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.

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!

Flash Walk – the stories

Flash Walk 2018. Photo by Judy DarleyOn Saturday 16th June I hosted a Flash Walk as part of the National Flash Fiction Day celebrations. We invited competition entries on the theme of Urban Landscapes, between 40 and 400 words in length. Wonderful submissions arrived from all over the world, which we managed to narrow down to 12 winning entries.

Ashley Green, Christopher Ryan and Poppy Hocken.

The stories were performed by actors Ashley Green, Christopher Ryan and Poppy Hocken, during the #FlashWalk from Bristol’s M Shedon Bristol Harbourside to The GreenHouse It was a wonderful to lead our audience across the city, and attract a few curious folks along the way. The rain held off until the very last story!

The winning stories are incredibly varied. Some are funny, some moving, some thought-provoking, some a touch surreal. You can read a selection of them here. Continue reading

Fancy a Flash?

FlashWalk2016_Actors JoButler TomParker

National Flash Fiction Day UK 2018 erupts tomorrow – Saturday 16th June – with events across the UK and a special trio of celebrations in Bristol.

The day unfolds with the #FlashWalk organised by yours truly.

We invited competition entries on the theme of Urban Landscapes, between 40 and 400 words in length. Wonderful submissions arrived from all over the world, and we managed to narrow it down to 12 winning entries, which will be performed by our talented actors, Ashley Green, Christopher Ryan and Poppy Hocken, during the #FlashWalk.

Ashley Green, Christopher Ryan and Poppy Hocken.

Actors Ashley Green, Christopher Ryan and Poppy Hocken

The fully guided #FlashWalk begins at 10.30am on 16th June, outside the harbourside entrance to Bristol’s M Shed. It will finish at the GreenHouse, Hereford Street, BS3 4NA (just under a mile’s stroll away), between an hour and an hour and a half later.

The GreenHouse will be the venue for the afternoon’s free writing workshops. There will also be an evening of flash fiction performances at Bedminster Library, and the launch of the 2018 National Flash Fiction Day anthology.

You can find more details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/178868469594679/,
here https://www.facebook.com/events/177406499633651/
and here: 
https://www.facebook.com/events/2106124046323877/

Hope to see you there!

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Write for a Flash Walk

Totterdown coloured houses cr Judy DarleyI’m happy to say that after a year’s hiatus, the #FlashWalk is set to return as part of the National Flash-Fiction Day celebrations on 16th June 2018. Far less seedy than it sounds (depending on the tales submitted), the Flash Walk will take place in Bristol, celebrating fiction in its shortest and most intense form.

The Flash Walk will take place in central Bristol, and your words can be part of it.

To be in with a chance of being included, all you need to do is send us a piece of flash fiction, prompted by some aspect of the theme Urban Landscape. You can take this idea in any direction you choose, using any theme and any genre, providing your tale is between 40 and 400 words in length.

Bristol can be but doesn’t have to be a source of inspiration for your submission.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 21st May 2018.

The selected stories will be shared by  actors during the walk, so if yours is chosen, all you need to do is come along and enjoy the performance!

The walk begins at 10.30am on 16th June, just outside the main entrance to Bristol’s M-Shed on the harbour side. It will finish at the GreenHouse, Hereford Street, BS3 4NA (just under a mile’s stroll away), between an hour and an hour and a half later.

The GreenHouse will also be the venue for the afternoon’s free writing workshops

To be part of National Flash-Fiction Day‘s #FlashWalk2018, submit your entries to bristolflash@gmail.com before midnight on Monday 21st May 2018. There’s no charge to enter, so why not give it a go?

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

Flying Ant Day – a short story

Ant by Judy Darley

Disclaimer: This is not a flying ant.

Happy to say that my flash fiction tale Flying Ant Day has been published in A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed: 2016 National Flash-Fiction Day Anthology. Wonderful!

A Box of Stars Beneath the BedEven better, my tale is one of just 50 chosen from 500 entries. Woohoo! There are so many excellent writers on the list of those included. Definitely looking forward to reading the contributions from Jude Higgins, Diane Simmons, Jonathan Pinnock, KM Elkes and Jane Roberts.

I’ll be reading my tale as part of the National Flash Fiction Day celebrations in Bristol on Saturday, at At The Well on Cheltenham Road.

To get your copy, go to the Amazon page or visit the NFFD website, where you can also discover all kinds of events happening this National Flash Fiction Day (June 25th, in case you were wondering!).

Flash Fiction Day celebrations in Bristol

Pero's Bridge cr Judy DarleyNational Flash Fiction Day happens on Saturday 25th June 2016, celebrating literature in its briefest forms from dribbles to drabbles and beyond. There will be events erupting across the UK, but the hotspot is in Bristol, with three fab events to mark the fourth official day of Bristol Flash.

In the morning from 10.30am until midday, you can take part in a Flash Walk around Bristol’s harbour area, with site-specific flashes being read by trained actors along the route. Until 9th June, you’re invited to submit stories between 40 and 400 words for the chance to hear your words included on the trail. Find details here and here.

In the afternoon from 13-30-16:30), there will be a flash fiction workshop at Bristol Central Library led by award-winning writers Alison Powell and Ken Elkes. Find details here.

From 7pm that evening at At the Well on Cheltenham Road, Bristol, you can settle in for a mass of flash readings from local and not-so-local writers, including Alison Powell, Calum Kerr, Diane Simmons, Freya Morris, Jude Higgins, Ken Elkes, Kevlin Henney, Pete Sutton, Tim Stevenson, Tino Prinzi, Tom Parker, and me! Find details here. Find details here.

Every event is free to attend, and designed to inspire, amuse, disquiet and enthral you, all in the name of flash fiction!

National Flash Fiction Day celebrations

Flash Fiction Day booksThis year National Flash Fiction Day falls on 27th June, with events unfurling across the UK to celebrate and share creative writing’s shortest form.

“It is with words as with sunbeams—the more they are condensed the deeper they burn.” Robert Southey.

Over the years, Bristol has become the hub for National Flash Fiction Day, and will kick off with free flash fiction workshop sessions at the Central Library. The workshops will take place from 1.30-4.30pm, led by NFFD director Calum Kerr and prize-winning author KM Elkes.

From 6pm, head over to Foyles Bookstore Bristol for An Evening of Flash Fiction I’ll be sharing a couple of stories at this free event, along with some serious writing talents, including KM Elkes, Zoe Gilbert, Kevlin Henney, Sarah Hilary, Susan Howe, Calum Kerr, Adam Marek, Freya Morris, Grace Palmer, Jonathan Pinnock, Jane Roberts and Diane Simmons.

It’s a free evening of literary entertainment, so please do come along!

Celebrate National Flash Fiction Day

Eternal Sequential by Judy DarleyTomorrow is the summer solstice, and with the longest day comes the shortest fiction. National Flash Fiction Day celebrates the power of the briefest form of fiction, with events across the UK.

In my home town of Bristol, there will be a free flash fiction workshop takes place from 1.30-4.30pm at the Central Library. I went along last year and found it a great source of inspiration. In fact, one of the pieces I wrote at it, since titled Eternal Sequential, will be published by Farther Stars Than These on Thursday 26 June 2014 – how’s that for timing?

The piece was prompted by a postcard showing a family wearing spacesuits, and the letter E plucked from a sack of Scrabble tiles (yay, I got a vowel!). I didn’t get to keep the postcard – hence the fact I produced the piece of artwork at the top of this post in its place – so if you go along to the workshop, perhaps you’ll get to write something inspired by it yourself!

In the evening, I’ll be reading two pieces of my flash fiction as part of an evening of readings hosted by Bristol Flash upstairs at the Lansdown pub. Other writers taking part include Tania Hershman, Kevlin Henney, Lucy English and Calum Kerr – so please come along. It’s a free evening of literary entertainment, and a great alternative to the footie!

Bristol Flash event poster