We’ve started reading theWinter Short Story Contest submissions. We usually wait until the deadline has passed, but we’re nervous of having too much to read to do justice to everyone’s stories, so we’ve made a start.
The first read is really nothing more than getting a feel for the story, the critical assessment as to whether it should go further in the process doesn’t start until the second look.
But seeing these first few pages has reminded us what a privilege it is to be reading the stories at all. Most writers are very choosy about who they show their work to. Some won’t even show their partners. True, sending to a stranger can be a little easier, but that moment can be fraught too. If you’ve ever sent a child off for their first day at kindergarten, to their first step into the world without you being there to explain how they like to be treated, to interpret their little quirks and mannerisms, if you’ve done that, then you have an idea how many writers feel about sending their stories to be read by the jaded eyes of judges and editors.
To those who’ve already sent and to those who have yet to share their stories with us – thank you, we are privileged and will treat your stories with the respect and care that they deserve. They may not be perfect, they may need a comma or two added or subtracted, they may have a typo you missed. It’s OK, we understand, we’re writers too.
We were down to twelve, then six, getting more difficult to choose at each stage. Finding the award winners was agonising, but Caroline Jaine has made her decision, and here’s what she has to say about it:
“This was a very difficult decision, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories. Flash fiction is such an inspiring and fitting genre for our times. Although many of the stories were worthy of praise, Paper Leaves stood out for me as the overall winner. The writer seemed entirely at ease with writing in this short form – there was no attempt to pack too much in, either in terms of content or vocabulary – a common mistake. Paper Leaves felt like a delicate gesture, and yet a surprisingly disturbing one – the loss of a tree, which moved me deeply. It wasn’t quite what I expected to find in such a short piece, and there lies the writer’s skill and strength.”
It’s taken a lot of reading and discussion to get there, but finally we’re done. Our 2018 Flash Fiction shortlist looks like this:
Breath Breeze Caffeine Dreams Missing Paper Leaves Stage Notes
Every story has its attractions, there’s perceptive and original writing, new angles on familiar themes. Getting the list down to six has been hard enough, now it’s over to Caroline Jaine for the one-two-three.
All the stories have been a pleasure to read, a privilege to judge. Those not among the finalists can consider themselves unlucky, the difference between being there and not is paper thin. Our new competition opens on December 1st. Send us something irresistible.
Our 2018 Flash Fiction competition has attracted entries from Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA. Thank you! Now we have the pleasure of reading all those little gems. Choosing the eventual finalists looks as if it will be as difficult as ever.
Meanwhile, authors can start flexing their writing muscles for our next competition, details coming in the next few weeks. But it’ll be for short stories this time, again with no theme. Likely opening date will be December 1st with latest entries January 31st. Yes, there will be prizes.
Getting close to having that story polished and ready to send in? Something brand new? Or an old favourite re-worked, distilled to a few hundred words? Either way we’re looking forward to seeing your story before the deadline. Give us something to make us sit up and take notice, give us words that jump off the page.
Until recently Askance has tried to have all its titles available in as many forms and on as many platforms as possible, not least because giving any single outlet an exclusive right goes against the grain. Askance is inclusive, equal opportunity, and not always with money as the driving force – if that were the case we’d be long gone!
That’s changing now, and still not because of money. Because of readership. This applies particularly to ebooks. There are many ebook outlets and even wholesalers, although the world is dominated by Amazon’s Kindle with Kobo a distant second. Askance has for the most part made its ebooks available through all these outlets by using Smashwords as a wholesaler for everything but Amazon, where we’ve created our own ebooks.
But here’s the rub.
While that gives the maximum accessibility to readers worldwide, in practice it doesn’t get our titles read by so many people. Why? Because of Amazon’s aggressive tactics of making only titles which are exclusive to Kindle available via their Prime and Kindle Unlimited channels.
Is this moral? No. Do we like it? No. Is it anti-competitive? Yes. But a simple trial has shown that it gets a title read by more readers. We experimented recently and took a title off of all ebook outlets except Amazon and enrolled that title in the Unlimited program. In the first month of doing so, that book reached ten times the number of readers than it had done in the previous six months on Smashwords and Kobo. Yes, that small extra revenue (and it is small!) is welcome, but the readership is what matters most.
Are we selling our soul? It certainly doesn’t feel comfortable, but our writers deserve more readers, that’s the motivation.
The world is not as we would wish it to be.
(And if you’ve got this far and you’re a writer, please take a look at our Flash Fiction competition.)
As we’ve previously announced, Askance’s founder, Caroline Jaine, will make the final selection. Although Caroline is no longer formally connected with Askance, she was delighted to accept the invitation to choose the winners from the shortlist. Caroline is an accomplished artist and writer of short and long fiction in addition to being the author of the widely acclaimed A Better Basra.
Selecting the long and short lists will be two long-time friends of Askance, both skilled in the art of storytelling.
Canadian Grace Keating has written many short stories, winning and being short-listed in competitions in the USA and the UK. Her stories have featured in two anthologies, including Askance’s Positional Vertigo.
David Wiseman is British, although now living in Canada, and has edited Askance’s Homes and Positional Vertigo to which he also contributed. He’s also won and been shortlisted for several competitions in the UK and the USA. Askance has published three of his novels.
The Askance 2018 Flash Fiction competition is open!
We’re really looking forward to reading your stories, so don’t leave it until the last minute to send them in. There is no theme, just a good story well told, which is really what Askance has always been about. But we do like innovation too, whether that’s in the form or the content. Look at our competition details page for full details of how to enter. And if you have a question then please get in touch.
Our first flash fiction competition opens for entries on 17th September 2018.
Prizes? Yes, there are prizes! 1st £100, 2nd £50, 3rd £25 plus publication on the Askance website and as much publicity as we can muster.
How many words is ‘flash’? For this competition we mean a minimum of 250 and a maximum of 1000 words.
Any theme? Yes, any theme you like, we’re not telling you what to write.
So what are we looking for? Others express plenty of lofty ambitions about exciting new voices and stories that thrill and entrance etc etc but what it comes right down to is this: a good story, well told. We’re always open to originality of form or content just so long as you keep that basic premise in mind.
Any entry fee? Yes, the entry fee for each story will be £6.00.
We welcome writing from anywhere in the world, previous entries to Askance competitions have come from many countries including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, United States and the United Kingdom.
Check back to the website on September 17th details of how to enter. We’ll post it on Facebook too. Get writing!
We’ve been quiet for a long time, but now we’re back, at least in a small way, with a new competition to get those creative writing juices flowing. Our flash fiction competition opens on September 17th. We’re hoping all our old friends and a lot of new ones will be sending us stories. Details are being finalised, look out for our next post.