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
Saltwater
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.

Privileged

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:

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.

Flash Around The World

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.

Short Story Competition opens in DecemberMeanwhile, 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.

Who’s judging the Flash Fiction competition?

Caroline Jaine

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.

Grace Keating

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 – Amtraking across the USA

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.

2018 Flash Fiction competition

Ready To write

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.

Why Short is Good – a review of “The Edible Anarchist”

Edible Anarchist cover for sharingIf a story is good, does it matter how long it is? Author, Peter Bendall has made me think that maybe it’s time I questioned how and what I read.

I’m not wooed by size, but a big fat work of fiction can provide a crude sense of achievement when its end is reached. A long book can flood the brain with a plot for weeks; a novel can span years of story; and characters can develop and play their part over generations. Some stories come in a series – I am told that authors approaching publishers these days need to convincingly pitch also for book two, three and even four.  We consume fiction as we do the television box-set.  Stories have to be long, and almost as ongoing as a soap opera.

And yet paradoxically, we are also transfixed by the brief.   Our lives are quick and fast.  We need information and entertainment that wastes no time. A 10 second Youtube clip will thrill us.  For our wisdom we read memes, not religious books or essays by philosophers.  We tweet 140 characters rather than writing a letter.

I have to confess that, unless it’s a racing car, speed is not my thing. I actually *like* box-sets, thick books (especially non fiction ones), taking weeks to make an oil painting, long slow walks (not runs), and to cook and eat a lengthy meal with friends rather than snatch a quick take away.

Which leads me to “The Edible Anarchist“.  This book has forced me to break my habits.  Previously I may have associated “brief” with inferior, “short” with less good -slapdash even. When I first heard of the genre of “flash fiction” I thought it a fad and a sad reflection of our times. However Peter Bendall has proved me wrong.  Every single one of his ultra short stories has been carefully crafted, he is like the painter of a miniature, or a skilled watchmaker.

His stories may be brief – most not more than a page long – yet the clear craft in their composition demonstrates a commitment of time in the writing. Not surprising, the writer is a English language expert – a teacher and publisher of grammar texts – his love of language is clear.

The back cover of the book asks, “Can an anarchist be edible?  Is it possible to apprehend yourself? Do radiators contain universes? Can irony kill?”  Bendall’s work is at the same time witty, playful, tragic and deliciously twisted at times.  Two stories that have been shared online are “A Sunny” and “At the Seaside” – one presents itself almost as a quirky grammar exercise, the other defining the end of a relationship – and yet both clearly written by Bendall’s hand.

The Edible Anarchist surely is edible, but despite the brevity of each story, I would recommend it is sampled in courses, and savoured slowly, like the poetic set of dishes that it is. This book of flash fiction is not to be rushed.


The Edible Anarchist is available in paperback priced £7.99 and on Kindle for £1.99