there were many more in the over 100 entries we received. Best wishes to all for future publication and thank you to everyone for entering.

Judging this year’s novella-in-flash contest has been a joy. I’m thrilled to see so many writers doing innovative work. People have been using new and effective approaches to point-of-view, structure, and voice. They are using the form in ways that I had never thought of, and I am gaining a new education on new approaches to flash and the novella-in-flash. I have narrowed the field down to the top ten, but as I’ve been reading, I have been imagining the publishers who would pick these works up and publish them as stand alone books. I am not talking about only the manuscripts in the short list either. The novellas on the longlist all have a special something. If you are included on the longlist, I would suggest submitting to a publisher for your work. If you would like help with that, please reach out to me. I will give whatever help or advice I can.

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Launch of Dandelion Years And Flash Fiction Festival Vol 5 in Bath

On Saturday 18th March, on the cusp of spring, we returned to St James Wine Vaults, Bath for the first live reading event there since February 2020 to launch Dandelion Years, the seventh Bath Flash Fiction Anthology and Flash Fiction Festival Vol Five. Thank you so much to everyone who came to read and to listen. It was a wonderful evening. The event was hosted by Jude Higgins and Diane Simmons. Writers came from all over the UK and it was such a treat to hear nineteen in all read their flash fiction stories and to meet them and their friends and family in person. We also had a photo cover cake (proudly made by Jude), other nibbles, wine and a raffle. Such a lot of fun! You can buy both books in paperback from Ad Hoc Fiction. Read in Full

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Q & A with Tim Craig, judge for 24th Award

Originally from Manchester, Tim Craig lives in London. A previous winner of the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction, his short-short fiction has placed or been commended four times in the Bath Flash Fiction Award and has also appeared in the Best Microfiction 2019 and 2022 anthologies. His debut collection Now You See Him was published in 2022 by AdHoc Fiction.

A big thank you to Tim for being our judge. Our small press, Ad Hoc Fiction was honoured to publish Tim’s fantastic debut collection, Now You See Him last June. You can read more about the book here in an interview we did with Tim prior to publication. Christopher Allen, of SmokeLong Quarterly wrote on the back cover:

‘Tim Craig is a master of microfiction. With enviable confidence, Craig spins the most varied, playful and poignant tales. The stories in this collection, most a single tight page of killer prose, all deserve revisiting again and again and again.’

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Louie Fooks February 2023 First Prize

Market Forces

by Louie Fooks

Milan, May 2016

The air is hot and heavy as milk.

Football fans have come in for the big match, but they are at the stadium or watching in bars; the streets are quiet, and business is slow. No-one ‘needs’ the cheap tat Juma sells – phone cases and selfie sticks. And the rest. He’s tired and bored and hungry to his bones. Breakfast in the hostel was meagre, and a long time ago.

Looking up at the cathedral, he remembers the helicopters that dropped fire from the sky in his homeland. The bitter trek to the coast. Crossing the Med in a dingy not fit-for-purpose. Jumping trains to make it this far. He’d like to reach Germany one day. For now, he knows how to get by in this city.

He checks his mobile. Pigeons grub for scraps. A tourist admires the gargoyles. Juma moves the phone cases to the front of his display and adds plastic sunglasses from his tote bag. The mobile pings – a message from a brother in another country.

A collective howl of triumph and desolation and people spill out of the bars, intent on celebration or obliteration… just as the clouds crack and the rain falls – fast as bullets and heavy as lead.

Juma grabs everything and runs to the covered canopy of the Galleria, switching stock and setting up again. Umbrellas! Flimsy as hell; one use only. But right now that’s what’s needed, and people will pay. He’ll have half an hour before the police reach him.

Today, he thinks, is a good day as he serves the crowd clamouring – for once – for what he’s selling. Today, he’ll have a good meal and drink some beer with Isaac and Saul. And he’ll sleep with a full belly and credit on his phone.

About the Author

Louie Fooks is a freelance writer and policy consultant, specialising in health, development and environmental issues. She has an MA in Writing from the University of Warwick and spent a term in Milan as an Erasmus scholar. Her creative work is characterised by ‘life-writing’ and the careful observation of people and place. She has a drawer full of short stories and memoir pieces (in various states of repair) and is currently working on a novel.

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Nikki Crutchley February 2023 Second Prize

Walking to Wollongong

by Nikki Crutchley

Nana and Grandad are visiting, and I know to put Australia on the table tonight. It never fits right, a square tablecloth for a rectangle table, too small, and so triangles of oak remain uncovered. There’s a giant mustard-coloured pineapple and bounding kangaroos. There’s beaches and cities and sunburnt wide-open spaces. In profile, there’s an Aboriginal man, eyes squinting, looking west.

Places are taken around the table. Grandad by Townsville. Nana, Darwin. I sit on the west coast, and Mum takes her position, purposely depositing her plate on top of Wollongong. Wollongong isn’t part of our stories, even though the cards I get twice a year come from there. I try to decipher more from the few words inside them: what he’s like, if I’m like him, how his stories differ, if he thinks about me often, even though an ocean separates us.

The place names and words that make up Nana and Grandad’s road trip stories sound musical and make-believe: didgeridoo, billabong, Walla Walla and Kakadu. Grandad points with his knife, a gelatinous blob of gravy falling onto a koala’s head. Opal mining in Coober Pedy; the knife travels across the linen to Alice Springs and Uluru. Talk of survival in a landscape that is as brutal as it is beautiful. Some of his other stories lurk at the edges of my dreams, threatening to turn into nightmares. The woman whose baby was taken by a dingo. Backpackers never seen again. A stolen generation.

After dinner I shake crumbs onto the deck then lay it out on the wooden slats. With forefinger and middle finger, I come from the east, past the red wine stain painting part of the Pacific Ocean pale pink. I forge my journey with my fingertips, walking towards Wollongong, in search of my story.

About the Author

Nikki lives in Cambridge, New Zealand with her husband, two teenage daughters, and mini schnauzer Scout. Her flash fiction has been published in Mayhem Literary Journal, Fresh Ink, Bonsai: Best Small Stories from Aotearoa NZ, and Return to Factory Settings. Nikki also writes psychological thrillers and crime novels, all set in small-town New Zealand. Her most recent book, In Her Blood (HarperCollins), was published in December 2022. You can connect with her on Twitter @NikkiCAuthor..

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Kevin Burns February 2023 Third Prize

Lakota Widow

by Kevin Burns

It rained for the first time in a month today. The dirt road was mucked and slippery up to Mary’s. Her one-room shanty perched on a bluff above the river. Near the Lakota village. We met during my shift at the Rez hospital, and I soon fell into visiting and bringing her frybread and honey.

Mary was ninety, blind in both eyes, one from a willow stick as a child and the other from glaucoma. She taught me how people can be rotted out like the hollow cottonwood trees in the gulch that still have their green leaves. They look alive, but you’ll never know they’re dead inside until a strong wind comes and they twist and fall over.

Yesterday, we sat by her open door and I described the broad sweep of sweetgrass that led down to the river, the cattails along the bank, the curved sandbars in the swirling water, and the thickets of purple fireweed that ran up the draw on the other side.

Mary asked if the buffalo were across the river, and they were. I counted them, and she said buffalo behind a fence are not natural. Buffalo and Lakota should never be fenced, she muttered. We shared some frybread, while the evening breeze played with her hair like when she was a child running in the coulee with her sister.

The hills soon turned purple, and the first stars appeared. I stood to leave and Mary lifted her milky eyes as if she could see into mine and traced Wakan Tanka on my palm. Watch out for falling trees, she laughed from her wheelchair. I squeezed her hand and said I would and walked out into the Great Mystery under a warm blanket of summer stars, leaving the dark stumps of the fallen cottonwoods behind.

About the Author

Kevin Burns lives in the Sonoran desert in southern Arizona near the border with Mexico. He grew up in Washington, DC. After graduating from Georgetown University, he lived with the Lakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Kevin devotes his days and nights to listening, writing, editing, and listening more. He can be found watching the stars or people from various hilltops and cafes worldwide. Kevin welcomes new friends and can be reached at kwburns509(at)gmail(dot)com

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Richard Hooton February 2023 Highly Commended


by Richard Hooton

ICE princess pose, open-palmed hands shielding my eyes from the thousands in the arena, mind blanking out the millions watching on television, just me and the ice, me and the ice, only the routine in my head, perfected, perfected, perfected, my signature triple axel the clincher separating me from the rest, though its ink has bled just like the broken veins blackening into bruises beneath nude tights, clear your mind the psychiatrist instructed, muscle memory, your body knows what to do, trust the training, trust the process, my shimmering blue dress too tight to take deep breaths, brass bellows the opening bars of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.1, arms outstretched, up, pushing away in elegant swirls, ignoring the blood blisters, Ryan’s words creep in like snakes through grass, take hold, he doesn’t understand the dedication, diets, deadlines, why you can’t just have fun, Mother always said he was a distraction, her anxious eyes, all that time, energy and savings she’s invested, driving me to training every day for those six hours of torture, missing out on the best years as others partied, but it will be worth it, this dream or destiny, I’ll finally feel happy with that medal around my neck, finally be someone, finally find peace, increasing speed to the piano’s descending notes, pirouettes, a Lutz double then triple, clean landing, applause, they can’t smell my garlicky sweat, make-up melting as if I’m the Wicked Witch of the West, violin strings soar, I curve backwards, arcing, building to the triple axel, a cliff dive, heart racing, this is my moment, leaping high, first twirl perfect, second, then third, Ryan’s door slamming, the forward edge of the blade hits the ice a millimetre off its axis, my ankle bends, the balance of everything goes, gasps, and something cracks.

About the Author

Born and brought up in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, Richard Hooton studied English Literature at the University of Wolverhampton before becoming a journalist and communications officer. He has had numerous short stories published and has won several prizes and been placed or listed in various competitions, including winning the Hammond House International Literary Prize. His flash fiction has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize. Richard lives in Mossley, near Manchester, and is a member of Mossley Writers.

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Rachel O’Cleary February 2023 Highly Commended

The Astronauts Meet for a Picnic on the First Thursday of Every Month

by Rachel O’Cleary

They smush soft cheese into crusty bread, crush ripe, juicy strawberries between their teeth, and slather hot dogs with as much mustard and relish as they can fit on the fluffy brioche buns. They scatter crumbs extravagantly, brush them from their laps to the scurrying ants below.

They lick salt from their lips and tilt their faces to the sky, watching sunlight bounce from one leaf to the next in a cascading glow of green. They lean back on their elbows, no need for straps or magnets to tether them, and they let the easy heat smooth tense wrinkles from their heavy bodies. They inhale the electric blue-raspberry of the sky beneath the atmosphere.

‘This is it,’ they say. ‘This is what we talked about all those times, sitting around a table with a view of eternity and sucking macaroni and cheese from foil packets.’

But sometimes, when they lick sticky dribbles of ice cream from their chins, or when the peanuts they are tossing into one another’s mouths drop, inevitably, to earth, they have to avoid each other’s eyes. They cannot look at one another until the moment has passed, until they can no longer see it plainly in the crumpled brows of the other astronauts: the too-near memory of how the tiny morsels of sweet, or salty, or luscious umami used to float like reverse rain-drops – like edible rainbows – and they would catch them on outstretched tongues like pink-cheeked children re-learning gravity, spoons falling upward this time, and not a harried parent in sight. Only one another, and the endless stretch of space, and their own weightlessness.

About the Author

Rachel O’Cleary lives with her family in Ireland, squeezing her obsession for flash fiction into the spaces between school runs with the help of Writer’s HQ. Recent publications include Smokelong Quarterly, Fractured Lit, The Forge, and Milk Candy Review. A complete list is located at She occasionally tweets @RachelOCleary1.

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23rd Award Round Up

Thank you very much to everyone from around the world who entered our 23rd Award, this time judged by Sudha Balagopal from the US. We received 1129 entries from the following 31 countries.

AAustralia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

Huge congratulations to our winners! Louie Fooks from the UK, with her story ‘Market Forces’, Nikki Crutchley from New Zealand with her story, ‘Walking to Woolongong’, Kevin Burns from the US with ‘Lakota Widow’, Rachel O’Cleary from Ireland for ‘The Astronauts Meet for a Picnic on the First Thursday of Every Month’ and Richard Hooton from the UK for ‘Fissure.’ The stories are posted on this site and are linked to the titles and your can read Sudha’s report here. A further big thanks to her for her very careful consideration of the 50 longlisted stories, and her generous and insightful comments.

With over a thousand entries, it is always a demanding job for our readers to reach a final selection of 50 favourites for the longlist and having entered many contests myself and not made lists, I know how disappointing it can be not to be selected. We always look for a balance within the entries of different styles and themes and if a certain theme has been focussed on many times,it makes it doubly hard to choose from among so many excellent pieces. It’s good to know that stories not selected by us frequently go on to be successfully published elsewhere. We appreciate those who have persisted in entering the Award many times. From social media we saw that a few people had made the final cut for the first time after several attempts over the years. It’s wonderful to have such support from writers. We also appreciate everyone for their support. Writers who enter once or many times, those who enter with plenty of time to spare and those who enter at the last minute and receive our fun virtual badge.

The Last Minute Club badge for those who entered on the final day of the Award is pictured here. We hold a contest on the previous day on Twitter for people to guess the colour. This time, nobody guessed the green and blue combo. So we sent a book from Ad Hoc Fiction to the first person who went for green, and the first person who guessed blue.

The 24th Bath Flash Fiction Award opens on March 1st and closes in early June. Our judge for this time is prize winning author, Tim Craig. We look forward to reading your entries.
Thanks again
Jude Higgins
February 28th, 2023

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