Winter 2020/21 Short Story Competition Now Open

The Askance Winter Short Story Competition for 2020/21 is now open! 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.

Send us something old or something new, just make sure it’s one (or two!) of your best stories and you’ve polished it till it shines.

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 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
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.

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?

Exciting Times

These are exciting times! Hot on the heels of the results of our Winter Short Story competition, we’re pleased to announce the first of three planned publications for 2019.

We think you are going to love Casa Rosa, a new novel from DJ Wiseman. It’s set on the Pacific coast of  central America, and is driven by rumours of crime and questions of parentage, themes familiar to readers of the author’s previous novels.

See more details here and take advantage of special pricing for orders placed prior to publication on 27th March.

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.

 

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

A Wider Audience – At A Cost

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.)