The 507 micro fictions I have read

Dinefwr water meadows. Phot by Judy DarleyRecently, in a little under two days, I read and digested 507 micro fictions. Some of them I returned to and chewed over multiple times. In the two days after that, I set aside more than stories until I’d selected the 25 tales that have… well, yes, cast ripples.

The 507 specimens are 100-word stories submitted to the National Flash Fiction Day competition, which I was lucky enough to co-judge. On the morning after the contest closed to entries, I opened my inbox to find a fat document brimming with them all, ready to read at my leisure.

Well, not at my leisure, but it was a Saturday and I had almost an entire free morning in which to luxuriate over the carefully crafted creations.

During the first day I soon built up a rhythm that swept me along. As I swam through the compact fictions, I developed a labelling system of Yes, for the ones that stopped me in my tracks, Maybe, for the ones that snagged my attention at all, and No, for those that, I’m afraid, I felt I could remove without too many qualms.

By the end of day two I’d completed my second reading of all surviving stories, and was down to around 130.

Day three saw me whittle these down to a scant 61.

Patterns began to emerge as my brain sorted them into a series of recurring themes. I and my fellow judges, Angela Readman, Diane Simmons and Kevlin Henney, each attended dozens of funerals, including a high number where the chief mourner was also the murderer. We spent time in hospitals reeking with antiseptic and regret, waded through the mud of a multitude of wars. We met ghosts, unhappy children and cheating lovers in their droves.

We visited far-off planets, encountered people contemplating violence to themselves and others, and grazed our knees on numerous allegories and analogies. We bore witness to sensual and sinister moonlit cavorting. On at least three separate occasions we were told of the pain experienced via injury done to a twin. We eavesdropped on #MeToo revelations and felt the heat or skin-creeping chill of first times. These echoed narratives made our jobs a fraction easier, as we sought as the best of one type or another and used these to narrow our choices.

The process taught me to recognise a number of important things.

  • Word play is good, but not enough. For me a story needs to have heart too
  • A twist in the tail really needs to be handled with skill so as not to become an irritant
  • In some cases, even a 100-word story can have too many words
  • In some cases, a story trimmed down to 100 words can lose all meaning
  • Titles matter. With only 100 words to play with, the title offers precious opportunity to set the tone, and even layer in background information
  • Last lines matter. Somehow, they are the pebble that really casts a ring of ripples that will draw readers back to your story time and again.

To reach the small sum of 25, we each had to extricate and wave sorrowful farewells to some truly outstanding works. One I removed on day three continue to wriggle in my mind with such insistence that I retrieved it on day four and included it in my 25.

Once we’d ordered our 25 choice according to  preference, Santino Prinzi, the competition coordinator, correlated these, reissued the shortlist of 26 and asked us to narrow these down to our top ten. At this point, certain stories really began to shine.

I have emerged from tales breathless with wonder. It’s been an incredible, exhilarating journey, every step of the way.

NFFD 2019 logo

Now we have announced our winners and high commendably micro fictions, all of which will be published in the National Flash Fiction Day anthology 2019. There are some absolute stunners among them. Huge congratulations to these final ten, as well as everyone who reached the shortlist!

Being a co-judge of the NFFD completion 2019 has been a privilege. more than that, it’s been an education that’s spurred me on to aspire to write deeper, write truer and uncover more through my own writing.

A perfectly crafted paragraph is a powerful thing.

Bristol Short Story Prize 2019

Bristol hot air balloons cr Judy DarleyOne of my favourite writing competitions (and not just because it’s local), Bristol Short Story Prize 2019 is open for entries. Flick through any of their anthologies and you’ll discover a wonderful breadth of themes, topics and styles.

The closing date for entries is May 1st 2019. Submissions can be up to a maximum length of 4,000 words. There is an entry fee of £9 for each submission.

The 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Dizz Tate  for her story, Cowboy Boot. 2nd prize went to Chloe Wilson. You can read an interview with Dizz about her win, here. Chloe Wilson has been signed by literary agent Kate Johnson of the New York-based MacKenzie Wolf Literary Agency. Kate is part of the judging panel for the 2019 competition, along with editor Lucy Cowie, writer Polly Ho-Yen, and writer Billy Kahora.

The 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Dima Alzayat for her story, Ghusl. Following her win Dima has been signed by literary agent Juliet Pickering.

BristolShortStoryPrize-vol-9-coverThe 2016 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Stefanie Seddon for her story, Kãka.

The 2015 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Canadian writer Brent van Staalduinen for his story A Week on the Water.

The 2014 Bristol Short Story Prize was won by Mahsuda Snaith for her story The Art of Flood Survival.

Find the full competition rules here.

The writing competition prizes

First prize is £1,000. Second prize is £500, and third prize is £250.

Each of the 17 remaining shortlisted finalists will receive £100. The winning story will be published in the print edition of Bristol 24/7 magazine in November 2019, as well as in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 12. An additional prize of £100, The Sansom Award, in recognition of the contribution to Bristol publishing of John and Angela Sansom, may be presented to the highest placed story by a Bristol writer.

For full details or to enter, go to www.bristolprize.co.uk.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

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Become a food critic

Osteria-del-Savio-casoncelli-pic by-Judy-Darley

Love food and love writing about it? You might be ripe for a writing competition with a difference. The Sunday Times has launched the AA Gill Award, a new award for unpublished writers on food in honour of AA Gill, the legendary restaurant reviewer (I’ll not forget him likening the flavour of mushrooms to the odour of sheets after sex), who died in 2016.

The aim of the award, launched in association with the Society of Editors, is to offer a launch pad to previously unknown writers aged over 21 and based in the UK.

All entries must take the form of a review. Amateur critics who have published their own unpaid work on websites are welcome, but not employed food writers.

The deadline for submissions is 17 April 2019.

Entries must be between 1,000 and 1,200 words, the length of Gill’s restaurant reviews. The winner will receive a prize of £5,000 and the winning review will be published in The Dish, the food section of The Sunday Times Magazine. Two runners-up will receive a prize of £500 and £250 respectively and will be invited to the awards ceremony in June 2019.

Entrants are welcome to submit a short supporting statement about themselves of no more than 150 words, but judges will focus solely on the submitted article. The judges’ decisions will be final. Only the winners and runners-up will be contacted. By submitting an article, you’re expressing your permission for The Sunday Times and the Society of Editors to publish your entry in print and on their websites at no fee.

Entries must be sent to aagill.award@sunday-times.co.uk. Include your name, date of birth and postal address. as well as a contact telephone number and email address.

Good luck!

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Enter the Poetry on the Lake Competition

Carzano harbour cr Judy DarleyThere’s still time to enter the Poetry on the Lake Competition with a closing date of 31st March 2019.

There are two categories:

Silver Wyvern (max 42 lines), which will be judged by singer, songwriter and broadcaster Paul Henry, and can be on any theme and in any form.
Formal (max 40 lines) is for traditional poetic forms only, such as sonnet, sestina, or villanelle, but can be on any topic.

Prizes range from €100 to €500.

I love how much more inclusive the world of writing competitions is becoming, with optional fees to allow lower-income talents to enter! In this case, all fees are classed as donations to the competition costs, organisation and events of Poetry on the Lake, so while there’s a suggested amount, they add: “If you genuinely can’t afford the fee, send one poem for nothing. Those who can, please donate generously.”

Find full details at www.poetryonthelake.org.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

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London Book Fair 2019

English Pen Literary Cafe

London Book Fair crops up almost a full month earlier for 2019, taking place at Olympia, London, from 12th-14th March.

It’s a vast, sprawling space filled with people who haven’t slept in days and aren’t quite sure where they’re going – a bit like an international airport but with the added requirement of being ready to schmooze at a moment’s notice.

Previously a trade fair for literary agents and publishers, the Fair is increasing skewed towards writers, with The Author Club and Author HQ, a dedicated theatre offering the chance of agent one-to-ones and seminars attracting more than 3,700 authors and aspiring authors across the three days of the Fair. Popular topics include plotting, character, voice and pacing.

Look out for the Writer’s Summit and New Title Showcase too. For a head’s up on what agents are eyeing up this year, read The Bookseller’s insight piece on agent hotlists.

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Enter the NFFD Micro Fiction Competition

Sweets by Judy DarleyI’m excited to be one of the judges of the National Flash Fiction Day micro fiction competition 2019, along with the marvellous Diane Simmons, Angela Readman and Kevlin Henney.

We’re hungry for your most finely crafted, resonant unpublished words. Disturb us, discombobulate us, turn our expectations upside down and make us regard the world anew, or draw us into a life and move us, all in only 100 words or fewer.

The deadline is Friday 15th March 2019, 23:59pm GMT. You’re invited to submit up to three flash fictions on any theme.

Titles aren’t included in the word count.

First prize is £75.

Second prize is £50.

Third prize is £25.

The winning and shortlisted authors will be published in the National Flash Fiction Day 2019 anthology. Winning and shortlisted authors will also receive a free print copy of this anthology.

Find full competition rules and entry fees here.

You can read my interview with Diane Simmons, in which I talk about what I’m hoping to see in submissions, here.

I can’t wait to read your submissions. Good luck!

Submit tales of doorways to the NFFD Anthology

Azores pufferfish doorway by Judy Darley
Doors can mean so many things to so many people. They can offer refuge, or conceal threats, be locked, swing wide open, or simply represent new possibilities.

Doors are also the theme for the 2019 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology. The deadline for submissions is Friday 15th March 2019, 23:59pm GMT.

This year’s editors are Joanna Campbell and Santino Prinzi, who invite you to submit flash fictions up to 500 words in length.

They say: “We want you to open the door to stories wild with imagination. We’re looking for those creepy mysteries about doors we can’t find the key to. We want those funny tales of frustration when doors do exactly what they’re supposed to when we don’t want them to. Maybe the stories you want to share are about metaphorical doors, filled with the disappointment of doors that are closed to us or brimming with excitement at new opportunities.”

There’s a £2.50 submission fee for one entry, £4.00 for two entries or £6.00 for three (the maximum) entries. Free entries for low income writers are also available.

You can find full details here.

Submit to The Mechanics’ Institute

London Millennium Footbridge by Judy DarleyThe Mechanics’ Institute Review (MIR) is inviting submissions of short stories, poetry and non-fiction for issue 16 of their print anthology from writers across the UK.

MIR is a literary print and ebook publication that champions the short story as an art form, promoting diversity and opportunity for all while publishing new work of the highest possible standard.

This year they are inviting you to write in response to the word climate. “Are we living in a climate of fear? Is the climate changing? What does it mean to have a climate? We want you to take the temperature and send us your stories, non-fiction and poetry.”

They’re seeking unpublished short stories up to 5,000 words in length, up to three flash-fiction pieces, to a combined total of 2,250 words, a non-fiction piece (creative non-fiction, essays) of up to 5,000 words, or up to six poems, amounting to a maximum of six pages in total.

Only one submission per person per issue is permitted.

Submissions are welcomed from both new and established authors, but you must live in the UK.

The deadline for submissions is 5pm GMT on Friday 15th February 2019.

Find full details, rules and conditions, visit mironline.org/mir15-entry-form/

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Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2019 Short Story Competition

Beautiful skies, Victoria Park cr Judy DarleyThis annual competition is one of my favourites on the literary calendar. There’s no theme for you to base your story on – all you have to do is make sure you’re registered with the website www.writersandartists.co.uk, that the subject line of your email reads ‘W&A Short Story Competition 2019‘ and that you send it to waybcompetitions@bloomsbury.com.

Your story must be no more than 2,000 words long. The closing date for entries is midnight on Wednesday 13th February 2019.

The winner of the competition – along with two runners-up – will be announced on the W&A blog pages in March 2019.

Entry is free, but don’t forget to register before submitting your story. Continue reading

Submit your sculpture to the RWA’s new exhibition

RWA Open 166 Photo by James Beck

RWA Open 166. Photo by James Beck

Following a hugely successful annual Open Exhibition in 2018, the RWA Galleries in Bristol are branching out with a brand new Open Exhibition devoted to sculpture.

They say: “We’re inviting artists to submit their work to our Sculpture Open Exhibition in 2019. We’re so excited to be giving our gallery space over to the art of sculpture and all the disciplines within it.”

The exhibition will run from 12th March until 2nd June 2019, and you have a chance to be part of it.

“Submissions are welcome from artists from any stage in their career and all work is for sale, making it the perfect opportunity for artists to be discovered by collectors, galleries and the general public.”

This is an exceptional opportunity to showcase your work alongside some of the most renowned sculptors working today (including Invited Artist Ana Maria Pacheco) within the grandeur of the RWA’s grade II galleries.This year’s selection panel include internationally-known sculptors Ann Christopher RADaphne Wright and Kate MccGwire.

The deadline for entries is 5pm on Thursday 7th February 2019.

You can find the full details here, but here are a few of the rules:

  • Artists of all ages and experience are invited to submit
  • Submissions must be no more than three years old
  • Submissions must be for sale
  • No more than three works may be submitted per applicant
  • Work cannot have been exhibited previously at the RWA
  • A submission fee must be paid for each entry (find details of prices here) other than those by RWA Academicians
  • All works must be submitted online via the RWA’s Online Exhibition Submission System (OESS)

Good luck!