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Interview with 23rd Award Judge, Sudha Balagopal

    Bio: Sudha Balagopal is honored to have her writing in many fine journals including CRAFT, Split Lip, and SmokeLong Quarterly. Her novella-in-flash, Things I Can’t Tell Amma, was published by Ad Hoc fiction in 2021. She has work included in both Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, 2022. Her work is listed in the Wigleaf Top 50: 2019, 2021, longlisted 2022. Find her on Twitter @authorsudha
    We’re delighted to welcome Sudha Balagopol as judge for our 23rd Award which opens November 1st and closes on Sunday, February 5th, 2023 (Results out at the end of February). Read Jude’s interview with her below, where Sudha tells us about her long writing journey and how she became interested in writing flash. There are links to some of her own wonderful stories, and stories by others, showing her interest in different styles and forms of flash fiction plus tips on what she is looking for in competition entries.

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Award Round Up, October 2022

This autumn,1248 writers entered our 22nd Award. Our team reads the entries as they come in, during the four months of the contest, and they are poised to deal with any last minute rush. We all enjoyed reading so many great stories on many different subjects.Thanks to everyone who entered from the 38 countries listed below.

Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

Thank you also to everyone who entered for supporting the Award in these difficult times. The Last Minute Club on the final day is always a wild ride. And the badge this time was a sophisticated black and gold. We appreciated all who sent in stories at any time, early or later, or at the last minute. Some of you said, although you weren’t longlisted, it was worth entering for the experience. Others said they had been successful in reaching the longlist for the first time after many attempts.As someone who enters big contests myself and is frequently not selected in lists, I know it’s a disappointment not to be chosen. We say it often, but it is always true that it is very difficult to whittle the entries down to a final long list of 50 stories from so many very good and inventive pieces. Big thanks to our 22nd Award judge, writer, teacher and editor from the UK, Emily Devane for selecting the final twenty for the shortlist, for choosing the winners and for her excellent report.

You can read these brilliant winning stories on our winners’ page. Many congratulations to the top five. The first prize goes to Kathy Hoyle from the UK for her story ‘The Metamorphosis of Evaline Jackson’, second prize goes to Sarah Freligh from the US for her story ‘McDonald’s’, third prize to Kathleen Latham from the US for ‘Fourth Grade Science Lession, Chickasaw City, Alabama’ and the two highly commended. Debra A Daniel from the US for ‘In the Darkest Dark She Takes My Sleep’, and to Sara Hills from the UK for ‘A Beachcomber’s Guide to Desert Grief.’
Our seventh anthology is due out at the end of this year. We’re very happy that most of the longlisted writers from the three 2022 Awards have agreed to be published. All contributors will receive a free copy, posted worldwise. It’s going to be a fantastic read. Our 23rd Award, judged this time by writer, editor and yoga teacher, Sudha Balagopal from the US will open on November 1st 2022 and close in early February 2023. We look forward to reading more wonderful flash fictions.

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Kathy Hoyle October 2022 First Prize

The Metamorphosis of Evaline Jackson

by Kathy Hoyle

When Evaline Jackson saunters into class after summer break, with brand new braids and cling-cling shorts – breast-buds pouting – we swallow down envy like clotted cream.

She flips her long, sun-kissed legs onto the desk and chips at her lilac glitter nails with fine white teeth.

The boys pop-pop in bubble gum bursts.

When Evaline Jackson sighs and rolls her eyes at them, we roll our eyes too.

When Evaline Jackson snips her tube top even shorter, with scissors stolen from art class, and glints her arms with beaded bangles, and steals mocha eyeliner from her mother’s make-up bag and paints curving cat-slants across her lids, we cut and glint and steal and paint too.

When Evaline Jackson eats fries down at Skittle Town Bowl on Fridays, we beg for chore money and cut and glint and steal our way down there. We order fries and roll our eyes too, and watch the boys pop-pop.

When Evaline Jackson says, gotta go, and slinks out to the parking lot, and the boys catch her scent and follow, fox tails flaring, we pull down our too-short tube tops and look anywhere but at the middle-aged fat-gut guys who smash the skittles and high-five each other and side-eye our long legs in cling-cling shorts.

When Evaline Jackson’s seat is empty Monday morning, we stretch our sweaters way down over our knees. We spit glitter polish from our teeth, stuff beaded bangles into rucksack pockets and crush the heels of our palms hard against our wiped-clean eyes to keep them from rolling.

About the Author

Kathy Hoyle’s work can be found in publications such as Spelk, Virtualzine, Lunate, Ellipsiszine, Reflex Fiction, The Forge, Emerge Literary Journal and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She previously won the Retreat West Flash Competition, came second in The Edinburgh Flash Fiction Award, and the HISSAC Prize. third in the Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize. Other stories have been listed in competitions includingThe Exeter Short Story Prize, the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize, Flash 500, and Strands International.She holds a BA (hons) and an MA in Creative Writing and lives in a sleepy Warwickshire village in the UK with her crazy labradoodle.

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Sarah Freligh October 2022 Second Prize

McDonald’s

by Sarah Freligh

The boys again, their sneakered feet and chin zits and peach fuzz. Her boy at that age had been slow to grow, slow to do anything. At fourteen, he still had a voice like a flute and sang soprano in the choir until he dropped out because the high notes hurt his head. Everything hurt his head then – the light from the TV screen, the spin cycle on the washing machine – but she didn’t take him to the doctor until he imagined he could hear voices singing opera on the phone wires. The doctor tapped his right knee and ordered an MRI that lit up his brain pink and purple, like a sunset after a storm’s passed through only the real storm was coming and there was nothing to do but shut the windows and keep him quiet for as long as he had left, which turned out to be five months, three days. Ma’am, the boys call her when they come to the counter to ask for something, salt or straws or cups of ketchup. Ma’am, they say and when they say it softly enough, it sounds just like Mom.

About the Author

Sarah Freligh is the author of four books, including Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis, and We, published by Harbor Editions in early 2021. Recent work has appeared in the Cincinnati Review miCRo series, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Fractured Lit, and in the anthologies New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction (Norton 2018), Best Microfiction (2019-22) and Best Small Fiction 2022. Among her awards are poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Saltonstall Foundation.

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Kathleen Latham October 2022 Third Prize

Fourth Grade Science Lesson, Chickasaw City, Alabama

by Kathleen Latham

When Rylee’s class plants papery, brown bulbs in mason jars, she’s sure nothing will come of it. Olivia Hewett told her flowers are born looking beautiful, and she should know because she lives in a house with a bedroom all to herself. Rylee lives with her mama and little brother in the Housing Authority where nothing grows but washed-out patches of grass for dogs to pee on.

“Why can’t we have flowers?” Rylee asks her mama.

Mama rolls her eyes at the question. “You wanna spend five dollars on somethin’ be dead in a week, or you wanna get two roller dogs and a Polar Pop at Circle K?”

At school, Mrs. McCarty says they need to be patient. Olivia Hewett says they need bees. Rylee takes notes in her science journal and waits for the experiment to fail.

Brown lump, she writes. Still nothing.

But then roots appear. Tiny white tendrils snaking against glass.

Worms? Rylee writes.

Next, green shoots, straight as a pencil.

Grass?
The shoots make her fidgety. She tries not to think about them, but at recess she finds a weed with white flowers growing by the fence. She pinches some of its dirt and sprinkles it onto her bulb for good luck. Doesn’t tell Olivia.

A week later, the class arrives to find thirty-one tulips lined up on the windowsill like ladies waiting to dance. Rylee touches hers to make sure it’s real.

Petals like wax, she writes. Purple as nail polish.

The flowers fill her with a hopefulness she can’t define—each of those funny-shaped husks hiding something wonderful.

She saves the petals when they fall off. Keeps them hidden in a plastic bag behind her pencil box. Takes them out from time to time and cradles them in her hand like a promise.

About the Author

Kathleen Latham is a native Californian who’s been living outside of Boston, Massachusetts long enough to have her loyalties questioned. She loves ice hockey, her family, and her cat—not necessarily in that order. A recent winner of the Web Microfiction Prize for Women Writers, her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Masters Review Anthology XI, 100 Word Story, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Tipton Poetry Journal and Constellations. You can find her on social media at @lathamwithapen or online at KathleenLatham.com.

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Debra A Daniel October 2022 Highly Commended

In The Darkest Dark She Takes My Sleep

by Debra A Daniel

“Get up,” my grandmother says. “It’s storming. The lights are out.”

I want to say, “Of course, they are. It’s the middle of the night,” but I don’t. She’d tell my mother, and I’d be punished for sassing.

Whenever it storms, my grandmother drags her rocking chair into the hallway. There are no windows. She can’t see what’s coming. She makes me sit with her until the danger of lightning death passes.

In the dark, she recites her storm rules. No bobby pins in my hair. Lightning searches for metal. No petting my dog. Lightning seeks out animals, even jittery ones like chihuahuas. No going into the bathroom no matter how bad I have to pee. Lightning can burst through faucets and drown you in electricity.

I want to ask why she only wakes me and not my mother who’s sleeping in her pink bedroom without my father who isn’t home in the middle of the night.

I want to say I have a math test and went to bed reciting formulas for circles—area, circumference, radius—so I won’t fail, but now I’ll be sleepy and confused by circles that spin me until I’m helpless.

But I don’t speak. I sit near the creak of the rocker and listen to her story about sisters she knew when she was eleven. Sisters struck by a bolt straight out of a blue sky. Sisters who never saw it coming.

“You must watch in bright of day,” my grandmother says. “and darkest night. Especially then. That’s when no one realizes the lights have gone out and you’ve lost your power.”

The black storm surrounds us. I hold onto my pillow and listen to pour of rain, the whipping wind, and, from behind her bedroom door, the sleeping hush of my mother.

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 Quarterly, 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 shortlisted in the 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Awards and was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in July 2021. She also won third prize in the February 2022 Bath Flash Fiction Award.

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Sara Hills October 2022 Highly Commended

A Beachcomber’s Guide to Desert Grief

by Sara Hills

The boy on his bike is a shark. Each clump of grass? Seaweed. Each broken crash of cholla? A jellyfish. The ground is water—that’s what you tell yourself—not hard-packed desert dirt.

You throw yourself into the waves and float, waiting to feel lighter, waiting for the boy to pass. But he doesn’t. He rolls up next to you and stops, hovering there with his sharp fin, scenting for blood.

You’re here to feel the salt spray on your face, taste the tang of summer on your lips, sense the sun shimmering on water. You’re here to listen, and he’s ruining it.

Doesn’t he know that each inch of this ocean is a cure? That time is held in each grain of sand? That if you get quiet enough, the seashells will whisper your sister’s secrets to you?

They might, but not with him here.

The cool of his shadow falls across your face. His breath is root beer soda and barbecue sauce.

You play at being invisible until he touches you, until his words bubble to the surface.

‘Not dead,’ he says and laughs.

When you open your eyes, you see his bike tire as a whale’s eye. See his mouth, a pufferfish. See that he’s not going to leave. So you leave first.

Each footstep sucks the wet sand and the ocean slowly recedes behind you, out of your memory. The wheels of the boy’s bike follow, spokes flickering, tires spinning up droplets of dust.

For one last glimpse, it’s sunlight on water—every chance at being washed clean—then it’s gone. And it’s just the hard desert dirt all around you, miles and miles of dry despair.

About the Author


Sara Hills is the author of The Evolution of Birds, winner of the 2022 Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection, and co-author of a collaborative novella-in-flash forthcoming with Ad Hoc Fiction in 2023. Her stories have won the QuietManDave Prize for flash nonfiction, the Retreat West quarterly prize, and been selected for Wigleaf’s Top 50 and The Best Small Fictions. Her work is widely published in anthologies and magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, Fractured Lit, Cease Cows, Flash Frog, Splonk, and Reckon Review. Originally from the Sonoran Desert, Sara lives in Warwickshire, UK and tweets from @sarahillswrites.

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Submit to Flare, the anthology on chronic illness, told in flash narratives

mage by Lucas Silva Pinheiro Santos and depicts a figure reflected in water texturized by rock. The figure is sharply in shadow with an arm raised overhead. There appear a swath of orange and red color over the figure.

image by Lucas Silva Pinheiro Santos

    Ad Hoc Fiction, our short short fiction press is excited to be publishing, in 2023, Flare, a ground-breaking anthology composed of flash narratives about chronic illiness. The anthology was conceived of, and is edited by, writer and editor, April Bradley who tells us more about the project and her ideas about it below. She welcomes submissions up until Novemeber 30th 2022 and the anthology will be published in 2023 and available from Ad Hoc Fiction and from Amazon worldwide. All contributors receive $10, a pdf and can purchase copies of the anthology at a 35% discount from Ad Hoc Fiction. Submissions are free. If you wish to donate, your generosity will benefit the contributors and help with the cost of production. Read in Full
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