Winter 2020/21 Short Story Competition

The Askance Winter Short Story Competition for 2020/21 will open on October 1st. As usual there’s no theme, and a generous word limit of 1500 to 5000 words. There’s a modest entry fee and prizes for the stories judged as the best three we receive.

If your entries are anything close to the level we usually see in our contests, we’re going to thoroughly enjoy reading them. Judging is always difficult, and has become more difficult each year that we run our competition. We’ll read every story at least twice, and all about-to-be-rejected stories will be read again, just to make sure a quirky gem is not lost.

Check the full details on the competition page.

Winter Short Story 2020 Winners

Our short story competition is getting more difficult to judge every year. 2020 has been no exception, with some intense and beautiful writing, some of it very dark indeed, some light and whimsical. However, once the choice was made, our winner, Talia by Christi Nogle, became the natural champion, how could we have chosen any other? (Actually, quite easily, as you’ll see when you read our runners-up, Petite Marie by Tara Campbell and Another Van Gogh by Justice McPherson).

Talia felt like pure Americana, the images as brilliant as the sunshine the story swelters in, the characters as gritty and down-to-earth as a documentary. Writing from multiple points of view is always risky, a writer can so easily lose the reader’s attention, break the thread, wake the reader from that “vivid and continuous dream”. Not so with Talia, the multiple POV works beautifully, a mark of the author’s skill.

Petite Marie and Another Van Gogh ran Christi Nogle close. Both were original, surprising, entertaining, well worth the second and subsequent reads.

We hope you enjoy them all.

Dreams photo by Benjamin Sow via Unsplash

Winter Short Story Competition 2019/20 Finalists

What makes a good story? Something different for every one of us, but after reading many stories over the years, one point suddenly shone out from our latest call, our Winter Short Story competition: a good story often improves with a second read, even a third or fourth. Last year’s winners all satisfied that criteria too.

Our short-listed stories this year are:

Another Van Gogh
Invisible – A Love Story
Killing Melissa
More Of A Wednesday Girl
Petite Marie
The Blue Room
The Last Post
The Orchard
Westbound On A Tank Of Desperate Hope
Who Causes Thunder
Why We Never Did Hamlet

For all writers whose story is not on our list, please remember that the difference between being there and not is often paper-thin. On another day, in another place your story could have been there.

To all our writers, a huge thank-you for submitting your work to Askance.

Most Read?

It is tempting to hope that visits to our story pages equate to visitors reading the stories. It would be wonderful to think that our winner from last year, Rachael Cudlitz, had nearly 700 readers for her story, not just 700 page visits. All our writers certainly deserve that audience and more.

What’s top of our list and what’s not is mainly a function of who promotes their stories most on social media, we try to advance the writing of all our authors. So, which were the most visited stories in 2019?

1. Saltwater by Rachael Cudlitz

2. The Essay by Hugh Kellett

3. Blueprint For The End Of The World by Laura Duerr

4. The Attraction Of Magnets by Grace Keating

5. Paper Leaves by Antonia Maxwell

Find more on our Stories page.

Why not choose your favourite, then tell the world by posting a link on your social media?

Pushcart Nomination

Here’s a first for Askance: this week we nominated one of our short stories for The Pushcart Prize. What have we chosen? Our Winter Short Story winning entry Saltwater by Rachael Cudlitz.

When a story stays with you over the months and is just as readable today as the first time we saw it, then the very least we can do is try and bring it to the attention of a wider audience. The Pushcart Prize is an extremely crowded field, the best there is from small presses across the world, but in our opinion Saltwater belongs with the best.

To find out more about the Pushcart Prize click the link.

It seemed like the perfect moment to do this, not only are nominations open this month and next, but the Askance Winter Short Story competition opens again on November 1st. Will we have another potential Pushcart nominee next year?

Winter Short Story Winners

A witty, tongue-in-cheek account of Oxford tuition; a very human vision of the end of the world as we know it; the hidden pain of a family beach holiday.

Three stories about as different from each other as you could wish for, three fantastic stories eventually chosen from our final seven after hours of reading. Then re-reading and weighing each again to put one ahead of the other two. Now it’s results time.

Our winner is: Saltwater by Rachael Cudlitz.

Our two runners-up are: Blueprint For The End Of The World by Laura Duerr and The Essay by Hugh Kellett.

Here’s what we thought about Saltwater:

An intense, moving insight into the life of a mother of two young boys. The layers are peeled away until we share her innermost secrets of love and hate – all laced through with beautiful imagery of the wind and waves, the sun and sand. There’s some wonderful use of language amidst the sometimes excruciating¬† self-awareness of Saltwater.


Winter Short Story Finalists

Thank you to everyone who sent in their short stories to our Winter Short Story competition. We’ve agonised over our selection, which should remind everyone that the difference between stories that make it and stories that don’t is extremely small. That said, here is our short list:

Blueprint For The End Of The World
House Of Smoke And Mirrors
The Essay
The Patient
The Wisdom Tooth
The Wolf

Every story has its attractions, there’s perceptive and original writing, new angles on familiar themes. Getting the list down to seven has been difficult enough, finding the winners will be a challenge.

All the stories have been a pleasure to read, a privilege to judge. Those not among the finalists can consider themselves unlucky, don’t be discouraged if your story didn’t make the cut.

We’re planning a new call for stories in the next month or so, not a competition this time, but an invitation to submit stories for a new anthology. Stay tuned for details and consider getting hold of a copy of one of our previous collections.


we’ve started reading your stories

We’ve started reading the Winter 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.

*photo credit klim sergeev via unsplash

Flash Fiction Competition Result

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.”

The final placings are:

Paper Leaves by Antonia Maxwell (UK)

Breath by Phil Arnold (Australia)

Caffeine Dreams by Vincent Wood (UK)

Read each of them, they’re worth a few minutes of your time.

Flash Fiction 2018 finalists

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:

Caffeine Dreams
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.