Novella in Flash 2024 Results

Huge congratulations to the winners and highly commended writers in our 2024 Novella in Flash Award, selected by John Brantingham. Read their bios below.

Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing, Hereafter the first prize novella by US based writer, Sarah Freligh and the runner-up novellas, Nose Ornaments by Sudha Balagopal from the US and Marilyn’s Ghost by Jo Withers,from Australia.

Best wishes to our two highly commended authors, Jupiter Jones and Thomas McColl, and the shortlisted and longlisted writers for future publication of their novellas. And good luck to everyone who entered. It was a privilege to read your work. What a wonderful array of novellas!

You can read John Brantingham’s comments on the three winners and the two highly commended in his judge’s report and his general comments in his report and also his reading notes from when the short list was announced. We really appreciate his careful work over the past few months.

First prize winner:
Hereafter by Sarah Freligh

Sarah Freligh is the author of six books, including Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis, and A Brief Natural History of Women, published in 2023 by Harbor Editions, and Dear You, Alien Buddha, August 2023. Recent work has appeared in the Cincinnati Review miCRo series, SmokeLong Quarterly, Sun Magazine, the Wigleaf 50, 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.

Nose Ornaments by Sudha Balagopal

Sudha Balagopal’s fiction straddles continents and cultures, blending thoughts and ideas from the east and the west. She is honored to have her writing in many fine journals including The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, CRAFT, The Maine Review and Bureau Dispatch. Her highly- commended novella-in-flash, Things I Can’t Tell Amma, was published by Ad Hoc fiction in 2021. She has stories included in Best Small Fictions, 2022 and 2023. When she’s not writing, she teaches yoga. Find her on Twitter @authorsudha or at

Marilyn’s Ghost by Jo Withers

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. Her work has featured in Best Microfictions 2020 and Wigleaf Top 50 2021. She has also been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize.

Highly Commended
Nine Inches of Rain by Jupiter Jones

Jupiter Jones lives in Wales and writes short and flash fictions. She is the author of three novellas-in-flash, The Death and Life of Mrs Parker, Lovelace Flats, and Gull Shit Alley and Other Roads to Hell. Being a proper nerd with very little social life, she is currently working on a PhD on the role of (dis)connectivity in the novella-in-flash.

Highly Commended
The Man With the Glass Blown Head and Brick Wall Face by Thomas McColl
Thomas McColl lives in London and works as a Procedural Publisher at the House of Commons. He’s had two collections of poetry published – Being With Me Will Help You Learn (Listen Softly London Press, 2016) and Grenade Genie (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020) – and his short stories and poems have been published in magazines such as Fictive Dream, Bare Fiction, Here Comes Everyone and Smoke: A London Peculiar, and featured on BBC Radio Kent, BBC Radio WM and TV’s London Live.

share by email

Dawn Tasaka Steffler October 2023 First Prize


by Dawn Steffler

Because the internet said, children who lose a parent to suicide are more likely to die from suicide. Because for Tyler’s fourteenth birthday, I took him to Disneyland and thought we were having a good day, until his eyes brimmed with tears while we were in line and he mumbled, “I’m sorry, Mom — I don’t think I want to be here anymore.” And I knew he wasn’t talking about Space Mountain. Because my therapist said, “I know you’re angry. But you need to hold space for Tyler to grieve.” And I remember thinking, does no one give a fuck about me?

My husband hovers. I hear songs on the radio that croon “I’m sorry”, or I’ll see a heart-shaped cloud, or the Mexican place has a new banner, “Life is hard, tacos help.” I always ignore him. But two hours ago, Tyler barged into my bedroom, he’s receiving an award at tonight’s Senior Ceremony and his dress slacks are too short. I wanted to say, You’re just like your Dad, always leaving stuff to the last minute! But I didn’t. I said, “Would you like to look in your Dad’s closet?” And Tyler examined each hanger, the scrape of wire on wood, the rustle of fabric. He selected a navy suit and a pinstriped shirt still in the dry cleaner’s plastic sleeve. And when he emerged, I felt like I was looking at a ghost, except this ghost’s hair was shaggy and falling into its eyes.

And now I’m standing at the back of the gym. When Tyler accepts his commemorative plaque, the flyers on the table next to me flutter and ripple. And I whisper, “Fuck off.” I whisper, “Yes, he turned out amazing. No thanks to you.” I whisper, “Well, thank you. That means a lot.”

About the Author

Dawn Tasaka Steffler is a fiction writer from Hawaii who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a Smokelong QuarterlyEmerging Writer Fellow, StoryStudio Chicago StoryBoard Fellow, and Best of the Net nominee. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Many Nice Donkeys, Milk Candy Review, Flash Frog, Pithead Chapel, Stanchion, Ghost Parachute, and others. She truly does believe tacos make life better. Find her on Instagram, Twitter and Bluesky @DawnSteffler and at

share by email

Mairead Robinson October 2023 Second Prize

Butterfly Effect

by Mairead Robinson

That night you flipped out, drunk on vodka you found in your brother’s room as you rummaged for weed, you didn’t know that your best friend, too numb, wouldn’t speak for three days, and as you flipped, alone and raging, you didn’t know your teachers, on hearing the news, would rolodex their heads for anything they might have ever said, and you didn’t know as you emptied the bathroom cabinet for something to be enough, that your neighbour would stare at the fence, recalling a six-year-old on the trampoline, pigtails lifting into twin smiles as you bounced up down, up down, and you didn’t know as you smashed your own face in the mirrored doors, the bath filling dreadfully behind you, that your mother would say you were everything, just everything to her, and as you stepped half-dressed into tepid water, you didn’t know that the boy you slept with after a party, the one who bragged to his friends, would never again hold anyone close, and your mother’s boyfriend, who said you were all grown up, before he slunk from your candy-striped sheets, your pop-star posters, would hold your mother up at the funeral, eyes hard-glazed, like a daughter to me, he’ll say, lies the only truth on his face, and you didn’t know, as you gripped a glass shard without thinking, felt such calm sluicing through, that your brother would find you and be too afraid to know what to do; he’ll turn off the tap, towel-mop the tiles; soft white soaking up pink, and you didn’t know, when you flipped into that grey blur, that you’d be buried in the pale lilac chiffon you wore to your prom, cocooned in a casket painted by your cousin with poppies and vines and big yellow swallowtails fluttering through leaves.

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 tweets @Judasspoon and skeets

share by email

Sally Jubb October 2023 Third Prize


by Sally Jubb

It was the way she gave him chocolate. Fed him, I should say, as if he was still a baby. Not that you’d give a baby chocolate. Then she sort of played with it in front of his face, him with his lips parted, as she waved it about. The way a cat’s head follows left to right, right to left, if you taunt it with a bit of chicken, that’s what she did to him. I watched her in the mirror, as I put on my necklace before leaving the house.

Later, from the window, I watched them in the garden, deep in lupines. She put a straw between his lips. The liquid was pink, the glass bottle flashing in the sun between her fingers. I imagined her saying the word suck, and remembered a stranger’s fingers dragging my nipple over his face, him rooting blindly as the milk came in spurts, the stab as he latched on, the crying, him sucking on and on, the hopelessness of it.

She’s carrying him now between the trees, lifting him high in the air, him reaching down with his fingers touching her face. Now she takes his fingers into her mouth and shakes her head about like some daft dog. He’s laughing. I only know her name. I don’t know who she really is. These agencies make stuff up. Joy is very loving and caring. Joy is endlessly patient and loves nothing more than to play.

They’re holding hands now and pointing at something on the lawn. A blackbird, or maybe a starling. Sturnus vulgaris. Whatever it is she’ll have to go.

About the Author

Sally Jubb lives in North Yorkshire. She received the Andrea Badenoch Award (Northern Writers Awards) in 2015. Since then, her work has appeared in various anthologies, including The Bristol Short Story Prize, The London Magazine, Best British Short Stories (Salt). She won the Colm Toibin Short Story Prize in 2017. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck College, London. She recently completed a horror novel.

share by email

Autumn Bettinger October 2023 Highly Commended

Train to the Last Iceberg

by Autumn Bettinger

His tangled blond curls flutter in the breeze kicked up by train wheels. The zoo slides by, passing a giraffe licking metal poles and an elephant staring into the sun. She points towards the polar bear, a great white blotch on a barren scene. She taps her son’s shoulder, calls his name, but he keeps looking at the plants and people that chug by.

She watches the water fall from the bear’s fur in soft sheets, pattering old plastic jugs that litter the enclosure. Even in a zoo, where great murals depict the ice melting in the arctic, they give Polar Bears trash to play with.

The train heads towards a tunnel. Kids squeal, a few toddlers burst into tears. They can sense the dark. She watches the back of her son’s neck for goosebumps. At six he’s almost fearless. She imagines the last fight they had, the one where she grabbed him, told him to listen. JUST LISTEN.

She scared him. She scared herself. She tried to apologize. She took him to the zoo.

The tunnel pushes in slowly, the light fading in a blast of shrill giggles and gasps. She and her son stay quiet in the black. Nothing but sounds. No polar bears. No slamming doors. No throwing ice cubes against the side of the house to try and break her anger apart.

The light creeps back in as a familiar pressure nestles into her palm. A small hand buried in the wrinkles and veins that puddle above her knuckles. The train sucks its last cars from the dark as the polar bears fight over an old buoy and the giraffe’s black tongue licks, and licks, and licks. She squeezes his hand and thinks about rising oceans. She squeezes his hand and promises not to melt.

About the Author

Autumn Bettinger is a full-time mother of two living in Portland, Oregon. When not folding laundry or slinging snacks, she can be found writing in the wee hours of the morning before her kids wake up. Her work has been audio adapted for The No Sleep Podcast and has won the Silver Scribes Prize. Her stories can be found in The Journal of Compressed Literary Arts, On the Run, Numnum, and others.
All of Autumn’s published works can be found at

share by email

Barbara Diggs October 2023 Highly Commended

The Burial of Mrs. Charles D. Jackson

by Barbara Diggs

You sit alone on the sofa in the smart black suit and flared skirt you picked out months ago, when you saw the writing on the wall. Children and grandchildren surge and recede, leaving objects before you like sacred offerings: A sweating glass of iced tea. Crayon drawings of you and Granddaddy Charles. A plate of ham hock-seasoned collard greens, your presumed favorite. You like collards fine, but they were Charles’s favorite, never yours. Still, you’d made them every Sunday with three dashes of habanero sauce and a spoonful of brown sugar, right up until the day he clamped his lips and turned away.

Black-clad women gather like a plague of grackles near the kitchen doorway. A daughter, a daughter-in-law, two nieces. One glances over her shoulder at you as they whisper. They are waiting for you to fall apart. A biblical show of grief; a little hair-tearing, some breast-beating would befit sixty-one years of marriage. Yesterday, you overheard your son saying he wouldn’t be surprised if you went soon after, and you wondered if there was no end to the world’s expectations of a woman.

At the graveyard, you’d dabbed your eyes. A commitment fulfilled is as worthy as devotion. But now, you’re thinking of the ripe cantaloupe someone had placed on the kitchen counter. Charles couldn’t bear the smell; you hadn’t bought one in decades. You rise from the sofa with crepitating knees. A storm of concern erupts, but you decline offers of assistance. You prefer the gossamer swing of your skirt, the honeyed scent of melon to usher you forward.

About the Author

Barbara Diggs’s flash fiction has been published or is forthcoming in numerous publications including, FlashBack Fiction, (mac)ro(mic),100-Word Story, Ellipsis Zine, Five on Fifth, and multiple anthologies including the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology and The Bridport Prize Anthology, where she received a Highly Commended award. She is Pushcart Prize nominee and Best of the Net finalist. She lives in Paris, France with her husband, sons, and the cutest turtle ever. Twitter @bdiggswrites. Bluesky:

share by email

William Davidson June 2023 First Prize

Remembered Yellow

by William Davidson

I’m early. I walk to the end of platform three. I like to see the name of the train I’m getting on. I know it’s daft. I like to see the name of the train and then get on at the front and walk through the carriages. I like to sit at the back of the rearmost carriage, facing forward. It’s weird and daft. I know.

I stand at the very end of platform three, at the top of the slope that leads down to the rocky ground by the tracks, the ballast I think it’s called, like in a ship, like the ballast that stops a ship from tilting and sinking. I gaze down the slope at the ballast and there it is, growing alongside a patch of rosebay willowherb. There it is – York groundsel. It went extinct decades ago but there it is.

I’m early so I’ve got time. It’s good I’m early. I walk down the slope and keep my eye on the York groundsel but it’s not going anywhere. I keep my eye on things that aren’t going anywhere in case they go somewhere. It’s daft. I know. It’s hard to walk on the ballast. It’s sharp-edged. I take off my jacket and roll it up so I’ve got something to kneel on. The York groundsel is yellow, like a remembered yellow, like a yellow that only exists in a photograph, but here it is, existing, in the ballast.

People are by me now. They must have seen the York groundsel too. They sound like they can’t believe it’s here.

‘It’s really here,’ I say. ‘York groundsel is really here.’

The people are tilting around me. A train’s coming. Its horn is blasting again and again, like an ocean liner launching, like something beginning.

About the Author

William Davidson won the inaugural Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2015. His short stories and flash fiction have been published in various anthologies, including Solstice Shorts (Arachne Press) and Rattle Tales (The Brighton Prize). He has an MA and MFA in Creative Writing from York St John University, and teaches at Converge, an education project at the university that provides courses for people who use mental health services. He also leads an ecotherapy book club at St Nicks, a thriving nature reserve in York.
Twitter: @WmDavidsonUK

share by email

Sara Hills June 2023 Second Prize

Failure to Thrive

by Sara Hills

Weeks after we lose her, Lou and I take turns eating our feelings and secretly dosing each other with LSD. On Monday, he tucks a tab into the mayo on my sandwich. On Tuesday, I bury one in a swirl of cream atop his cake. Wednesday, it’s spiked marinara and milkshakes.

By Thursday we’re high as diamonds.

I call in sick and my boss’s teeth chatter through the phone like shiny stacks of white plates, rattling the hollow bowl of my body. He shouts, “You’re fucking unreliable,” a purple whelp of a sound that punches my useless empty breasts. Not for the first time, I realize how fragile we are, chipped monstrosities of ceramic-fired clay.

Lou steadies me with his fork-fingered hand and sings that my tits are happy soup cans. He draws faces on them in ballpoint pen, giving them toothy mouths and eyes wizened with promise. It’s the most enlivened I’ve felt in weeks—me, skin glowing iridescent against the dark ink; him, drawing with his tongue out, like a child would, all willowy limbs and hopeful yellow hair, tracing rainbows.

Later, we run into the box-small yard and let our crown chakras unfurl under the humming sky. We are sun-soaked artichokes beside our blue-walled house. And when the light fades, Lou, convinced that our hearts are bruised apples that need protecting, washes the pleated skin of my stomach with his tears.

By the time the moon rises like a refrigerator light across the empty shelf of the sky, Lou and I are already sinking. We lay back on the leaf litter, watching for comets and constellations, falling stars and signs. Above, 747s soar like milk bottles, blinking mandalas of coded prayers that vibrate the earth while we hold our breath and wait to feel forgiven.

About the Author

Sara Hills is the author of The Evolution of Birds (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2021), winner of the 2022 Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection. She has won the Quiet Man Dave flash nonfiction prize, the Retreat West quarterly prize, and the National Flash Fiction Day micro competition. Sara’s work has been twice commended in the Bath Flash Fiction Award, placed second in the Welkin Prize, and was selected for the Wigleaf Top 50 in 2021 and 2022. Her stories have been widely published in anthologies and magazines, including The Best Small Fictions 2022 and 2023, SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, Fractured Lit, Cease Cows, Flash Frog, X-RAY Lit, Splonk, New Flash Fiction Review and elsewhere. Originally from the Sonoran Desert, Sara lives in Warwickshire, UK and tweets from @sarahillswrites.

share by email

Noemi Scheiring-Olah June 2023 Third Prize

To All the Copies of Us

by Noemi Scheiring Olah

To the soccer-patterned rubber ball, easy to kick, making us laugh every time it hits our shins with a burp sound, like Daddy, every time he gets home from work, all paint spots and sour smiles.

To the video player branded “videó player”, which instantly eats the rented Lion King tape, making the words slur like Daddy’s, slurping The tapessshit, and Merry Chrisssmasss, and Daddy lovesssya.

To the white sneakers with four black lines and a thin sole, which makes every pebble feel like we’re walking on broken glass, and when the kids at school finger-point and jeer Fakedidas, we borrow (if you’re Daddy), or steal (if you’re the head teacher) White-Outs, and smear white slime all over the fourth black line until it disappears.

To the fading library books Daddy brought home every weekend so us kids See the world, and Know how to find and lose beauty, like he found and lost Mommy, and like we now spill Bud Light over an unreturned Moby Dick, and watch the pages darken, and fold, and float away, like Daddy darkened, and folded, and floated away two weeks ago, frowning with twin brows that refused to let go.

To the hoarse TV in the kitchen coughing up successful flat people droning on and on about filling big shoes of successful flat fathers, who flash and mirror in the empty bottles that clink-clank across the room as we collect and throw them in trash cans, smashing, and crashing, and shattering; tearing to break free from all the copies of us.

About the Author

Noémi Scheiring-Oláh grew up in a small flat at the edge of a Hungarian town. She’s now a nomad in a small world. Her writing has appeared/forthcoming in Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Molotov Cocktail, New Flash Fiction Review, Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, Maudlin House, Ellipsis Zine, Janus Literary, and elsewhere, and has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and The Pushcart Prize. Noémi is a fan of cats and underdogs. She’s also a Writers’ HQ member. Tweets: @itssonoemi Virtual home:

share by email

James Montgomery June 2023 Highly Commended

Diamonds in the Earth

by James Montgomery

The bat splinters, the crowd roars, and the boy’s held fast by the arc of the baseball, blitzing a course straight at him, a mere speck in the outfield, twin eye black smears masking each cheek, a boy pinned to parched, rain-hungry grass, when one lone voice, his father’s bark—look sharp, Bobby!—barrels out from the bleachers, jolts the boy into action, who stumble-runs as the ball skims the crest of the August sun, and the boy’s running back, back to last Tuesday, and the promise of an empty house—his mother running errands, his father out of town—and in the cheval mirror, in a slant of light, with only the floating dust motes to bear witness, there he was: lips alive with painted red, nape and inner wrists perfumed anew, socked feet slipped into his mother’s Mary Janes—the heel but an inch high yet it felt like touching God, like discovering some heavenly body until now unfound—and behind him, his father, unexpected and unannounced, the bedroom door silently ajar, the quickening panic of dad, dad, dad, and, as the ball begins its descent, the boy knows if he can only grasp it tight and hold it close all will be absolved, so he runs and runs, extends both arms, and stretches back through hand-stitched, chain-linked muscle memory, towards freshly-cut weekends, diamonds drawn in backyard earth, the easy throw of nice one, bud through air, the soft ache of an unbidden shoulder squeeze, and the close grain of freckles on sun-blessed faces, as the boy reaches, for his father, for the ball… which, with a short, sharp pop, funnels like a fastball, powers into the glove’s pocket, while something small and hard—as if leather cased—catches in the boy’s throat.

About the Author

James Montgomery’s stories appear in Reflex Fiction, Maudlin House, Gone Lawn, and elsewhere. He won the Best Micro Fiction Prize at the 2021 Retreat West Awards and is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Find him at and on Twitter at @JDMontgomery_

share by email