Award Eighteen

Interview with Dara Yen Elerath, first prize winner in our 18th Award

This Sunday, 15th August is the last day to buy discounted entries for our 19th Award to be submitted by the deadline of 10th October. To get some inspiration for your own writing, read what poet, prose writer and artist, Dara Yen Elerath has to say about her first prize winning story The Button Wife, selected by K M Elkes in our June Award this year. You can read his comments about the story in his judge’s report. Dara Yen Elerath is also a visual artist, and one of her paintings reproduced here, is used as the cover image on her prize-winning debut poetry collection Dark Braid , which you can buy from Amazon and which she writes about in the interview. Dara also explains her different approaches to writing poetry and flash fiction and has a great writing tip at the end of this interview, part of which I have quoted below. And do look at the vimeo video she made which accompanies her amazing poem from her collection, How And When to Use an Eraser’

…always follow your language and allow the sonic qualities of the words to guide your imagination when you feel stuck or at a loss for how to proceed.

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Round-Up, 18th Award.

Thank you to everyone who entered our 18th International Flash Fiction Award, the earlybirds, those in the middle period and the last minute writers. We received 1268 entries from 44 different countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Zambia

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Judge’s report, 18th Award, by K.M. Elkes

General Comments
Judging a story competition with a high standard of writing is a whole, twist-filled narrative in itself. There are beautiful moments of discovery, difficult decisions, inner wranglings, a love story or two, sadness over loss, and the inevitable questions, mysteries, and ambiguities.

Working your way from longlist to shortlist, you encounter risky, raw stories that promise to leave you changed; love-at-first-sight stories full of confident verve; ones that have an allure through their use of language; quietly persuasive stories, confident in their low-key power; there are stories to admire for their elegance and beauty, and ones that raise a smile with their quirky charm.

After a lot of deliberation, the narrative gathers pace and the climax nears when there are just 10 stories left. You sit with them. Take them on a walk. Gaze at them in silence. Read their words out loud, over and over. You study their deployment of craft – tone and voice, use of narrative tools, the way thematic ideas are conveyed, the pace and flow of the narrative, how well the ending has been earned. You find yourself, in cheesy parlance, asking: ‘is this story the best story it can be?’

Choosing the final group of winning and commended stories is when the tension of the judging narrative reaches its final, feverish pitch. The plot now becomes more complex, stories slide in and out of contention, some disappear then reappear stronger than before, some fade, some remain strong. The pervading tone of this denoument is tough love, and no little admiration, as final decisions are made.

And so, many congratulations to everyone who made it to right to the end of this particular story. Your work deserves it, after the difficult journey it has been on. Congratulations too, to those who missed out on final places – it’s often a case of fine margins. And if you were shortlisted or longlisted, take much strength from that and go again.

Finally, thank you to the whole Bath Flash Fiction Award team for their hard work and dedication and to Jude Higgins for trusting me to be the judge for this incarnation of the Award. Read in Full

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Dara Yen Elerath June 2021 First Prize

The Button Wife

by Dara Elerath

The button wife bends her body across the bed, but the cloth husband is not interested in touching her. Instead, he phones the burlap wife. He likes the way her coarse skin brushes against his body. At night, the button wife cries, recalling how her husband used to clutch the dark thread of her hair. She knows the burlap wife’s curls scratch him in the fashion he prefers. The cloth husband has a passion for roughness, but the button wife, woven from cotton, has only been soft and yielding. One evening, she decides to scour the buttons of her eyes with a steel wool; she hopes her husband will love her again. Soon, they are scuffed and cracked. When her husband comes back he looks at her with anger. You have ruined your eyes, he says, how can I look at you now? Later, gazing in a hand mirror, she notes she is no longer beautiful. She lifts a pair of scissors and snips the strings that knot the buttons to her face. Then she can no longer weep; then she can no longer see her husband leave the house each evening. She irons the hem of her dress in darkness. She waits to hear the sound of his car speeding down plastic blacktop. She dreams of the burlap wife’s hair cutting her skin the way it cuts her husband’s. Sometimes, she pricks her arm with a darning needle to feel. The red thread that unspools from her body is long as a dog leash. She wonders then if she is a dog. She hopes the cloth husband will walk her when he returns. She resolves then to wag her tail in greeting. She resolves then to sleep at his feet.

About the Author

Dara Yen Elerath is the author of Dark Braid, which won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry (BkMk Press). Her first published flash fiction appeared in Tahoma Literary Review and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Boulevard, Plume, Poet Lore, Hunger Mountain, and The Los Angeles Review, among others. She received her MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts and resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Emma Phillips June 2021 Second Prize

Strong Like Carp

by Emma Phillips

Aoi-chan was strong like a carp. Even when the bombs fell, she hardly flinched, although her best friend Megumi said she laid upon her futon each night and cried the Edo river. Megumi did not have fighting spirit. Aoi was like the Koi she used to feed before the war, when she walked through Sensô-ji Temple with her father.

“See,” Otosan declared, “they dance their beauty but find their strength together. Stay proud, my daughter. Remember your Japanese heart.” Otosan was in the Imperial Army. Aoi ran their stall with her mother now, selling eggs from her grandmother’s chickens and tending each scrap of their yard to grow vegetables. The Koi had disappeared but Aoi kept them safe inside and when the fire bombing started, she drew a pond for them in the ashes. Her father sent her paper cranes inscribed with the symbol for courage.

Aoi joined the search and rescue teams. Her thin fingers and keen eyesight helped pluck survivors from the rubble. The Koi led her to them. Each day they swam through the broken streets and gave her hope. The radio said the Emperor would never surrender but Aoi heard Japan was losing the war. She fed her worries to the fish.

By the time the atom bombs landed, her shoal had multiplied. Their rainbow scales dazzled Aoi and she held onto their tails. In the morning, they were gone, leaving dust on the edge of her eyelids. Where the Koi had led her home, she found American soldiers handing out candy. Aoi refused to chew gum, cursed when Megumi spat pink bubbles from her lips the shape of peaches. Her father returned. Otosan taught Aoi to chase the Koi upstream again. “Old life has gone,” her father said, “now a new one starts.”

About the Author

Emma Phillips lives close to the M5 in Devon with her husband, son and guinea pigs. She teaches in a primary school and has become addicted to Flash Fiction over the past year. She has lived in Japan and China and loves to sing karaoke badly. Her work has been published in Blink Ink, Popshot and Mslexia. If she were a fish, she’d like to be a carp.

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Leonie Rowland June 2021 Third Prize

Reasons You Married a Woman Called Rose

by Leonie Rowland

Please match the following numbers with the correct letter*

a. The love story

b. The proverb

c. The theories

d. The joke

e. The myth

f. The whole

1. Because when you were born, there were tides in the kitchen: boiling water gushing over abandoned pots, falling onto your mother where she lay on the floor, still trying to reach up and stir the pasta, worried it would come to pieces if she didn’t, that your life would start by falling apart. You moved from warm fluid to starchy water and then to hands careful with soap, scenting your skin, a velvet perfume. Your mother says the bubbles were pink, that you were laughing. You still adore the smell of roses.

2. Because you were burned as a baby / because you are lying / because the stars are eating themselves / because you are high on transgression / because you have a hysterical brain / because you hate your father / because you hate your mother / because no man wants you / because your body is craving / because you are split where it matters.

3. Because your breasts were always inadequate, and you deserved a second chance.

4. Because on your first date she made you pasta, and when the water splashed your skin, she kissed it away, took off your dress and folded it, made you realise you were whole before her, with her—all of this for hours, and nothing fell apart.

5. Because you found her at the mouth of a volcano, and the volcano sparked, and the mouth said: there are promises we must keep.

6. Because in this barren wilderness, there are still flowers.

*Answers are subject to change.

About the Author

Leonie Rowland lives in Manchester, where she completed an MA in Gothic Literature. Her debut chapbook, In Bed with Melon Bread, is available from Dreich, and she is Editor-in-Chief of The Hungry Ghost Project. She has recent work in Wrongdoing Magazine, Pareidolia Literary, The Walled City Journal, Sledgehammer Lit and Punk Noir Magazine, among others. You can visit her website or find her on Twitter @leonie_rowland.

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Debra A Daniel June 2021 Commended

Across The Street The Old Man Clears Out His House

by Debra A Daniel

Late every afternoon, Mr. Anderson unloads a rusty wheelbarrow full of giveaways onto the driveway’s edge, displaying each item as if designing a department store window. Duck decoys. National Geographic magazines. Embroidered Christmas stockings. One day kitchen utensils. Cast iron skillet. Shrimp peeler. Nesting bowls. The next day it’s fishing rods, tackle box, a couple of golf clubs.

We watch from our front porch. Me, sipping tea, humming along while my husband plays guitar. He chooses songs he thinks Mr. Anderson would like. Old standards. “Paper Moon” or “I’ll See You in My Dreams” maybe. I tell him I don’t think Mr. Anderson can hear anymore, but my husband plays anyway. Never much of a talker, Mr. Anderson keeps to himself, but once in a while, before he totters back, empty and done for the day, he waves.

Every afternoon, minutes after Mr. Anderson disappears, the young woman who rents the apartment on the corner rolls a wagon along the sidewalk, stopping at Mr. Anderson’s driveway. She picks up each piece, turning it over in her hands. Muffin tin. Sock monkey. Dog collar. Examining. Not to find fault. Not to eliminate.

No, she takes everything, filling her wagon with an old man’s castoffs. Then she pulls her cart away. She lives alone. No roommate or rescued mutt to keep her company. She’s not a talker either, but sometimes she waves, too.

Each day as the clearing progresses, the treasures become larger, the wagonload more precariously balanced. Toaster. Nightstand. Stained glass lamp. Bit by bit she salvages his belongings. Dog bed. Hatrack. Desk chair.

When the weeks pass and the old man is gone, we watch the young woman remove the sold sign and unlock the door. Then wagonload after wagonload she wheels the bits of Mr. Anderson back home.

About the Author

Debra Daniel, from South Carolina, sings in a band with her husband. Publications include: The Roster, (Ad Hoc Fiction, highly commended for the Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash, 2019), Woman Commits Suicide in Dishwasher (novel, Muddy Ford Press), The Downward Turn of August (poetry, Finishing Line) As Is (poetry, Main Street Rag), With One Eye on the Cows, Things Left and Found by the Side of the Road, Los Angeles Review, Smokelong, Kakalak, Emrys, Pequin, Inkwell, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River, and Gargoyle. Awards include The Los Angeles Review, Bacopa, the Guy Owen Poetry Prize, and SC Poetry Fellowships. Her second novella-in-flash A Family of Great Falls was recently shortlisted in the 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Awards and is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction at the end of July

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Catherine Deery June 2021 Commended

Where are the Instructions for the Panasonic Full HD 3D Home Theatre Projector?

by Catherine Deery

When you said we didn’t have a future together because we couldn’t watch the same tv shows I thought is was the saddest and truest thing you’d ever told me — maybe the only true thing — even though it wasn’t true at all and I could have enumerated many happy middle-class-couple nights in summer spent side by side on the grey Ikea couch watching wall to wall projections of that cheesy western-meets-space-travel series you adored — all five seasons — in your early eighties bungalow-style red-brick rental house, which was my house too, but in a probationary kind of way never explicitly voiced at the time. Still, the probationary aspect of my existence inside your house was made abundantly clear by how the electronic gadgetry was laid out as a test for me to fail that entire September when you were overseas in Austin, Texas eating dry steak in empty restaurants and driving down state highways, feeling alone and masturbating to the memory of those five weeks three years ago when you hooked up with a rock-n-roll girl with long wild hair — long wild hair does it for me every time, you said — and since we’re being honest with each other that’s the sole reason in November, staring winter down, I shaved my head back to the bony outline of my scalp; I didn’t want a bit part in anyone’s fantasy, not even yours.

About the Author

Catherine Deery lives in Bendigo, Australia. She has been scribbling for a long time, mainly working on short fiction. Her stories have been commended and shortlisted in various Australian awards. Recently her flash fiction was shortlisted for the Smokelong Quarterly Micro Competition, and longlisted for the Cambridge Flash Fiction Award. She is having a go at writing a novel.

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