Author Archives: Jude

Novella in Flash Award 2025: Judge Jude Higgins

Jude Higgins is a writer, writing tutor and events organiser and has stories published or forthcoming in the New Flash Fiction Review, Flash Frontier, FlashBack Fiction, The Blue Fifth Review, The Nottingham Review,Pidgeon Holes, Moonpark Review, Splonk, Fictive Dream, the Fish Prize Anthology, National Flash Fiction Day anthologies and Flash: The International Short Short Story Magazine among other places. She has won or been placed in many flash fiction contests and was shortlisted in the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize in 2017, 2018 and 2023. Her debutflash fiction pamphlet The Chemist’s House was published by V.Press in 2017. Her micro fictions have been included in the 2019 and 2020 lists of Best Flash Fictions of UK and Ireland and she has been nominated for Best Small Fictions 2020, Best Microfictions, 2023, a Pushcart Prize, 2020 and Best of the Net, 2022. Her story ‘Codes To Live By’ was selected for Best Micro Fictions and was longlisted for Wigleaf in 2022. Her story ‘Spinning’ is forthcoming in Best Microfiction 2024. She founded Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2015, directs Ad Hoc Fiction, the short-short fiction press, co-runs The Bath Short Story Award, founded and directs the Flash Fiction Festival, UK, organises reading events and teaches flash fiction sessions online.

The 2025 Award

The 2025 Novella in Flash Award, this year judged by me, Jude Higgins, will be officially open for entries at the end of July with the closing date at the end of September. If you are writing/or thinking of writing a novella-in-flash, here’s some information and FAQ’s. To help write and understand the form, we recommend reading Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: From blank page to finished manuscript Michael Loveday’s multi-award-winning guide on the subject. Read in Full

share by email

Q & A with Mairead Robinson, 1st Prize winner, February 2024

Read Jude’s spring equinox interview with first-prize winner Mairead Robinson to find out, among other very interesting things about her writing, how she wrote her stunning winning flash selected by our 26th Award Judge Susmita Bhattacharya. You’ll also find links to more of her brilliant stories, and you can try out writing flash to all permutations of the colour ‘yellow’, Mairead’s prompt for a spring-based flash fiction now the celandines, daffodils and primroses are out. Earlybird discounted entries for our 27th Award finish on April 14th. Final deadline 2nd June. Judge Michelle Elvy

Q & A with Mairead

  • Congratulations on winning the February 2024 BFFA, judged by Susmita Bhattacharya, with your extraordinary and brilliant story, A Palimpsest of Cheerleaders. Many writers on social media, said that they were completely blown away by your writing. As were we at Bath Flash. Can you say what inspired the piece, and how you arrived at the title?
    The original draft of the story came from a Writers’ HQ prompt, Cheerleader v Prom Queen, which immediately had me thinking about American High Schools, and led me down a rabbit hole of watching cheerleader training videos on You Tube. I didn’t start writing with a fully formed plan of what I wanted to achieve; rather, the story evolved from the basic idea of three teenage girls forever stuck in cheerleader mode, having been shot dead by a high school shooter. The original flash was longer, and there was more focus on the young man who had killed them, but in stripping back the word count I felt the emotional impact of the story came more from the lost hopes and dreams of the girls, and by extension, the lost hopes and dreams of the mothers mourning their daughters in the dug outs. I teach teenagers, and am often struck at how they all have so much potential, but tend to be hung up on short-term goals (as reflected by my cheerleaders’ quite shallow aspirations of being prom queen, getting a boyfriend, a vague aspiration to go to college). Obviously, they grow out of it as they get older, and nothing dampens that potential, but in the story, those bright futures are cut short. I wanted the girls to remain vivacious and full of life, as I daresay that’s how they would remain in the memories of those left behind. The idea of them being a palimpsest (such a great word!) came from that; the concept that though they are gone, they continue to exist in some form, like the erased markings on a manuscript. The title came after the story was written – I’m a sucker for collective nouns, and the title seemed to echo the sentiment of the flash.
  • You told me recently you only started writing flash in May 2023. Can you say more about what got you started?
    I’ve always written on and off – I completed a novel a few years ago, which I self-published after getting disheartened at the whole commercial publishing process. I started writing a second, but felt I needed the support of a writing community to keep me going with it. I joined Writers’ HQ with that intention, but found myself writing flash pieces for their flash forum, and got hooked both on reading and writing flash. I love the challenge of telling stories in such compact spaces, the way so much can be distilled into so few words, and the sheer variety of approaches writers take to the art of storytelling.
  • You also won second prize in the October Award with Butterfly Effect. Another marvellous story, interestingly, also from the point of view of a dead girl (this time from suicide) with very memorable details. It’s a breathless paragraph story. Do you like trying out different structures in flash?
    Yes, absolutely. Anytime I read a flash with an interesting or slightly different structure, I try it out. On a few occasions I’ve written stories with more conventional narrative structure, and they haven’t worked, or have felt a bit lacklustre; rewriting in a new form often reveals aspects of a story that have lurked in the background previously, or take the story in a new direction, which can feel really exciting. I’d recommend that anyone try out a different form or structure for a flash they’re struggling with, or to write one from scratch just to see what happens.
  • 


You have been successful in other places too. Can you link us to any of those stories?
  • Although you are a self -described addict of flash fiction, you are also writing a novel. Has writing flash influenced the way you are drafting this? And would you like to tell us more about it?
    I’ve learned a tremendous amount from writing flash, and am currently rewriting the novel I self-published a few years ago, using what I’ve learned from flash to tighten the edges and hopefully make it a better, more streamlined story. Once that’s done, I’m hoping to apply flash more fully to the second novel I’m writing, using flash as a ‘vehicle’ to reveal my main character’s backstory alongside the more conventional, linear narrative of the main plot. All I need is time, and a lot of coffee. 


  • Do you have a designated writing place where you live? Music on or off? Pets as inspiration?
    I write at a desk in my dining-room-which-isn’t-a-dining-room, and prefer quiet, but do take inspiration from music and radio when I’m not writing. I also spend a lot of time thinking (which counts as writing, right?). That happens anywhere and everywhere, but particularly when I’m out walking my dog, Flea, who at all other times, is more of a hindrance than a help; I love her to bits though, so there’s nothing to be done about that.
  • 

And as it’s the spring equinox , can you give us a spring inspired writing prompt for anyone thinking of writing a story for our next award?
    I live on Dartmoor, and the gorse is about the only splash of colour through the fog and gloom of the moors at the moment. I’ve got celandines and daffodils popping up in the garden too, so my spring inspired prompt is ‘yellow’.
share by email

27th Award Judge, Michelle Elvy

We’re delighted to have Michelle Elvy back to judge the single flash fiction award again in the year that she is also judging the Fish Flash Fiction prize. Michelle judged our Novella-in-flash award in 2021 and 2022 and she first judged BFFA in June, 2016, when she selected Sharon Telfer as the first prize winner, for Sharon’s amazing historical flash fiction Terra Icognita. Read more about Michelle’s latest projects and writing services below and tips for writing great flash. Read in Full

share by email

Mairead Robinson February 2024 First Prize

A Palimpsest of Cheerleaders

by Mairead Robinson

Mel’s in the bleachers, inspecting her shattered shin-bone, pantyhose around her ankles, thighs like a pair of suckling pigs. Sadie reckons Mel would’ve been crowned, but I think Sadie herself; even with her stomach bleeding out, she has that poise, that prom-queen pout. ‘Why d’you even care?’ I say, ‘We’re dead, remember?’

Posthumously,’ she snaps. Her tear-brim gaze moves beyond Mel, and I know she’s seeing the blue silk draped wraith-like on its hanger, the strappy shoes, the simple silver locket. I’ve seen her touching fingers to the hollow of her throat, mouthing, ‘Me?’

The field’s Elysium green. Palimpsest. Miss Ingram chalked it on the board; a parchment erased, marks beneath still visible; squeak of plimsols on the locker room floor, jocks charging out, ball flying high, crowd on their feet, and us, mid-routine, twizzling pom-poms on the T-stretch, hearts wide open to Danny Markham’s bullets as he riddled the squad, taking us all out.

Mel was sweet on Danny, mistook dark-eyed hatred for love-sick brooding, and hoped for his corsage on prom night. ‘Fat chance,’ says Sadie as she lunges, hands on hips, elbows out. I joined because Mom said college, and who knew cheerleading scholarships were a thing? So, there I was, and here I am, effaced by kite-high Danny, his Pa’s M16 spitting fire. He was troubled, wailed Mel, blasted leg a right angle, fatal bullet lodged in her heart like Cupid’s flinty arrowhead.

Shadow-shapes stand in the dug-outs. Our mothers, so small, wispy as smoke. Mel hops over and suggests we do the lead-in, so we’re high-kicking, pike jumping, pom-poms razzle-dazzling as we holler the chant, as if they could hear us, as if we could scribe ourselves anew beneath the yearbook obituaries, as if there was anything left save all this ache, this longing.

About the Author

Mairead Robinson writes and teaches in the South West, UK. Her work has appeared in Ellipsis Zine, Crow and Cross Keys, The Molotov Cocktail (Flash Monster 2023), Free Flash Fiction, Full House Literary, Voidspace, and in various anthologies too. She is supposed to be working on a novel, but has become hopelessly addicted to Flash Fiction. She won second prize in BFFA, October, 2023. Mairead tweets at @Judasspoon and skeets @maireadwrites.bsky.social

share by email

Jo Withers February 2024 Second Prize

All The Things That We Are Not

by Jo Withers

The soldiers came quickly, took us to the shelter (not a house, not a home). Said we’d be safe here (not happy). Inside, women and children (not men, not husbands, not brothers, not fathers) huddled together (not together, in the same space).

We’re all the same now (not people). It had always happened somewhere else before (not real, not us).

We knew each other by our clothes (not names) what we were wearing when the bombs fell (not like snow, not like tears). Some in business suits, some in school uniform; a waitress in her coffee-stained apron, a baker with flour splattered up her arm (not white, dotted red with blood).

We ran into the streets at the sound of the explosions, torn from our past lives (not present, not future, gone). The sky filled with smoke (not birds, not clouds, not sun). We ran from the explosions and the screams (not away, just further, still heard, still haunting).

They pulled us into trucks, drove us to safety (not sure, not certain). Took us to the bunker with no windows (not night, not day) gave us water and food. We were grateful although we were cold and scared because at least we were here (not outside, not captured, not dead).

Yesterday we were at work, at school, at home (not cocooned weeping in the dark). If today was like every day before (not shredded, not eviscerated, not annulled) I would meet my sister after work. Her office was south of the city where the damage was worst (not hopeful, not likely) and whole streets were now gaping holes (not pathways, not roads) and although the soldiers return every hour, bringing more people, reuniting family and friends, each time the door opens they are strangers (not her, not her, not her).

About the Author

Jo Withers spent the first thirty-five years of her life in Northern England before moving to South Australia in 2008 where she now resides with her husband, children and a motley crew of elderly pets.She works in her local kindergarten and finds the children’s quirky comments are a constant source of inspiration for her ‘world off-kilter’ brand of fiction.Jo has previously won prizes at The Caterpillar, Reflex Press, FlashBack Fiction, Furious Fiction, Retreat West, Molotov Cocktail and SmokeLong Quarterly. Her work has featured in Best Microfictions 2020 and Wigleaf Top 50 2021. She has also been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize. Her novella-in-flash, Marilyn’s Ghost, which was a runner-up in the Bath 2024 Novella-in-Flash Award is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction this spring.

/> .

share by email

Gayathiri Dhevi Appathurai February 2024 Third Prize

How to make a realistic Paper Rose

by Gayathiri Dhevi Appathurai

First, you can choose what colour and type of rose you want to make.

My father would disagree; after all, he didn’t want a girl, but what choice did he have with me?

Take a sheet of paper. It should be flexible but not too delicate.

My mother would disagree; a girl should be delicate, or else what would the family think of her upbringing?

Cut 3 squares of that paper, even 4. Size doesn’t matter. The bigger, the better.

My parents would disagree; girls can never have a big ego. So why give them so much learning?

Take one square and fold diagonally, repeat two more folds, making it small.

My grandma would disagree; a woman shouldn’t feel small to obey a man. Isn’t that how we preserve family values?

Draw an arc, cut the top, and a little at the bottom. You get a creased flower shape with a hole, but it isn’t complete yet.

My family would disagree; marriage completes a woman. What really does a solitary life accomplish?

Curl the edges of a flower, cut one pie shape, and glue the open edges together like a cone; one segment remains untethered.

My husband would disagree; a woman must be tethered to her man’s will. How else can marriage work?

Repeat steps 4 through 6 for other squares, cutting one segment more each time. You get smaller flower cones and more segments separated.

My family would disagree; separation is never a choice. Why would a man hit his woman unless she angered him?

Curl and make cones out of the lone segments. Assemble from largest to smallest cones and adjust until the flower looks whole.

My parents would agree. A woman must always adjust. No more questions.

Finally, this is it. You are done.

I agree.

About the Author

Gayathiri Dhevi Appathurai has an Engineering degree in Electronics & Instrumentation and works in the Information Technology Industry. Her stories have been shortlisted and published in the anthologies of Bristol Short Story Prize ‘21 , Edinburgh Flash Fiction Prize ‘22, Oxford flash fiction Prize summer ‘21 (Finalist). She is a Flash Fiction finalist in London Independent Story Prize, 2nd half ‘21. She is a trained Indian Classical Carnatic vocalist and has performed in renowned Fine arts venues in southern India. Her other creative pursuits include painting and sculpting. She lives with her husband in Mumbai, India.

share by email

Pilar García Claramonte February 2024 Highly Commended

Four Conditions of the Heart

by Pilar García Claramonte

-0-

Doctors are avoiding the zero conditional. No-one tells me, “If a brain is deprived of oxygen for twelve minutes, it never recovers fully.

You sleep. I watch. We share this arctic cubicle with the beep and whirr of machines. One shivering certainty rises stark-naked with your in-breath and falls in time with your chest: If you die, I die. If you die, I die.

-1-

Fourteen days since you collapsed on our kitchen floor. Doctors use the first conditional daily now: “If your partner doesn’t wake soon, we’ll need to make decisions.”

Your first conditionals were much easier.

If I promise coffee in bed forever, will you marry me?

If it’s a girl, we’ll name her Daisy.

If we retire next year, we’ll grow old by the sea.

-2-

It’s been thirty-two days. I hold your hand in one hand and write, with the other, the probable results of hypothetical situations. The complexity of the second conditional, scribbled on the back of hospital leaflets, is my foothold through this labyrinth.

If you woke, you would live significantly impaired, physically and mentally.

If you lived, you would not manage to breathe on your own.

At the end of the day, I scatter scraps of leaflets amongst binned paper cups. Acrid coffee coats my tongue across the dark drive home.

If you spoke, I know what you would tell me to do.

-3-

I tackle the third conditional in the classroom. The hardest of the four.

“You have to imagine the probable result of something unreal, impossible, something that didn’t actually happen,” I explain.

I write on the whiteboard: If, eighteen months ago, he had lived

I pause, marker pen in the air. “In this conditional, there’s often a sense of regret.”

I wipe the board and start another sentence.

About the Author

Pilar García Claramonte wishes that she had discovered the joy of creative writing much earlier in life. Now retired, she spends her time between the Kent coast, Oxford and the Basque Country, where she was born, trying to make up for lost time, aided and abetted by some great teachers and writing buddies. She was also highly commended in the June 2023 Bath Flash Fiction Award

share by email

Sarah Gillett February 2024 Highly Commended

An experiment on a bird in the air pump (after Joseph Wright of Derby)

by Sarah Gillett

Anna so wanted to stroke its soft white body that she poked her fingers into the cage when Maria wasn’t looking. The cockatoo stabbed, drawing blood with its curved beak, tongue waggling. They both screamed and it went back to preening itself, nibbling under its downy parts, closing its wings with a dry snap, smoothing down its combed head with grey claws. Maria said she deserved to get pecked, it wasn’t a pet and if anything happened to it then Papa would be filthy furious and lock her in the box under the stairs until they all forgot she was there, until she died. Anna, yelling, wished she could be a ghost and haunt Maria forever and ever and always. Shrieks crumpling to giggles, they washed their faces and fumbled each other into pale lilac silk dresses.

Downstairs the parlour table was set with wooden instruments, connected by brass tubing, polished handles, glass vessels. When Anna asked Papa what the gnarled slimy thing in the amber liquid was, he said it was a diseased human skull. The sisters shivered. Papa’s important friend placed the cockatoo inside a large glass jar and demonstrated the effects of something called a vacuum, counting seconds on a silver watch.

The white bird shone in the candlelight. It looked fragile and heavy, its feathers wide, its feet scrabbling then twitching slower. Maria hid her face but Anna could not look away. She wanted to touch the glossy black eye staring right at her. Around her, moving splashes of cheek and hair and cloth caught the light in time with the thumping of her heart. She had thought it was only in the shadows that everything was dark and treacherous. Time was slower there, the box had taught her that. She held her breath and waited.

About the Author

Sarah Gillett is an artist and writer from Lancashire, UK. She currently lives in London, where she investigates the life of things across space and time. She has a soft spot for meteorites, the colour blue, old dictionaries, glass paperweights and early postcards. In another life she would have been an astronaut. www.sarahgillett.com

.

share by email

Susmita Bhattacharya’s judge’s report, Feburary 2024

Our big thanks to Susmita Bhattacharya for being our 26th Award judge, and for her close reading and excellent comments on the amazing stories she selected.

Comments:
Judging for the Bath Flash Fiction has been an absolute treat, but it’s also been quite stressful! I’ve enjoyed reading all the stories, and I didn’t mind reading them multiple times. I actually enjoyed all my train travels these past couple of weeks because I carried these flash fiction pieces with me and they kept me company wherever I went. But it was stressful to choose the three winners and the two highly commended. I had no problem choosing some of them, but with a couple of them, I really, really had to ponder about which one would make it.

I’m in awe of the flash fiction pieces I read, the idea, the crafting of the story, the structure and how these stories got such a variety of reactions from me. A sharp intake of breath, a few tears, a nodding of the head, a smile. When I read the winning story for the nth time on the train, and wiped my tears, the person sitting opposite looked at me uncomfortably. I so wanted them to read the story and cry with me.

All the entries are such excellent pieces, so congratulations to everyone who made it to the longlist, then the shortlist and then the winners, of course. And congratulations to everyone who wrote a story and submitted it. And congratulations to everyone who wrote something. Read in Full

share by email

February 2024 Round Up

Another leap year and another BFFA Award completed. Thank you all those who entered. 34 countries this time and 1010 entries.

Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Zambia

As usual, there was a flood of stories near the end and a lot of writers picked up the Last Minute Club Badge on the final day, February 5th. Someone said it was the colour of a Cadbury’s Caramac bar. Tasty!
We appreciate everyone for submitting, early or later. Read in Full

share by email