POETRY WINNERS - Judge: Patience Agbabi - Report
1st Spitting Distance - Mark Pajak, Edinburgh
2nd Chickens - Laura Watson, Pine, Colorado, USA
3rd Silk - Caroline Price, Tonbridge Wells, Kent
Highly Commended (alphabetical order)
Mirror Image - Glynis Charlton, Bingley, W. Yorkshire
Notes on missing a person - Jenny Danes, Braintree, Essex
The quiet, the breath - Elizabeth Ezra, Edinburgh
Yet another poem about the moon - Beatrice Garland, London
The Devotional - Ben Johnson, Barton-on-Sea, Hants
Scan - Anthony Lawrence, Hastings Point, NSW, Australia
Rwanda - Isabella Mead, Wendover, Bucks.
Crumbs and Conversation - Eilis Stanley, Kiltimon, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Skeleton - Jean Stevens, Settle, N. Yorkshire
This is my gun - John Wheeler, West Wickham, Kent
SHORT STORY WINNERS - Judge: Tessa Hadley - Report
1st Cut Loose - Wendy Brandmark, London
2nd Open House - Kathleen Donkin, Gardiner, Maine, USA
3rd Steroid Dreams - Lesley Krueger, Toronto, Canada
Highly Commended (alphabetical order)
The Disappeared Girl - Karen Ashe, Glasgow
Expiating - Irene Jennifer Bailey, London
Uncle Frank’s Turkeys - Sally Franicevich, Auckland, New Zealand
The Avalanche - Jeremy Galgut, Nottingham
Bonxie - Helena Grey, Cradley Heath, W. Midlands
Porn Star Names - Jo Holmwood, Kinlough, Co. Leitrim, Ireland
Lateef’s Room - Rizwan Piracha, London
The War Against The Monsters - David Swann, Brighton
Brylcreem Boy - Jim Waite, Perth, Scotland
Moore’s Alley - Jill Widner, Yakima, Washington, USA
FLASH FICTION WINNERS - Judge: Tim Stevenson - Report
1st Drought - David Swann, Brighton
2nd Dentures - Karen Smyte, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
3rd 467 Strathmore Ave - Rachel Robb, Toronto, Canada
Highly Commended (alphabetical order)
Thinning the Crop - Christina Eagles, Hathersage, Derbyshire
Cure - Mark Farley, Shrivenham, Swindon
Watford Gap services - Carolyn Prior, Gillingham, Kent
PEGGY CHAPMAN-ANDREWS AWARD FOR A FIRST NOVEL - Judge: Kerry Young
1st Prize - (please click the title to read the opening chapters from this novel)
Shortlist (alphabetical order)
Starfish - Melanie Gilbert, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Bellevue - Richard Holmes, Bristol
Half of you - Carolyn Kirby, Wallingford, Oxfordshire
Longlist (alphabetical order)
Out of the forest - Michael Apichella
Still - Rue Baldry
How to save a brain - Carol Barnes-Burrell
Lights out at the Electric - Luke Bramley
If Hamlet was a girl - Namita Chakrabarty
SUPERficial - Ian Dawes
Far beyond those woods - Paul Gentle
The Sydney harbour suicides - Ryan Heeger
44 Stones - Nada Holland
Mirror Mirror - Georgia Kaufmann
The Commune by the Park - Maunagh Kelly
I wanna be your dog - Philip Makatrewicz
Zazou and Rebecca - David Pearson
Transgressions - Matthew Scully
The Letters of Junius - Caroline Summerfield
THE DORSET PRIZE
Making coffee, drinking tea - Sarah Barr, Wimborne, Dorset
Biographies (alphabetical order)
Karen Ashe was brought up in Airdrie and now lives in Glasgow with her family. ‘Rebound’, the first short story she ever wrote took 2nd place in the South China Morning Post short story competition, and she went on to complete the MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. She now spends Monday evenings in the inspiring company of Chryston Writer’s Group. As well as short stories, she also writes poetry, recently placing third in the FWS Easter poetry competition, and making the shortlist for the Glasgow Women’s Library Short Story competition. She also writes flash fiction and has been published online in Paragraph Planet. Karen is one of Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Awardees for 2016. She has been shortlisted for the Fish Short Story, Flash Fiction and Poetry prizes, the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction. ‘Never on a Friday’ was published in the Mslexia Curious Incidents section, and more recently, ‘The Bearded Lady’, in their Monster-themed New Writing showcase.
Jennifer Bailey grew up in Lancashire and gradually travelled south, via Manchester, Nottingham and Leicester, to London. During that time, she taught at a series of universities that included Leicester, Nottingham, California State University in Sacramento and London’s City University. She has written literary fiction throughout her academic career, and with some publishing success in recent years writing now takes priority.
' Driving blind', Cinnamon Press, April 2016
'This is how it began', 'Madeline laughed', 'Fox-ache', 'An accident', in Quartet, Cinnamon Press 2013
'An accident', The New Writer, Issue 115 July/August/September 2013
'A sense of obligation', Fish Anthology 2013
'The clockmaker’s daughter', The New Writer, No. 109 Winter 2012
'The clockmaker’s daughter', Rowan B. Fortune (ed.) Cinnamon Press 2011
'Remembering', Staple Issue 53 Spring 2002
Sarah Barr writes about relationships, the natural world, loss and hope. She teaches creative writing in Dorset and for the Open University, gives readings and runs writing workshops. Her poetry and short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies including, Meniscus, The Frogmore Papers, South, The Interpreter’s House. She has completed her first (as yet unpublished) novel. Her poem, ‘January’, won the Frogmore Poetry Prize 2015. She was a Bridport Prize winner in 2010 with her poem, ‘Clearing the Ice’.
Wendy Brandmark is a novelist and short story writer. Her collection of short stories, He Runs the Moon: Tales from the Cities, was published by Holland Park Press in 2016. Her last novel, The Stray American (Holland Park Press, 2014), about an American lawyer adrift in London, was longlisted for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2015. Her first novel, The Angry Gods (Dewi Lewis Publishing), explored racism and difference in New York City in the 1950s and 1970s. Her short stories have appeared widely in anthologies and journals, including North American Review, Riptide Journal, The Massachusetts Review, Stand Magazine and The Warwick Review. She has been a recipient of an Arts Council award towards the writing of short stories. She has been a fellow at the Virginia Centre for the Creative Arts, and had residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. Her fiction reviews have appeared in a range of magazines and newspapers, including The Times Literary Supplement, The Literary Review and The Independent. She teaches fiction writing at The City Lit and supervises students on the Oxford University MSt in Creative Writing. She grew up in New York City but now lives in London. She is currently working on both short stories and a new novel. http://wendybrandmark.com
Glynis Charlton writes poetry, short stories and unidentified pieces of fiction. Always drawn to the bleak and unsettling, she is currently finishing her first psychological crime novel. Her poems have appeared in a number of anthologies, including the Grist Anthology of New Writing. She has also scripted a film short that was screened at Leeds Film Festival, and a digital short shown on the BBC. Glynis gave up the day job in 2002 and has worked as an arts freelancer ever since. When not writing or walking on Haworth moor, she runs workshops across Yorkshire, leads a writing retreat in Italy and works at various festivals. www.glynischarlton.com
Publications (anthologies and resource books):
‘The Shave’ (poem), Grist Anthology of New Writing, University of Huddersfield 2009
‘Krill’ (poem), Inspired by My Museum, British Council, 2014
‘Empty Box’ (non fiction), Writing Work: A Resource Handbook of Therapeutic Writing Workshops and Activities – Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006
‘When Misery Strikes, Poetry Steps In’, Writing Routes: A Resource Handbook of Therapeutic Writing – Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011
Jenny Danes was born in Chelmsford in 1995 and studies at Newcastle University. In 2013 she was highly commended in the Bridport Prize for poetry and in 2016 she won The Poetry Business New Poets Prize. Her work has appeared in various magazines including The North, Magma and Brittle Star.
Kathleen Donkin lived most of her adult life in New York City where she was in private practice as a psychologist, until she moved to Maine. Prior to receiving her doctorate in psychology she was, at various points, a housepainter, telephone book deliverer, merchant sailor, salvage yard worker, tutor, waitress, night secretary, cold caller, transcriber, and dish washer. The list is not exhaustive. “Open House” is her first published story.
Christina Eagles is a Scot who has lived in Derbyshire’s Peak District for the last thirty years. She has written intermittently for most of that time. In 2014 she was placed third in Fish Flash Fiction award. With semi-retirement from communication skills training she hopes to devote more time to writing and to her other passion, her horse. Her first novel won the David Thomas award for unpublished novels and she is currently seeking an agent for her second.
She also writes for children, and won the Kelpies Prize in 2016.
Mark Farley was raised in Africa - a childhood spent running wild and barefoot in sunny scrubland, during which he survived two dog maulings, a swarm of killer bees and being run over by a horse. He now lives in Swindon (a town surprisingly jam-packed with poets) and writes short stories, flash fiction and the occasional poem. Currently, he's having a difficult time ghost-writing the autobiography of a tree dragon named Crimble (she’s eternally grumpy and keeps threatening to set fire to his earlobes).
Publications include: 'Flying Ants', Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine; 'The Broccoli House', New Realm; 'Hugs are more important than potatoes', Amaryllis Poetry; 'Said the Doctor', Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis; 'The Bionic Teeth' and 'The Biology Lesson', Nebula Rift; 'Earlier Than Camels', Domestic Cherry; and 'Grans & Ammo', Sanitarium Horror Magazine (a factual account of mad old ladies fighting zombies).
Discuss dragons and demons - and attempting to write 1,000,000 words in a year - with Mark on twitter (@mumbletoes) or via his blog (http://mumbletoes.blogspot.com/).
Sally Franicevich lives and writes in Auckland New Zealand. In 2013, her short story 'The Nut Machine' won the Fish Publishing Prize and appeared in that year's Fish Anthology. In 2015 her work was long listed for the E.Jolley Prize and was shortlisted in 2014 for the Bridport Prize.
Jeremy Galgut lives in Nottingham. He has had over forty stories published in a range of magazines and anthologies and has won first prizes in the University Of Plymouth Short Fiction, New Writer and Brittle Star competitions. Publications his work has appeared in also include The Edinburgh Review, The Middlesex University Press Anthology and The Huddersfield University Grist Anthology. He earns sufficient money to command an average annual writing income of £136.55. Jeremy is also a novelist and a prolifically successful recipient of encouraging rejection letters.
Publisher & list of print publications (most of these stories were written under the alias Louis Malloy):
Brittle Star 'The Boating Lake'
University Of Plymouth Press Anthology 'Buddy Holly, Holy Buddha'
University Of Plymouth Press Anthology 'The Pilgrims And The Half-Good'
University Of Plymouth Press Anthology 'The Goldrush'
Momaya Press Anthology 'McCauley Speaks Out'
Middlesex University Press Anthology 'A Warhol Original'
Huddersfield University Anthology 'The Citizens'
The Edinburgh Review 'Aftershock'
Route Anthology 'Tragedy Of The Commons'
Momaya Press Anthology 'Copyright On My Soul'
The New Writer 'Dillinger'
The New Writer 'City Of Mr Jiang'
The New Writer 'Dreams Of Wealth And Homecoming'
The New Writer 'The Citizens'
The New Writer 'Burning The Acropolis'
The Modern Review 'Anthony's Season'
The Modern Review ‘Carnegie Hall'
Tripod 'A Warhol Original'
Aesthetica 'The City, The Shows'
Bravado 'Tom Boundry's Summer'
Delivered 'Sinatra Sang'
Open Wide Magazine 'American Fiction'
Prose Ax 'Viktor And Jenny'
Subway Lit 'Blues Run The Game’
Beatrice Garland lives and works in London, though most of her poems are about the natural world. She has won both the National Poetry Prize (2001) and the Strokestown International Poetry Prize (2002) and published one volume of poetry (The Invention of Fireworks, published by Templar Press in 2013), which was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. She is currently at work on a second collection. Website www.beatricegarland.co.uk
Melanie Gilbert is a teacher and a writer. In addition to Starfish, she has written In The Frozen North (also unpublished), a trio of fables about love and war set in a fictional kingdom. She is currently working on The Stories They Told Marianne, a novel about three generations of women in war, marriage and memory. Her teaching, which included six years working in China, has introduced her to migrants and refugees from all over the world, from Cambodians to Syrians, all of whom have left a footprint somewhere in her writing.
Helena Grey is writer of short stories and flash fiction. She is currently writing a historical novel based on a murder that took place in the Black Country in 1906.Helena has been Commended in Orwell Society Dystopian Fiction Competition, and winner of Pre-Raphelite Society Short Fiction Competition. She is studying an MA in Creative Writing at BCU. Publications include 'The Cradley Tragedy' published in Lifelines, and 'Rope and Cliff' published in Alone Together, both published by Imprimata
Richard Holmes grew up in the north of Ireland and lives in Bristol. He started writing fiction while an English student at Cambridge in the late seventies. Later he worked as a lawyer, while bringing up a family, and trying to find time to write. He changed to an academic career in 2004, taking a PHD at the University of Bristol, and then writing and lecturing about Irish history. He began his novel 'Bellevue', which is partly inspired by his historical research, in 2000. His time is now devoted to writing.
Academic: James Arbuckle: Selected Works (Rowman and Littlefield, USA, 2014); 'James Arbuckle and Dean Swift: Cultural Politics in the Irish Confessional State’, Irish Studies Review, Volume 16, Number 4, November 2008 , 431-444 (British Association for Irish Studies Prize Essay 2008); and many other historical articles.
Fiction: 'Tom's Fish', in New Irish Writing (Dublin 1990); 'McKeown', in Panurge (Newcastle 1989); 'Home' in Passages (Belfast 1989)
Jo Holmwood - Jo grew up in Devon and has lived in Ireland since 1997. Her work has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize, the Fish Publishing Prize and the Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition. In 2013 she published a book of short stories entitled Under the one roof as an outcome of a six-month writer-in-residence project at the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon. She also writes plays for stage and radio and has directed and produced her own work for audiences in Leitrim, Galway and Dublin.
Christopher Holt was born in Exeter and has worked as a teacher, farmer, ecologist and administrator in Africa, Australia and the Solomon Islands. He lived for a time in Communist East Germany at the height of the Cold War.
His experiences have inspired his fiction, not from nostalgia but from a belated understanding of their significance to the present day. Christopher has won several short story awards and his self-published novels have been shortlisted in major competitions. He is currently researching material for his next book which will be set in the Arctic.
‘Gate of Tears’ (2010) Listed in the Yale University Library, the Australian National Library, the New Zealand National Library and the Athenaeum Library in Melbourne.
The Winter-Chaser ( 2013 ) Short-Listed for the Yeovil Literary Prize and awarded a medallion by the Book Readers’ Appreciation Group (USA)
‘Prayer of the Crow’ (2015) Shortlisted for the International Rubery Award. Awarded a medallion from the Book Readers’ Appreciation Group (USA)
The African Collection 2004
The Australian Collection 2009
The Open Door 2011
Follow the Honey Guide 2012 Kindle Edition
Ben Johnson is a poet based on the edge of the New Forest, UK. In 2010 his poem Pantone 1665 C won second place in the July IBPC competition. In 2013 he was one of 3 International winners of the Fermoy Poetry Competition, and short-listed for the Bridport Prize. In 2014 his poem 'Selkie' was highly commended in the Bristol Poetry Prize. He has had work published in several print anthologies and online in Antiphon, Ink, Sweat and Tears and RP&D. His spoken word show entitled Metamorphosis was performed during the Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe 2015. He is currently the editor for the literary magazine The Beacon.
Carolyn Kirby studied history at Oxford University and novel writing at Faber Academy. Her previous work has been long-listed for the Mslexia Novel Competition, the Exeter Novel Prize and the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize.
Half of You, her novel in progress, is a Victorian-set thriller about why children kill. It follows a young woman’s search to uncover the dreadful secret in her past through new ideas about nature versus nurture.
Lesley Krueger - is a novelist, short story writer and filmmaker based in Toronto. Her new novel, ‘Mad Richard’, will be published in March 2017 in the U.S. and Canada by ECW Press. The book is based on the life of 19th century British painter Richard Dadd, once the most promising young artist of his generation, later a murderer incarcerated in Bedlam. According to Terry Gilliam, “The knitting together of Charlotte Brontë’s and Richard Dadd’s different trajectories works like a dream. I was enthralled.” Related by marriage to Dadd, Lesley drew on family papers for her work. She was also the first runner-up in the 2016 Prism International short fiction contest. The author of six previous books, Lesley lives in Toronto with her husband, and is an enthusiastic member of a women’s hockey league.
Mad Richard, a novel, ECW Press, to be published March 14, 2017.
Contender, non-fiction, Star Dispatches; July, 2013
The Corner Garden, a novel, Penguin Books, March, 2003
Foreign Correspondences, travel book, Key Porter Books, Toronto, 2000
Drink the Sky, a novel, Key Porter Books, Toronto, 1999
Poor Player, a novel, Oberon Press, Ottawa, 1993
Hard Travel, short stories, Oberon Press, Ottawa, 1989
'Montreal River,' first runner-up, Prism International short fiction prize, April 2016; published in Prism, summer 2016.
'The Hockey Stalker,' Aethlon, The Journal of Sport Literature, 2014. French-language translation, 'Un pervers chez les hockeyeuses (un histoire de amour)' included in the anthology, Toronto, accidents de parcours, Linda Spalding, ed; autremont, Paris.
Anthony Lawrence has published sixteen books of poems and a novel. His most recent collection is ‘Headwaters’ (Pitt Street Poetry, 2016). He teaches Writing Poetry and Creative Writing at Griffith University, Gold Coast, and lives on the far north coast of New South Wales.
Isabella Mead grew up in Cambridge. She holds an MA in History of Art and is currently studying for a degree in French and Spanish. Formerly a secondary English teacher in East London, she worked as a teacher trainer with VSO in a Rwandan village for 2 years before moving into education departments at The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and The Story Museum in Oxford, where she is currently Head of Learning.
'Shakespeare Season' published in Poetry News, Autumn issue 2016
Article on poetry in 'This Book is About Heffers' published by Gottahavebooks, 1 Nov 2016
'A Vase of Flowers' published in Poetry News, 2013
'The False Floor' published in Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam, Cinnamon Press, 2012
'The Fens' published in Feeding the Cat, Cinnamon Press, 2010
'Peruzzi's Room of Perspectives' and 'Txg Msg' published in Snap, Templar Press, 2010
'Ceiling and Sky' shortlisted for an Eric Gregory Award, 2009.
S.M. (Sheila) Misra grew up in St Albans, the only child of an Indian father and Scottish mother. She lives in north London with her husband and three young children. Having worked for many years as a solicitor in New York and in the City she recently changed paths and is now a school governor, member of the board of a men’s prison and trustee of charity that tackles fuel poverty and promotes sustainability. She is a member of the Fabian Society and currently enjoying being a mentee on their programme for women interested in political life.
Sheila completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway University of London in 2014 and her work features in Bedford Square 8, New Writing from the Royal Holloway Creative Writing Programme published by Ward Wood Publishing. She took her undergraduate degree at Durham University and went to law school in York.
He is 2016’s Apprentice Poet in Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival and a recipient of a Northern Writer’s Award. His first pamphlet has been selected as a Laureate's Choice and will be published by smith|doorstop in late October.
The Long White Thread of Words: Poems for John Berger ‘Brood’ Smokestack Books
Off The Shelf ‘The Tilt’ Picador
‘Sheet Music’ The Rialto
‘Break Time’ Ink, Sweat & Tears
‘My Father Learning to Read’ Magma
‘The Brain’ Ink, Sweat & Tears
‘The Motorway of Sleep’ In The Red Magazine
‘I Want Life’ Askew Poetry Journal
‘The Pregnant Woman Smoking’ Myths of the Near Future Magazine
‘Absent’ In The Red Magazine
‘Hate’ Untold Method Magazine
‘Frying a Jellyfish’ Askew Poetry Journal
‘To Make a Mouth’ Smoke
‘Cold Calling’ In The Red Magazine
‘Egg’ Spilt Milk Magazine
Rizwan Piracha lives and works in South London. He has worked for the NHS since 2003, first as a filing clerk and then, propelled by ruthless ambition and the obsolescence of non-digital means of storing information, as a database clerk. He has also worked night shifts, day shifts and twilight shifts in various warehouses and supermarkets. The twin catalysts for his first attempt at coherent writing were the spiritual enrichment and material impoverishment occasioned by fatherhood. His story ‘Lions’ made the Bristol prize longlist but his work has not previously been published or read by anyone other than a few ambivalent competition judges.
Caroline Price was born in Middlesex; she studied Music at York University and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and has worked as a violinist and teacher in Glasgow, London and Kent, where she now lives. She has published three collections of poetry, most recently Wishbone (Shoestring Press, 2008), and is preparing a fourth for publication in 2017. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines including Stand Magazine, Cyphers and The Reader and have been short-listed in recent years for the Asham Award, the Bridport Prize and the London Magazine Short Story Award. In 2015 she was runner-up for the Society of Authors’ Tom-Gallon Award for her short story ‘Vin Rouge’ (Something Was There, anthology of short stories ed. Kate Pullinger, Virago 2011).
Carolyn Prior lives in North Kent and writes Young Adult fiction. She started developing her writing when the children left home, quickly realising that it was much more interesting than her day job in accountancy. ‘Watford Gap services’ is her first piece to be published.
Rachel Robb is a writer and secondary school teacher from Toronto, Canada. She is a graduate of English and Philosophy from the University of Toronto. She placed 1st in Hamilton's 2014 gritLIT festival for her short collection of poems entitled, Notes from the First Year. At present, Rachel is taking a break from teaching to work on a collection of short stories.
Karen Smyte, a graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program, Columbia Journalism School, and Princeton University, is the founder/mentor of Red Beard Press, a youth-driven publishing press based out of Ann Arbor’s teen center, The Neutral Zone. Her short story, ‘Anya’, a chapter from a novel-in-progress, was awarded the 2015 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Prize, read at the June 2015 Selected Shorts at Symphony Space show and published on Electric Literature. The recipient of Mesa Refuge and Vermont Studio Residencies, Smyte is also the recipient of a 2016 Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Grant. A former Canadian national team rower, newspaper reporter, and collegiate rowing coach, she now records incarcerated mothers and grandmothers reading bedtime stories to their children and serves as President for Children’s Literacy Network. Her favorite readers reside in Michigan’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility.
‘Anya’ Electric Literature (electricliterature.com); June 2015 Selected Shorts at Symphony Space; The 2015 Bear River Review; ‘Anya’ is forthcoming in The Lascaux Prize Anthology 2016.
Eilis Stanley is a poetry and prose writer living in Co. Wicklow, Ireland who has lived in London and San Francisco. She has co-founded and been a member of a number of Poetry Groups over the years (London Women Poetry Group in the 80's); wrote monthly culture and psychology articles for San Francisco Post (1995-2000) and set up Kulture Klub Co. Wicklow, 2004 with a local fellow poet. She is a member of the well- established Airfield Writers, Dublin since 2008. She won first prize for Short Poem Original at Listowel International Poetry Competition in 2011; was shortlisted at Bridport International Poetry Competition in 2012 and at Strokestown International Poetry Competition in 2016. Currently Eilis is working on her first collection and pulling the threads together for a Memoir. She is passionate about reviving poetry readings, especially at local community level.
RKP 1987 " Radical Reforms" London, a Social History anthology
Scarlet Ezine 2000 -2002 -Articles on Psychology and Relationships.
Listowel Poetry Anthology , 2011. " What I Don't Want"
Airfield Poetry Broadsheet - Annual Publication 2008-2016
Strokestown Poetry Online Publication 2016 " Midnight Call"
Jean Stevens is a poet and playwright. Her poems have been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio Three and Four, and she has won the Yorkshire Post Poetry Prize and Leeds Libraries Writing Prize. Her plays have been performed at Derby Playhouse, Edinburgh Festival, Harrogate Theatre, Leeds Grand Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, etc. She has also worked as an actor and has numerous credits for stage, screen and radio. She has taught Creative Writing in schools, colleges and top security prisons. Her latest collection of poems is Beyond Satnav published by Indigo Dreams Publishing (2016).
David Swann has worked as a tutor of Creative Writing in prisons, schools, homeless centres, universities, and Greek harbour-sides. His short stories and poems have been widely published, including six previous successes in the Bridport Prize and two in the National Poetry Competition. 'The Privilege of Rain' (Waterloo Press), based on his experiences as a writer-in-residence in a high-security jail, was shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Award. Born and raised in Accrington, Dave has done a wide range of jobs in the UK and Holland, and is now a Senior Lecturer in English & Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. He agrees with the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti that literature is the “shortest distance between two humans”.
The Last days of Johnny North (Norwich: Elastic Press, 2006)
Poetry collection (shortlisted for Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry): The Privilege of Rain (Hove: Waterloo Press, 2010)
Flash fiction chapbook: Stronger Faster Shorter (Chester: Flash International Short-Short Story Press, 2015).
Jim Waite was born and educated in Edinburgh in 1942. After teaching English in Campbeltown and Edinburgh, and finally becoming a headteacher in Perth where he still lives, he retired in 2002 to write and travel. His poetry, stories and plays have been published, performed and broadcast. In recent years he has won the Neil Gunn Poetry Prize, the Wigtown Book Festival Scots Poetry Prize and the James McCash Scots Poetry Award.
Publication: My Left Foot Foxtrots – poems in Scots and English (Comelybank)
Laura Paul Watson lives and writes in Pine, Colorado. She is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Florida. When not writing poetry, she works as a General Contractor remodeling and building new homes with her husband.
American Poetry Journal: ‘Low Tide’ and ‘Weather Report’
PoemMemoirStory: ‘Antiphon at Easter Dinner’
The Cincinnati Review: ‘When it Comes’
The Adirondack Review: Anniversary
The Crab Orchard Review: ‘Prayer for the End of Thanksgiving Dinner’
Sou’wester: ‘Barrators, Thieves, and Hypocrites’
Poetry Northwest: ‘Jay’ and ‘On Re-Reading Walden’
Cold Mountain Review: ‘Beach House’
New South: ‘The Stranding’
The Massachusetts Review: ‘Love & Hypothermia’
John Wheeler is a familiar face at live poetry venues in and around London including the Poetry Society’s Poetry Cafe. He has written and performed for many years and is a multiple poetry "slam" winner. He was a Farrago UK Finalist and Genesis Finalist in 2015. He lives in Kent and works as a teacher.
The Keystone Anthology - Dempsey and Windle 2015,
Uncompassed - Anthology2016 - Edited by Ruth O Callaghan, Salmon Poetry 2016,
A Barrel of Monkeys - Dempsey and Windle 2016,
Lunar Poetry 8 (article) – Edited by Paul McMenemy 2016
Jill Widner is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives and teaches in Yakima, Washington. She was the recipient of a 2016 MacDowell Colony Fellowship; a Hawthornden Fellowship (Scotland); an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship; an Artist Trust Project Grant; and she has been selected for residencies at the Banff Centre; the Corporation of Yaddo; the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; and VCCA-France. Her fiction has appeared in journals including Asia Literary Review, American Short Fiction; Everywhere Stories (Press 53); The Fiddlehead: Atlantic Canada’s International Literary Journal and Shenandoah. Her story ‘The Empty Houses’ won the 2015 Orison Books anthology award in fiction.
I asked for poems with a pulse, eliciting a visceral response; poems with a sense of urgency; poems unfettered by the autobiographical, fired by the imagination; poems taking risks in form, content or idea; multilayered poems echoing long after they were read.
And I got what I wished for: 200 poems, all with some merit. Even poems I quickly discarded felt like gifts. The judging was more pleasurable than I imagined which made me wonder about the overall standard of the entries I didn’t see.
As in recent years, most poems were free verse, but there were a surprising number of 14-liners, some of them sonnets; some used regular metre or effective repetition which was very welcome. Others rhymed arbitrarily or had erratic line breaks: I wished they’d been read aloud before submission. There were lots of poems about death or loss, some transcending the personal, using form to focus the grief; equally moving poems about sexism, autism. Nature was popular but no ecopoetry. Too many poems seemed autobiographical, fettered by strict adherence to fact. I wanted more creativity. But there were enough playful or dark imaginative poems to whet my appetite. Quite a few poems about sex, possibly inspired by my call to take risks in content. Far fewer took risks with an idea: the ones that did so successfully stood out.
The judging process coincided fortuitously with the Rio Olympics. On summer holiday at home, I’d read an hour’s worth of poems every morning before joining the family. This mental workout was a great way to start the day. Watching a range of sports, from synchronised diving to athletics, heightened my response to the technical side of poetry. It reminded me how much work goes into a great poem for it to appear effortless as a flawless gymnastic routine. More than anything, it confirmed what I felt to be the case for the majority of the longlisted poems: they needed more work. Many began well but dipped in the middle or end, where the language became prosaic or lapsed into cliché. The spell was broken. The poet had not yet honed their technical skills, ran out of time, or lacked stamina. Maybe they didn’t understand the fundamentals of punctuation or struggled with line endings and stanza breaks so had erratic control over the pace. Or they weren’t obsessive enough about achieving perfection.
I also assessed level of difficulty, whether the poem was playing safe or ambitious. You can only take a risk when you know what you’re doing i.e. know the rules before you break them. And ask yourself Why is this a poem? Why is poetry the best form for this material? What can poetry do that prose can’t? The best poems were masters of the form. They understood sound and image: how to use white space.
Technicalities aside, there’s a gut reaction at play during the judging process. With some poems, it’s love at first sight whereas others grow on you. My ‘maybe’ pile was high. I wanted to give these poems an extra chance to work their magic, rereading them many times. I take the visceral response very seriously indeed. If a poem was still haunting me at the end of that fortnight, it was likely to make the anthology.
I give first prize to Spitting Distance. It has a directness, an understated authority of voice: So this is what it’s like to be a gun. There’s tension in its couplets, it knows when to use enjambment and when not. It rhymes irregularly so you barely notice yet this punctuates the voice, enhances the pleasure. The images are tangible: the path falling like a braid, a chimney hangs from the sky/on a white string. Finally, the poem takes a bold risk at the end and manages to carry it off. This is poetry at its best.
Second prize goes to CHICKENS, set in a Florida classroom where the teacher gives a lesson on ‘conditioned behaviour’. The fluid, filmic couplets are irregularly interrupted by the sound of a yardstick being hit against a lecturn. Each thwack catapaults the reader into a different character and timezone with exceptional skill. The poem continues to surprise and astound me with each rereading.
Silk takes the third prize. From its latent feminist opening: For those weeks the houses belonged to/the women to the end, it sustains a single sentence over 24 lines, a narrative thread as finely wrought as the silk itself. All five senses are put on hold in the earlier stanzas as the houses are prepared for the silkworms: the poem builds, layer upon layer of detail; then in the final stanza, smell, taste and touch explode, the syntax ensuring a poetic climax at the very last word.
Congratulations to the winners, the Highly Commended and all those who made the longlist. Your work has reminded me how vital poetry is to our existence, how it shapes our response to the world and has a living, breathing pulse.
My reading each time begins sceptically. Stepping into a short story, I’m always resisting it until it wins me over. First of all, it wins me over through its sentences, because they’re not cliched, because they’re musical and they’re exact. I can see what they’re describing, I can grasp their thought, I know where I am. The best writing is so deliciously plain and clear: as in these beginnings, for example. ‘A trellis separates the patio behind Elizabeth’s house from the door to the rooms where the servants live’ (‘Moore’s Alley’), or ‘“Watch this,” Lateef says and he reaches under the goat and starts pulling and squeezing’ (‘Lateef’s Room’). The detail is precise and vivid, the vocabulary isn’t fussy, there’s a scrupulous concern to denote exactly what’s required for the story to get started and for the reader to be carried inside it, involved and interested, sensuously present.
Of course I’m talking about good style here, and what I’m saying applies as much to writing novels as short stories. Everything in a good sentence should feel original, but not strained or effortful. (I know – so much effort goes into it. Only it mustn’t show.) Sometimes a sentence has something extraordinary or miraculous in it: but that too should be exact – the miraculous should feel hard-won, as if a great deal of solidity, of real building-work, has earned the writer their moment of letting go. There’s a gorgeous letting go at the end of ‘Uncle Frank’s Turkeys’, when the farmer is feeding his turkeys. ‘He bends down to the sack and throws handfuls in big arcs. The grain floats in a shining circle for a moment, and then sinks back down in slow motion to the waiting turkeys.’ In ‘The Disappeared Girl’, in the middle of real country life and hard work, there’s a bit of magic. ‘There was a slit in the bark of that tree, just big enough for a girl to slip through. It was cool inside, green moss, soft and cushioney. She lay down, just a minute. Nobody’s laid eyes on her since.’
Another thing good sentences can do is catch the right idiom of a world, capture its flavour for us. In ‘Brylcreem Boy’ Jim Waite remembers a girl’s petticoat in 1960: ‘yards and yards of stiff material that made the lower half of her dress stick out like a ripe lettuce, ballooning over my lap’. In ‘The War Against The Monsters’ we can vividly hear the voice of awful, haunted Auntie Brenda, with her appetite for horrors. ‘Hours he were stuck – that suicide. Up to his neck in clinging mud. And then he came to – and do you know what he saw?’ Some good writers just have this gift for mimicry, this ‘good ear’ – others don’t, it’s not their thing. But it’s a lovely asset if you do have it.
A story shouldn’t read like an extract from a novel, or a compressed novel, with just too much crammed into its short space. A good short story has a satisfying single-mindedness, it drives purposefully and economically towards its ending, you can hold it in your mind all at once. ‘Avalanche’ is so shapely and dramatically effective: four friends are caught up in an avalanche and the terrible drama of their rescue clarifies and simplifies the messy sprawl of the relationships. In ‘Bonxie’ a woman has retreated to the Orkneys to write her novel, then finds herself in a tragi-comic confrontation with a huge seabird trapped in her bathroom. The single story-element encapsulates a much larger complexity and irony.
Endings are the hardest thing to get right in a short story. At the end of ‘Expiating Irene’ a daughter with her eyes closed listens to her mother reminiscing and fibbing and singing. And a tender moment in ‘Porn Star Names’ might have been too sweet, if Jo Holmwood hadn’t finished on a different beat, by returning to the boys’ funny sex fascination.
My three finalists have all achieved just the right poised, liberating, exhilarating closure to their stories. All these three stories are so completely different! I didn’t plan for that, but it makes a nice point. ‘Steroid Dreams’ is just so beautifully written, every sentence poised and funny and intelligent. The prose has a marvellous rhythm, rich with perceptions. ‘Open House’ is much stranger. Who knows whether that bear in the garden is real, or some phantom expression of the wildness in this odd family? The crazy party and its aftermath of wreckage are superbly done, so enigmatic and terrifying and exhilarating. And ‘Cut Loose’! It seems to be written in a single perfect breath, so apparently artless yet perfectly controlled. There’s simply nothing out of place in this hushed, tensed imagining of the twisted history of violence between a man and a woman, all wrapped up as austerely as a Greek drama inside one lonely room, in a few short weeks of waiting.
The difficulty with judging any flash-fiction competition is simply the astonishing variety of the work submitted. Some competitions have themes to narrow the horizon of artistic vision, but when faced with such an accomplished group of stories that vary quite spectacularly from one end of the spectrum to the other, there is nothing for it but to grab your sharpest pencil, brew a really hot cup of tea, and get down to a good read.
This year, as in every year at the Bridport, the quality is high. It is a pleasure to read such accomplished work but, on the other hand, it makes it all the harder to slide a razor between them. There have been car accidents and the subtleties of loss, the loveless moments that come from the premature ownership of false teeth, the horrific choices of hard times, and many others that sprang from the page and ended up, quite rightly, on the shortlist.
Which brings me neatly onto the subject of the final three.
This year, when I was asked what I was looking for in a flash-fiction, I gave the same reply I give anyone who asks what it is, in my opinion, that really makes a flash work? My thoughts are that a reader must have a clear sense of what happened before the story began, a frame into which these new events can be placed. Secondly, a sense of time, a deep feeling that events are unfolding at exactly the right pace for the story being told, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always measured. Thirdly, the end of the story must lead the reader into the future, giving enough information to extrapolate what comes next, and what that might mean for the characters involved.
Irrespective of the subject this is what I look for, and try my hardest to write for that matter.
The three winners for this year’s competition each fulfil these criteria to a tee.
‘467 Strathmore Ave.’ gives us memory and loss, and the ache of time passing as a distant tragedy fades; people get on with their lives and fall into ‘their own private calamities’ as the only true guardians of that fateful day are the flinching dogs.
The next, ‘Dentures’ is a sidelong commentary on the fickle nature of people who cannot see beyond mere physical beauty, who see their own youth reflected in the bodies of others, the outcomes that might have been if only different choices had been made, and, finally, the searing practicality of a mother’s love.
The last, ‘Drought’, is a quiet masterclass in detail and understatement; an observation of time through changes in a landscape that bind together a mother and child. The mother herself becomes a child through memories invoked by new, once familiar landmarks that have been transformed by the flood. ‘There are sunken places, so the tales say…’ is the herald, the gap between a grandmother’s knee and the future for the young girl, unbound from an ancestral home and all the obligations that go with it. She will write new stories, tell new tales from after the flood, and weave a new mythology for her children and all those who come after.
In this story, more than any other this year, I could clearly see the ripples in time, both backwards and forwards, that are framed by a story far smaller than the ripples themselves, but a story that is still able to contain enough truth and meaning to see clearly where the flow of time will take us.
It has been a pleasure to read the entries this year, and I predict that those who have not yet achieved publishing success will not have too long to wait before that success becomes a well-deserved reality.
Congratulations to you all, each one was a pleasure. I’m just sorry I had to choose.