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2016 Award Now Open

Welcome to the 2016 Bath Short Story Award. We invite local, national and international entries from published and unpublished writers.

Closing date: Monday, April 25th, 2016 at midnight BST

Entry fee: £8. Enter online or by post

Short stories of up to 2200 words in all genres, styles welcome.  No lower word limit. Check Rules for more information.

Shortlist Judge: BBC Radio 4 producer Mair Bosworth


  • 1st £1000
  • 2nd £200
  • 3rd £100
  • Local prize: £50 voucher
  • The Acorn Award for unpublished writers of fiction : £50

With thanks to Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath for sponsoring the local prize.

A selection of twenty winning, shortlisted and longlisted stories will be published in the 2016 anthology  in digital and print format. (publication likely in October, 2016).

Follow us on Twitter @bathstoryaward and subscribe to our email list and posts to receive the latest news and competition updates.

2015 anthology

To read the winning, shortlisted and a selection of the longlisted stories from last year’s award,  buy the 2015 anthology officially launched 19th November 2015 in Bath.



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BSSA 2015 anthology launch

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The BSSA 2015 anthology launch took place on 19th November at Mr B’s Emporium of Books, Bath. Mr B sponsors our local prize and his shop was recently voted one of the ten best bookshops in the world by The Guardian. We think it’s the bee’s knees too – a must go if you are visiting Bath. Reading spas, reading years, bibliotherapy…

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Nic, Mr B himself, with Jane.




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We were thrilled that ten of the twenty authors in the anthology were able to come along to read short extracts from their stories  to a packed house of partners, friends and short-story-loving guests. Two of the authors, Sara Collins and Emily Devane are pictured on the left.


Sara, Jude Anna etc

It was a fabulous evening. All the authors who attended read brilliantly from the beginning of their stories and left listeners longing to find out what happened next.  Here you can see Jude, Anna and others, spellbound by Sara Collins reading her story.



Jerry and Sue

Our first prize winner, Safia Moore, was unable to attend as she lives in the United Arab Emirates. After Anna’s introduction and thanks to all,  Jane’s friend Jerry pictured here on the right with Sue, who took a lot of the photographs, started off the readings with an extract from Safia’s story, ‘That Summer.’ Click on video clip to see Jerry reading some ofthat extract. The recording starts a few seconds into the reading.



Garry Alex and Douglas

Gary and Douglas from The Self Publishing Partnership who published our high quality book under their Brown Dog imprint, came along and here they are with Alexandra  Wilson, from Writing Events Bath, who sponsored the Acorn Award for an unpublished writer, this year won by Lucy Corkhill with her story.’Last Rites’.

anthology copies smallerOur anthology cover was again designed by the very talented artist and writer Elinor Nash who unfortunately wasn’t able to come along. We sold all the books pictured here during the evening. People  love the colour of the anthology this year – many saying how festive it is – just right for Christmas presents.

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In between batches of readings, there was time for people to mingle, chat, buy books drink wine and nibble on our snacks


KM Elks

We’ve pictures here of all the authors reading, plus the first few lines of their stories to inspire you to buy the anthology –  available from this website, Mr B’s and Amazon

Here’s K M Elkes our local prize winner reading from his story, ‘The Three Kings’.

“It was Friday night, our wages were paid – we were set for the dance down Kilburnie. There were three of us – me, Frances and Robbie – living cheap over McAdams the butchers where a yellow stink of fat pooled at the bottom of the stairs”.



Lucy Corkhill, winner of the Acorn Award for an unpublished writer of fiction reading from the beginning of her story ‘Last Rites’. Click here to see a  Youtube video clip of Lucy reading the extract. She also tells us how she entered the competition at 11.47 pm on the last day!

“Rose Cullen. Eighty-eight years of age. Two daughters themselves pensioners: Violet and May. Three grand-children; one great-grandchild. A marriage, mercifully short, to Charles…”



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Sara Collins reading from her shortlisted story,  ‘Lilith’.

“We have nowhere else to go, so he puts me on all fours like a cat on the back seat You’re as jumpy as a cat and all,’ he tells me. ‘Stay still.’

The old Bentley’s back window is filthy like always. The doors are locked.The amber beads of the rosary swing side to side from the mirror.  ‘There’s a trick to surviving it,’ Lilith always says…”





Emma Seaman reading from her shortlisted story, ‘The Ends of the Earth’.

“‘I’ve wanted to do this for years,’ my father tells me. ‘It’s top of my bucket list.’

I didn’t know he had a bucket list, or needed one, but I can hear he’s proud of himself for knowing the term.”



John Holland reading an extract from his story ‘Lips’. Click on the link to listen to a video clip of his reading

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John tells us this is the original ceramic egg and and chips plate



“At the pottery class, he made a black, iron glazed stoneware urn which she admired. She made a blue glazed earthenware plate with yellow and white glazed fried eggs, orange glazed beans and brown glazed individually cut chips, which he didn’t comment on…”




Emily Devane reading from her story ‘Ruby Shoesmith, click, click,click’.

1. Ample

‘Your first word is ample.’ Mrs Barker paces between the desks. ‘Ample’ she says again, stressing the ‘p’ sound so that her chest heaves forward unsettling the chain that carries her glasses.

Ample. I know this one. ‘Am-pull – is that it?’…”


Anne Corlett



Anne Corlett reading from her story, ‘The Witching Hour’.

“I discover we have a witch on the first night in the new house.

There’s a faint scratching coming from the children’s room and when I open the curtains, she’s there, floating expressionlessly in front of the window, long vague fingers probing at the glass…”



Anna Metcalfe reading from her story, ‘Sand’.

“They abandoned the truck at the edge of the city and divided themselves between the two jeeps. Seven men in the back of each, shoulders knocking, thighs pressed against thighs. The road soon lost its surface to potholes, boulders and the branches of fallen trees…”


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Adam Kurcharksi reading from his story, ‘Mosquito Press’.

“You know something’s gone too far when you’re sitting here flicking through a deck of cards, trying to decide which of the queens is the prettiest. The phone rings again. It’s probably Castle, drunk in one of the girlie bars without any pesos for a taxi.”





Fran Landsman reading an extract from her story, ‘Big and Brie’.

Click here to listen to a Youtube video clip  It begins a couple of seconds into the story.

“My name is Big. But I’m not – I’m small. They call me that because my surname is Spender – like ‘Big Spender’ – which is a song. But I’m not a big spender either. In fact, I’ve only got £9.17 to last me till next Thursday.”



Ten very different compelling stories and ten more to read in the anthology. All of those wonderful too. The authors who weren’t able to attend, apart from our winner Safia Moore, were second prize winner,  Dan Powell,  third prize winner, Angela Readman, commended, Eileen Merriman, commended, Barbara Weeks, shortlisted,Sophie Hampton and Alice Falconer, Fiona Mitchell, Chris Edwards-Pritchard, and Debbi Voisey.

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Interview with 2015 1st prize winner, Safia Moore

Safia-Moore-PhotoNow that the 2016 Short Story Award is underway, we thought it would be good to hear from Safia Moore, our BSSA 2015 first prize winner. She’s had more successes since her win in our contest back in July and has some great advice for prospective entrants to this year’s competition. You can read Safia’s winning story ‘That Summer’ in our BSSA 2015 anthology which officially launches in Bath on 19th November. Available from Mr B’s Emporium of Books in Bath or via Amazon

Safia Moore is a writer, editor, and creative writing tutor from Northern Ireland. Her work has been published in various journals including The Incubator, Haverthorn Magazine, Severine, and The Honest Ulsterman.   In 2015 Safia won the Bath Short Story Award, came second in the Allingham Arts Flash Fiction competition and was twice shortlisted for Flash500.

Blog: www.topofthetent.com Twitter: @SafiaMoore


  • On your blog, you posted a great account of the history of your winning story,’That Summer’. Can you give us a summary of it again here? I am sure  prospective entrants would be interested in how the story came to us.

The essence of my ‘history of a winning story’ blog was that no one should believe there is some kind of magic recipe or even genius involved in writing a great short story, one that could win, be placed, or shortlisted in a major competition like the Bath Short Story Award. Accepting this and realising that all stories, if they are intended for submission to journals or competitions, must be scrupulously edited, re-read, worked on again and again, is of paramount importance. Likewise, if you believe in the merit of your story, you shouldn’t give up. My winning story, ‘That Summer’, had been submitted to two other competitions and had not been successful, so when it came back to me on those two occasions, I re-edited it, worked particularly closely on my choice of vocabulary, and generally made it leaner and meaner. I felt the voice and the overall structure of the story were sound, so it was a case of honing in on the details, the images, and cutting whatever was superfluous, especially in the dialogue. But if you read the full blog, you’ll discover that a little bit of luck in the form of a slow-moving post office queue, also played a part in how ‘That Summer’ came into the hands of BSSA

‘Viennese Whirls and Pineapple Creams’ is based on a few scant details my mother gave me about my maternal grandmother, Maggie Wright, a woman who raised a tribe of children (not all her own), married several times and was widowed for the last time when my mother, her youngest child, was about twelve. I was pleased that the Allingham judge picked up on the social/historical vibes of the piece as they were important to me, but when I initially sat down to write it, I had no idea exactly how I was going to incorporate those elements. As usual, it sorted itself out in the edits and revisions, of which there were many. You can read it on my blog via the link in the title above.

  • Do you write short fiction with a finished length in mind? Or does it just emerge as flash or a longer story?

I definitely sort my ideas into ‘Flash’ or ‘Short Story’ at a very early stage and I can’t think of any that have crossed over during the writing. I think that’s obviously got to do with the scope and depth of the idea, flash fiction being more like a trailer to the short story’s full feature. I wouldn’t write a flash piece or a short story with a particular word count in mind however, although I have occasionally cut a longer piece down in order to satisfy the word limit of a competition or journal. Stretching to fit is something I’d never do to a story.

  • Which short story writers do you return to for inspiration?

I’m tempted to say, none as I think returning to the same writers for inspiration can be quite inhibiting. I’d say it’s much better to spread your net far and wide when it comes to reading material and to keep one eye on what and who is new. Likewise, I feel that if you need to consciously seek out inspiration as a writer, you’re in trouble. Having said that, if I had to name short story writers I would automatically return to for reading pleasure and enjoyment of the craft well-executed, my top three would be Lorrie Moore, Carol Shields, and James Joyce. I rarely read a novel or a short story more than once, because there’s always something waiting in the TBR pile, but Dubliners is a collection I have returned to time and time again as a reader and a teacher. Which brings me on to anthologies. What better way to be inspired than reading a wide range of styles, ideas and techniques such as those found in the BSSA 2015 Anthology?

  • What are your current writing ambitions?

Currently I’m working on two projects and my ambition is to have them both completed by Spring 2016 at the latest. The first is a collection of short stories thematically linked by their Northern Irish setting (as per ‘That Summer’). I’ve planned 3 new stories which will bring it up to around the 40,000 word mark. At the same time, I’m working on what was my first completed novel and re-forming it into a series of free-standing but integrated episodes along the lines of ‘Olive Kitteridge’ by Elizabeth Strout or ‘Starlings’ by Erinna Mettler. This novel is set in Abu Dhabi and Dubai so has a much more diverse flavour than the short story collection. There’s a second novel which is about one-third of the way in, but it’ll have to wait. Finding an agent who loves my work is another ambition, but that’s for after I’m satisfied I can make no further improvements to my short story collection and novel.

  • Can you give us your top tips for writing competition short stories?

My top tips: get the voice right, plan the structure, begin in the middle of the story, keep writing until you get to the end of the first draft, then start working. There is no such thing as too much editing – you must be prepared to constantly read your own work, re-read it, make changes every time, cut anything that adds nothing to the storyline or characterisation, tighten up dialogue and enhance your descriptions with details that sound fresh, not clichéd. And finally, if you’re thinking about entering Bath 2016, start now. All the above takes time.

Interview with Jude, November 2015.

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2016 Judge


We are thrilled to welcome Mair Bosworth  as our shortlist judge for 2016. Mair is a producer for BBC Radio 4, based in Bristol where she makes Book at Bedtime, short stories, poetry programmes and arts documentaries. She has broadcast work by Kazuo Ishiguro, William Boyd, Owen Sheers, Kate Clanchy and AL Kennedy. She also runs the Bristol branch of ‘In the Dark’, a collective of radio producers and enthusiasts, which brings people together for listening events celebrating the best of radio storytelling. She tweets under @heyheymaimai

  • It’s been said radio is the ideal medium for the short story? What are your thoughts on this?

I’m not sure that there needs to be an ‘ideal’ medium for the short story. I like that short stories can find us in different places; that they can come to us over the air, in an anthology, in a book or in a magazine. I think some stories work particularly well on the radio, but others work better for me on the page. And when judging the BSSA short list I won’t be reading with only a story’s suitability for radio in mind.

Having said that, I do think there is a great fit between radio and short form prose (and poetry too of course). With short stories on the radio we have the pleasure of being told a story, of being read to. This seems to me to be a very primal pleasure; a pleasure set down in childhood. I love that with radio I can get lost in a story while I’m doing the washing up or stuck in a traffic jam. There is something moving and immediate in the intimacy of one human speaking a story into the ear of another.

  • What outlets are there on radio, the BBC or otherwise, for the short story?

Across the BBC’s radio stations we broadcast almost 200 short stories each year, with two a week going out on Radio 4 alone. The vast majority of these stories are brand new commissions for radio or are from newly published collections. Championing new writing and bringing new voices to our audience is really important to us. Radio 4 runs the Opening Lines competition annually, specifically for writers new to radio, and the BBC National Short Story Award for more established writers.

The Book Trust website and the BBC Writers Room are great sources of information on competitions and opportunities for writers.

  • Does the BBC have a submissions policy? What’s the best way to get a story to the top of the radio submissions’ slush pile?

While individual competitions such as Opening Lines will have quite specific submission guidelines, I think it’s important to understand that – in terms of production – ‘the BBC’ is not one monolithic entity. There are currently four different BBC teams and four independent production companies making short readings productions for Radio 4. And within each of those teams are individual producers, with their individual interests and tastes and workloads. For any writers wanting to get their work on radio I would advise listening to as many Radio 4 stories as possible. Work out who is producing the stories you like and approach them.

The other advice I would give is to try to raise your profile. Sometimes BBC producers may put out an open call for submissions, but that is fairly rare. More typically, we will proactively approach writers we admire to invite them to write something for radio. So we need to be able to find you!

I am constantly looking around for writers who are producing exciting work but who have not yet had their first broadcast opportunity on Radio 4. I read short story anthologies, literary magazines and journals. I look at the winners (and runners up) of short story awards around the UK. And I rely heavily on the expert knowledge and opinions of the wonderful people in the short story world – the publishers, agents, critics, teachers and award-givers – who read far more stories than I would ever be able to and have been generous with their advice and recommendations.

I recently commissioned a story from Danielle McLaughlin for example – whose work was first brought to my attention by the amazing Tania Hershman. Thanks to Tania I read a (very) short story of Danielle’s, which appeared in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology and then I tracked down more of Danielle’s pieces in The New Yorker and The Stinging Fly. I loved Danielle’s work and could see that it would work well for radio, so when we had a slot available for a new commission I approached Danielle to ask if she would write for us. Similarly, I was delighted to record one of Kit de Waal’s short stories for radio, after the team behind the Bath Short Story Award told me about her beautiful work.

I am also interested in writers from other fields – poets, screenwriters, journalists, comedians and playwrights – who might bring a fresh take to the short story slots on Radio 4.

  • What do you look for in a story you’re considering broadcasting?

I have to be able to hear the story; to feel it can lift off the page. It also helps if I can ‘see’ the story. (Radio is a strangely visual medium and for me the stories that work best on radio often have a cinematic tendency). I love stories that create a strong sense of atmosphere. I like the economy of what is sometimes called ‘poetic prose’. But most of all I like to laugh and to be moved. I want a story to work on me – to both surprise and connect with me.

  • Could you give us any info on word length, subject matter, voice?

Most of the broadcast slots available for short stories on Radio 4 are around 14 minutes in length, which equates to 1,800-2,200 words depending on pace and delivery. I don’t put any restrictions on subject matter but very strong language or particularly bleak subject matter can cause us editorial challenges.

Stories with a lot of dialogue, lots of different characters or with frequent jumps in time and place can be confusing for the ear to follow. Our budget for short story productions is limited, which can make stories with more than one voice/narrator tricky for us to commission.

  • Which writers inspire you? Whose literary works would be your ‘desert island ‘ companions?

In short story I always go back to Chekhov, and to Raymond Carver. (Sorry to be so unoriginal but it’s true!) I also love Annie Proulx, Kate Clanchy, Lorrie Moore, and Lydia Davis of course.

The books from the last couple of years which have really stuck with me have been Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and Steinbeck’s East of Eden, which I only read for the first time recently.

I read a lot of poetry and particularly love Jean Sprackland, Don Paterson, Michael Donaghy, Alice Oswald, Czeslaw Milosz, Kathleen Jamie. I like books that you can’t easily categorise in terms of genre – like Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby, or Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage. And for comfort reading I turn to John Wyndham, William Boyd, Sarah Waters and Henning Mankell.

  • And finally, any advice to someone entering the Bath short Story Award for the first time?

Read and re-read. Edit, edit, edit. Trust your gut. I’m really looking forward to reading your stories.

Good luck!

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2015 Bath Short Story Anthology

2015 anthology

cover design by Elinor Nash


The 2015 BSSA anthology was officially launched in Bath on November 19th, 2015  and is available in print and digital formats. If you live in the UK you can buy the print version via paypal on our anthology page for £8.50 per copy  (includes postage and packaging) or if you live elsewhere in the world, via Amazon for £7.99 print (plus p and p) and £4.79 digital.Twenty stories to read from the 2015 award – our winners, shortlisted and some of the longlisted writers. Copies are also available in Bath from Mr B’s Emporium of Books.

“A hot, tragic summer in 1980s Belfast. The loss of love echoed through the Shipping Forecast. A woman writes ‘love’ letters for illiterate girls in the Far East. The Kilburnie Kings hit the town. An old lady makes final plans for ‘moksha’. These winning stories and other selected ones in the 2015 collection, ‘deal with the way we live in all corners of the world; diversity in action and emotion.’ Carrie Kania, literary agent and 2015 Bath Short Story Award shortlist judge.”

We’d  love some reviews from you.

Want to read other winners and selected from previous awards? Digital 2013 anthologies  and 2014 anthologies  are still available.

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Winners 2015

The shortlist this year was judged by  literary agent Carrie Kania and our 2015 winners were announced in July. Read Carrie’s comments and the  winning and commended writers’  biographies here

£1000 1st Prize: ‘That Summer’ by Safia Moore,

£200 2nd Prize: ‘Dancing to the Shipping Forecast’ by Dan Powell,

£100 3rd Prize:‘The Woman of Letters’ by Angela Readman,

£50 Local  Prize, sponsored by Mr B’s Emporium , Bath: ‘The Three Kings’ by K M Elkes ,

£50 Acorn Award for an unpublished writer, sponsored by Writing Events Bath : ‘Last Rites’ by Lucy Corkhill

Commended:‘Hummingbird Heart’, Eileen Merriman

Commended: ‘The She-Wolves’, Barbara Weeks

Read Carrie’s comments on the shortlist and the bios of the three other shortlisted  writers here