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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 We invite local, national and international entries from published and unpublished writers.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

Prizes:

  • 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  • The Acorn Award for unpublished writers of fiction : £50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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2015 – Thank you to all our supporters

Thank you to everyone who entered the 2015 Bath Short Story Award, followed us on social media, shared our news and bought our anthologies. We like to motivate you, but we  appreciate the energy you bring to the Award. It makes it all so much fun.

This year, over one thousand people entered the  2015 Award. There was a high standard of entries and it was hard to whittle down the long list to send a short list to our judge, literary agent, Carrie Kania.

Highlights  included:

  • Ringing up the winners – we all love doing this!
  • compiling the 2015 anthology and receiving it from the printers
  • the anthology launch, and having a two page spread on the evening in The Bath Chronicle
  • Our two events – the workshop with Paul McVeigh on Writing a Killer First Page and the Evening of Readings with Paul, and authors Rachel Heath and Sarah Hilary.

Our reading team is poised for the initial Big Read for 2016. Entries are coming in steadily from around the world. We hope you would like to enter. We close on 25th April – just over 16 weeks time. Not long really. Keep checking our countdown timer on this site and sign up to receive posts  and regular emails from us.

Have a great Writing New Year.

Jude, Jane and Anna

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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 in 2015 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 eat  ‘nibbles’.

 

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On this post, we’ve pictures  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, The Big Green Bookshop, London and  via Amazon in digital as well as print format.

To the right, there’s a picture of 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”.

 

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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…”

 

 

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Emma Seaman reading from her shortlisted story, ‘The Ends of the Earth’. Watch a video clip of Emma reading the extract.

“‘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.”

 

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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…”

 

 

EmilyDevane

Emily Devane reading from her story ‘Ruby Shoesmith, click, click,click’. Click here to listen and watch a video clip of this extract (starts a few seconds in to Emily’s reading).

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?’…”

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Anne Corlett

 

 

Anne Corlett reading and extract from her story, ‘The Witching Hour’. Click here to watch a Youtube video clip (starts a couple of seconds into Anne’s reading).

“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…”

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Anna Metcalfe reading an extract from her story, ‘Sand’. Listen and watch Anna reading it here.  We missed recording the first few seconds but it sounds great.

“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’. Click to hear a video clip of some of his story. The clip starts a few seconds in to the reading.

“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.”

 

FranLandsman

 

 

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

Interview

  • 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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Interview with BSSA 2015 2nd prize winner, Dan Powell

Dan-Powell_headshotDan Powell is a prize winning author of short fiction whose stories have appeared in the pages of Carve, New Short Stories, Unthology and The Best British Short Stories. His debut collection of short fiction Looking Out Broken Windows was shortlisted for the 2013 Scott Prize, long listed for the Edge Hill Prize and is published by Salt. He teaches part-time and is a First Story writer-in-residence. He procrastinates at danpowellfiction.com and on Twitter as @danpowfiction

 

Dan wasn’t able to attend our  BSSA 2015 anthology launch on 19th November, in Bath and we are delighted to interview him here. In Jude’s interview with him below, he tells us more about his second prize-winning story Dancing to the Shipping Forecast, his influences, current projects and tips on writing short stories. You can read his story in our BSSA 2015 anthology available from this site, Mr B’s Bookshop in Bath, The BigGreen Bookshop in London and from Amazon (print and digital versions).

Interview

  • Your 2nd prize winning story for the Bath Short Story Award, 2015, Dancing to the Shipping Forecast was very powerful  and evocative.  Our short list judge, literary agent, Carrie Kania said “what I admired the most was the building tension and the aching timestamp of a relationship reminding us that every second counts” I agree wholeheartedly with this comment. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

The first draft of the story was written during December 2013 and January 2014, a winter of fierce storms and heavy rainfall. Lots of areas flooded and coastal surges destroyed large areas of the coast, damaging both property and the landscape. As the time my family and I were living in an old farmhouse in Lincolnshire and it rained for so long and so hard that water began permeating the brick work. Patches of damp began appearing in the walls, much like those I describe in the story, and it is these patches of damp that the story grew from. This initial setting of an old property, the plaster patched with dark wet stains where the rain seeping in through the drenched brickwork, merged with the images on the TV of coastal waters sweeping up and devouring coastline in seconds. From there I had the coastal location for the story and that was enough to start writing. The voice of my female narrator appeared in the first few lines I drafted and this was one of those rare occasions that the voice took over and led me through the story. Once I knew that this woman had lost someone she had only recently become involved with, the tone and shape of the story became apparent. It’s four part structure mirrored that of the shipping forecast and once I began tying that in by using a forecast for the area in which the story is set on a particularly bad day during that winter, the story came together quickly. It was a quick first draft and slow edit though, hence the twelve months or so spent refining it before I submitted it to the Bath Short Story Award.

  • You have recently been awarded the RSL Brookleaze Grant. Can you tell us more about it, and what it means to  have received it for your life as a writer?

The RSL Brookleaze grants are intended to provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their writing, whether it be funding a sabbatical from work or a research trip that would otherwise be impossible. My award will enable me to remain in part time work for the next few months, effectively buying me three days a week in which to write. I have been enjoying that privilege for the last few weeks, and I am loving being able to focus on my current works in progress in this way. I have also kept a small portion of the funds aside to help pay for a research trip to London in support of my novel. I plan to undertake this trip during Easter, visiting some of London’s Victorian cemeteries and, amongst other locations, the Hunterian Museum. Receiving this award from such a respected institution is fantastic validation of my writing and a great motivator as I make my way through the final third of my novel.

  • You also work as a writing tutor and were recently writer in residence for First Story writer. What do you enjoy about this work?  Have you any up and coming workshops that writers could attend?

I work with writers of all ages I am always in awe of the way both students and adults throw themselves into the writing tasks I set in my workshops. In every session there will be so many moments when a phrase or piece of description the share will have me wishing I wrote it. Writing is usually a solitary pursuit and being able to share the creative experience with like minded people is a genuine pleasure and one that energises me for the return to my own work. Working with First Story is a particular privilege as writers-in-residence get to work for a year with a group of young writers. It’s a pleasure to watch them grow in confidence in their work as the year progresses. At the end of the process an anthology of the students work is published and they attend a book launch. What a great opportunity for a young person, to be a published author while still at school. It’s the sort of thing I would have loved to have done when I was at school.

As for up and coming workshops, unfortunately I don’t have anything lined up for the next month or two as I am busy completing an application to study for a PhD in Creative Writing. Hopefully I will have a few later in the new year that people can come along to.

  • You are successful as a short story, flash fiction and essay writer.  I believe you are also working on a novel. Do you readily move between all forms in your day to day writing and can you tell us more about the novel?

I tend to stick to writing in a particular form rather than jumping between tasks, so I will focus on short stories for a few weeks at a time, rather than move back and forth. With something as long as a novel, I will take breaks from the text to dip back into writing a short story or essay. Though overlaps exist between the different types of writing, I find that each form demands a slightly different mindset and I need to immerse myself in order to produce something of value. Currently I am neck deep in my novel draft. It’s about an undertaker who wakes one day to find that his body has died but he is still conscious within it and somehow able to move. Its part literary existential novel, part body-horror novel. Researching this book has traumatised my web browser.

  • You received a runner up prize for your essay on Norwegian short story writer Kjell Askilden  for last year’s Threshold Essay Contest. Is he a writer whose work has influenced your own prose? Who are the other short story writers that you currently admire and would recommend reading?

Minimalists like Kjell Askildsen, Raymond Carver and Amy Hempel have definitely influenced my work, particularly my more straight-ahead literary fiction stories. Anton Chekhov is a big influence, particularly how he manages to merge the higher emotions and the base in a single story, even a single scene. That level of control is still something I aspire to pull off. My more surreal or weird stories, like ‘Storm in a Teacup’ or ‘Free Hardcore’, also owe something to writers like Adam Marek, George Saunders and Aimee Bender. As for who I would currently recommend, I am savouring the short stories of William Gay at the moment. His collection, I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down, is consistently, story by story, sentence by sentence, one of the most affecting and compelling collections I have ever read. Right now, I am busy being blown away by how good his work is. Soon, I need to start working out how to get that good at this writing thing.

  • How do you think entering short story competitions helps writers?

First and foremost they give you a deadline and force you to finish. If you want to enter you have to finish your story and you have to do it within a time frame. Making commended lists and longlists and shortlist can provide validation to what you are doing but getting there takes time for most writers. First of all you need to write and competitions provide motivation and a goal, not necessarily the goal of winning, but the goal of writing the best story you can and submitting it. If you do that, and keep writing better stories each time, success becomes a matter of time.

  • What  tips would you give writers who are planning to enter the Bath Short Story Award this year?

Read the very best examples of the short story you can get your hands on. Look closely at how good stories work. Then write the story only you can write. Write the story you want to read that no one else is writing. Make it a bold and unique vision which can’t help but stand out when the judges make their selections. Oh, and edit, edit, edit; polish it until it shines

Interview by Jude, December 2015

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2016 Judge

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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

Interview with novelist and short story writer, Kit de Waal

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We are re-posting Jude’s interview from early 2015 with novelist and short story writer, Kit de Waal. Since that time, for the second year in a row, Kit won the Bridport Flash Fiction Award in 2015. Her second prize winning story in BSSA 2014, ‘The Beautiful Thing.’ was produced and broadcast for BBC Radio 4 in March 2015 by our 2016 shortlist judge, BBC Radio 4 producer, Mair Bosworth and Kit has recently been named as one of the Guardian New Faces for Fiction,2016 in advance of her hotly anticipated debut novel, My Name is Leon, which is published in June, 2016. We can’t wait to read it!

We also urge you to apply for, or tell people about the creative writing scholarship Kit has generously created and funded for Birkbeck College. The closing date for applications is 15th February, 2016. Read a full description of the scholarship on the link above. Here’s a summary:

“The first Kit de Waal Scholarship will be launched in October at Birkbeck’s Department of English and Humanities. This new scholarship will provide a fully funded place for one student to study on the Birkbeck Creative Writing MA (part-time) over two years, from 2016–2018.It is intended to support a talented student who would not otherwise be able to afford to do the course, targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds — including but not confined to care leavers, ex-prisoners, members of BAME communities, people with a disability and those from socio-economically deprived and marginalized groups.”

Biography

Kit De Waal spent fifteen years in criminal and family law before becoming a writer. She writes short stories, flash fiction, and longer form prose. She is published in various anthologies (Fish Prize 2011 & 2012; ‘The Sea in Birmingham’ 2013; ‘Final Chapters’ 2013’) and works as an editor of non-fiction. In 2014 she gained second place in the Costa Short Story Award with ‘The Old Man & The Suit’.

In 2014 she was also longlisted for the Bristol Prize, won first prize in the  Bridport Flash Fiction competition with her story ‘Romans Chapter 1, Verse 29’. Her fiction, ‘Blue in Green’, won the Reader’s Choice Prize in the Sl Leeds Literary Prize 2014, and BBC Radio 4 broadcast her story ‘Adrift at the Athena’, which was commissioned for the anthology, ‘A Midlands Odyssey’ by Nine Arches Press. In December, 2014, after  a six way bidding auction, Viking secured rights to publish  her debut novel,  My Name Is Leon,  Venetia Butterfield, Publishing Director of Viking, said ‘My Name is Leon is a truly extraordinary novel; heart-wrenching and powerful, its characters leap off the page. I’m thrilled to be publishing a major new talent.’

Interview by Jude, January 2015.

  • In 2014 you won second prize in the Bath Short Story Award competition, first prize in the Bridport Flash Fiction, the readers’ choice in Sl Leeds Literary Prize for your work, Blue in Green, and after a six-way auction, your debut novel My Name is Leon was secured by Viking. Can you tell us more about your novel?

My Name is Leon is the story of two brothers separated by adoption and is published on 2nd June this year. The story follows Leon, the older brother and a single summer of his life while he struggles to adapt to life on his own. I set the story in 1981 when a number of momentous things were happening in the UK; IRA bombs, hunger strikes, the riots and the Royal Wedding of Diana to Charles. wanted to illustrate that while all these big things were happening, one little boy is lost and grieving and going unnoticed . I hear it keeps making people cry although that wasn’t my intention!

  • You write very short fiction, longer stories and full length novels successfully. We loved your second prize story, ‘The Beautiful Thing’ and totally agree with the comments of our 2014 shortlist judge, literary agent Lucy Luck who said it “involved very strong story telling” and “the ending was extremely well done” Have you always written stories in several different fictional modes? Do you have phases focusing on one form, or move regularly between them all?

I like all forms of prose, flash, shorts and novels.I don’t think I’ve ever read a novella though and certainly never tried to write one. They are very different animals and need different story telling skills. For flash, you have to choose your moment – chose the moment – one that illustrates a beginning and an end without actually writing it. It’s the moment in all the best films where the tiny gesture – the arm on the shoulder, the shake of the head, the door left open – when you say ‘yes’ that’s what the story is about.

In short stories you have more scope but the narration is everything.  I find if I have the voice of the story teller – not me – and I stay rigidly in that voice and in that point of view, it’s easier to move back and forwards in time and in depth.There are conventions though – I do try and stay in one place or not move about too much as I think it breaks the spell.

And for novels, well the sky is the limit. My Name is Leon is written in close third person almost but not quite in the voice of the child and it was a real challenge remaining with Leon throughout and not letting myself intrude too much. While I was writing the novel, I cut out a picture of a ten year old boy and stuck it on my computer and I would look at it and say ‘This is you speaking, not me’, or ‘What do you see in this scene? What do you notice?’ I think it worked. Novels give the writer the most freedom but also the most challenges and carry the most risks.  It’s devastating when you think something doesn’t work because it can effect the rest of the manuscript, maybe 30,000 words.

  • Is Blue in Green, your prize winning entry for the Sl Leeds Literary Prize, another novel in progress?

My next novel is nearing final draft stage. My usual process is for there to be a lot of research and thinking – staring out of windows and scrubbing.It takes a good while for me to start writing.  I’m a real plotter and like to have everything lined up –the end, the twists, the characters’ back stories – then I can let loose.

  • Can you say more about your journey as a writer?

I started writing seriously maybe ten years ago and three years ago decided to do an MA in Creative Writing. Doing the MA was as much so that I could tell myself I was taking seriously as wanting to learn about the craft. I read a lot of books, met some great people and did learn but overwhelmingly I decided during that year that I would write for the rest of my life, that I would get published and that was that. I had to make it work. I helped to set up two writing groups, Oxford Narrative Group and Leather Lane Writers. The people in those groups are my support network, my friends and genuine critics.

  • Which short story writers and novelists do you admire and why?

I am training myself to spend more time reading contemporary fiction. My first loves were the classics – Arnold Bennett, Gustave Flaubert, Emile Zola, Graham Greene, Patrick Hamilton, Somerset Maugham. All of those writers – and I’ve read all of their works – managed to get under my skin. I would read them and I was there, not on the page but in the page, in the story.More recently I’ve read Kevin Barry who has a way of describing the ordinary that I dream of being able to do. I also like Cormac McCarthy.

  • Do you have some tips on honing a short story ready for a competition?

If you’re entering something for a competition, work it and then pull back. By that I mean, work over every line, work the tale, work the character, work the paragraph, work the ending and beginning, work the jokes and then look at what you can edit to leave only the essence. I suppose it would be like Coco Chanel says about getting dressed. She said that you should get all dressed up and then just before you leave the house take one thing off. Less is more.

Q & A with novelist and short story writer, Tessa Hadley

 

The past book jacket

Over six novels and two collections of stories Tessa Hadley has earned a reputation as a fiction writer of remarkable gifts, and been compared with Elizabeth Bowen and Alice Munro.

Jude did a short email Q & A with the wonderful short story writer and novelist, Tessa Hadley, Professor in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, in March 2013 and the BSSA team loved her pithy comments about writing, which we have now re-posted below.

Biography. Tessa Hadley has written six novels, Accidents in the Home, published by Jonathan Cape in February 2002, and by Holt in the US (this was longlisted for the Guardian First Book award); Everything Will Be All Right, Holt 2003, Cape 2004 (shortlisted for the Encore Award); The Master Bedroom, Cape and Holt, 2007 (longlisted for the Orange Prize and the Welsh Book of the Year award); The London Train, Cape and Harper Collins in the US, 2011 (longlisted for the Orange Prize); Clever Girl, Cape and Harper Collins, 2013. Her latest novel, The Past was published in 2015. She has stories published regularly in The New Yorker, and also in Granta and the Guardian; a collection, Sunstroke and other stories, was published in January 2007. (This was shortlisted for The Story Award in the US.) A second collection, Married Love, came out in January 2012 (longlisted for the Frank O’Connor prize).

Her story ‘Bad Dreams’ was shortlisted for the BBC short story prize in 2014.

Q & A with Jude, from March 2013

  • You are well known for writing both novels and short stories. Can you tell us a little about your life as a writer in both genres and whether you have a preference?

Stories seem like a delicious interval of irresponsibility alongside the serious commitment of writing a novel. This isn’t because stories are anything less than a novel.

  • What do you think are the essential ingredients of a good short story?

I don’t know until I see it. Each story comes entangled in its own requirements, its own laws. It has to have something to tell which is worth hearing, I suppose – at the minimum

  • What traps do you think short short story writers should avoid?

Cliched language, tired perceptions, moralising.

  • Do you have any advice for writers on entering short story competitions?

Keep doing it – once you feel your stories are saying something and have some power and traction. It’s a really useful way to push yourself on, give yourself a deadline. And wonderfully rewarding if you win something too.

  • Who are your favourite short story writers?

Kipling, Checkhov, Joyce, Beckett, Borges, Mansfield, Eudora Welty, Heinrich Boll, John McGahern, Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant, many others.

  • Do you think a good title is important for a short story, or doesn’t it matter?

Yes, a title clinches something, it crisps the story up and seals it like a top on a bottle.

Opportunities to work with and listen to Tessa Hadley in March at the Bath Literature Festival.

We recommend you take the opportunity of working with Tessa, who is leading a workshop, ‘Bringing Words to Life.’ at the Bath Literature Festival on Wednesday 2nd March from 2.30 pm-5.30 pm. She is a wonderful teacher and speaker.

Booking is now open at the ticket office or online Here’s the description of the event: “Somewhere in the heart of fiction writing, there’s the desire to capture the sensations of experience in words. In this workshop, Bath Spa University’s Tessa Hadley will be concentrating on that effort, working to find fresh words to make the world come alive on the page.”

Tessa is also talking about her latest novel, The Past, alongside Deborah Moggach who is sharing her new novel, Something to Hide at an hour long event chaired by  The Independent newspaper’s Arifa Akbar on Tuesday 1st March

Interview with short-story writer and novelist, Anthony Doerr

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Jude interviewed Anthony Doerr in March 2013 and we’re re-posting his interview here for 2016 entrants to read. He’s written some great tips on writing short stories and we highly recommend reading his wonderful prize-winning novel and his story collection,

Anthony Doerr is the author The Shell Collector, About Grace, Four Seasons in Rome, Memory Wall,  He spent ten years writing his most recent book, ‘All the Light We Cannot See’  which was  published by Scribner in early 2014 and became an instant New York Times bestseller.  It was one of four finalists in the US National Book Awards, in November 2014 and went on to win the Pullitzer prize for fiction in the US in April, 2015.

Doerr’s short fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, two Pushcart Prizes, the Pacific Northwest Book Award, three Ohioana Book Awards, the 2010 Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, which is the largest prize in the world for a single short story.  His books have twice been a New York Times Notable Book, an American Library Association Book of the Year, and made lots of other year end “Best Of” lists. In 2007, the British literary magazine Granta placed Doerr on its list of 21 Best Young American novelists.

Interview

  •  I was bowled over by your short story collection ‘Memory Wall’, which was recommended to me by UK short story writer Tania Hershman. Your stories range over a wide span of history and give the point of view of  characters of different ages, genders and cultures. They  focus on profound human dilemmas and experiences. Can you say more about how you came to write these stories?

When I was in high school, my grandmother developed Alzheimer’s disease and came to live with us.  Over the course of months, we watched her mind disintegrate; she forgot who we were, where she was, where her bedroom was, even how to bathe herself.  But she remembered curious things, too: her childhood telephone number, the date of her wedding, etc.  She got to the point where she had no idea who I was, but could beat the pants off of me at gin rummy.  So the readiest answer I have is that my own memories of my grandmother informed my work on the stories in Memory Wall—I had learned, at a young age, just how fragile our personal histories are.  And I suppose, in a way, I was trying to rectify my own self-absorption when I was seventeen and eighteen, watching my grandmother lose her identity, and failing to understand the pain my parents were enduring.

As for imagining different places, histories, and individuals, I’d argue we write to learn what we don’t know; we write toward the mysteries, the things we can’t articulate but believe are there, feel are there.  Maybe we start with what we know, but then we work in the opposite direction, away from the things that are comfortable, familiar known.  Otherwise we’re not learning, and if we’re not learning, why bother?  So that’s why I often choose subjects and characters whose experiences, on the surface at least, are quite different from my own.

  • Your  stories in ‘Memory Wall’ are long – the title story is 85 pages and still  works very well as a short story, in my view. Do you think important themes can be developed in a much shorter text and do you have any thoughts or advice about writing to a word limit? The Bath Short Story Award is limited to 2200 words.

I love working on short stories for a lot of reasons, but one stands out: they’re short.  When I’m working on a story, even an inordinately long one like “Memory Wall,” there are usually about 10,000 words I have to comb through before I start adding new material. So it’s short enough that I can read through the entire piece, make some revisions, and add new material in a single day.  Here’s an easy metaphor: I’m able to keep the paint wet in all the corners of the canvasI really think that helps make a narrative feel whole to a reader. A novel, on the other hand, quickly gets too large and unwieldy.  Sometimes there will be passages in your novel that you haven’t reread in a year. The canvas is so large that you are never able to visit all of it in one day (or several weeks) of work.

As for a word limit, I tend to prefer reading and writing stories that are longer than 2,200 words, but yes, of course, I think stories of that length can achieve a great deal.  Look at Peter Orner’s work in Esther Stories, or many of Stuart Dybek’s short stories, or Jamaica Kinkaid’s “Girl” or Isaac Babel’s “My First Goose” or Joyce’s “Araby.”  Look at Tobias Wolff’s “Say Yes.”

  • Which other short story writers have influenced your writing? Can you say why?

Maybe two more than any others: Amy Hempel, because of her compression and playfulness with language.  And Alice Munro because of what she can do with time.  Munro can skim through a decade in a paragraph, or trawl through a single decision for several pages.

I also love story writers who pay attention to the natural world: Annie Dillard, Nadine Gordimer, Andrea Barrett, Sarah Orne Jewett…  I’m an amateur naturalist at heart, a person who is most comfortable outdoors looking for creatures, looking for beauty, weather, light, water.  And I love to render the things I see into language–only by writing it out, I think, can I make it real to myself.

  • What editing advice would you give to writers who are considering entering our competition?

Reward the generosity of your reader! Try to examine every single word in your story and ask yourself: Is it a lazy choice? Does this adjective/article/noun/verb absolutely need to be there?  If someone is nice enough to spend a half-hour reading something you’ve written, try to make your prose absolutely worthy of his or her time. Make the dream that unfolds inside your sentences so persuasive, seamless and compelling, that your reader won’t put it down.