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.
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 Talia 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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 Wisdom Tooth
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 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.