2017 Winners

POETRY WINNERS -   Judge | Lemn Sissay - Report


1st        Siren Call  -  Mary-Jane Holmes, Middleton-in-Teesdale

2nd       River Climber - Simon Murphy, Bristol       

3rd        Resurrection - Graham Burchell, Rattery, Devon


Highly Commended (alphabetical by title)


Advice for Daughters - Claudia Daventry, St. Andrews, Fife

Ectopic pregnancy - Maresa Sheehan, Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow, Ire.

Ghazal of Mourning - Susan Zatland, Gerrards Cross, Bucks

I am pig - Charlie Mountford, Stratford, Ontario, Canada 

Niece comes out of the attic - Michelle Lovric, London

Nightwalking - Julia Bell, London

Painting a sun-room an off-white - David Forest Hitchcock, Fayetteville, NY, USA

Rough - Claire Williamson, Bristol

Stone - Isabelle McNeill, Cambridge

Unthinkably I leave you - Victoria Richards, London


SHORT STORY WINNERS -  Judge | Peter Hobbs - Report


1st        Esther  - Nicholas Ruddock, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

2nd       Ends - Chris Neilan, Manchester

3rd        Queen of the Forest - Ben Hinshaw, Davis, California, USA


Highly Commended (alphabetical by title)


Cooking a Wolf - Nicholas Burbidge, London

Girvan Blues - Karen Ashe, Glasgow

Grunion Running - Kate Carne, Oxford

Must be true  - Stacey Swann, Austin, Texas, USA

Old Harbour - Rebecca F. John, Swansea

Subjunctive Moods - C.G. Menon, Trumpington, Cambridge

The Best Thing - Colin Walsh, Brussels, Belgium

The Cockerel - Ruth Figgest, Eastbourne

To Be  - Neal Moore, Taipei, Taiwan

Verichrome - David Ye, Irvine, California, USA


FLASH FICTION WINNERS -  Judge | Kit de Waal - Report


1st        Buttercups  - Terry Warren, Bridport, Dorset

2nd       Confirmation Class - Joanna Campbell, Bisley, Gloucestershire

3rd        Runaway -  Jacquelyn Shreeves-Lee, London


Highly Commended (alphabetical by title)


On the seventy-third day - Gabriela Paloa, Tel-Aviv, Israel

Absence - Michelle Wright, Eltham, Victoria, Australia

Sea bite - Barbara Leahy, Cork, Ireland



1st Prize            Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line  - Deepa Anappara, Colchester 

Runner-up        The Sentence - Stephanie Scott, London


Shortlist (alphabetical by title) 

Sugar Bird - Claire Bassi, Nantwich, Cheshire

The Embalming - Jo Browning Wroe, Cambridge

The Waiting Rooms - E C Smith, Witney, Oxfordshire


Longlist (alphabetical by title)

A Crack in the Door - Helen Ryan

A Dream of Something Falling - Scott Lupasko

A Fancy-Dress Genocide - Daniel Magnowski

A Fatal Mercy - Thomas Moore

Albany - Stephanie Artley

Al in Sarah Gee’s Head - Nasser Hashmi

Billy Watkins - Georgina McArthur

Here in Eden - Elizabeth Loudon

May Never - Steve Herrington

Nuance of Nothing - Tammy Boyce

Skinned - Peter Lewenstein

The Arrow Garden - Andrew King

The Scribbler’s Tales - Anna James

The Second Heart - Mary Downes

The Passenger - Ailsa Caine


THE DORSET PRIZE                                           

 Presented to the highest placed writer from Dorset in the competition each year.

 Sponsored by The Book Shop, South Street, Bridport, Dorset DT6 3NQ


 Buttercups (flash fiction)  - Terry Warren, Bridport, Dorset


Biographies (alphabetical order)

Deepa AnapparaDeepa Anappara is a journalist and editor from India living in the UK. Her short fiction has won the second prize in the Bristol Short Story Prize, the third prize in the Asham awards, the Asian Writer Short Story prize, and the Dastaan award. She recently completed an MA in Creative Writing (Prose Fiction) at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. 




Karen AsheKaren 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.


Claire BassiClaire Bassi graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a BA in Education and then worked overseas in a variety of educational settings. She has travelled extensively around Asia, which has been a significant influence on her work. She writes short stories, poetry and prose concerned with memory and place. Since graduating from Keele University with an MA graded distinction, Claire has been teaching English, editing her first novel and running a local writer’s group. Several of her poems have been published by Ink Pantry and have featured on local radio. She performs at local festivals and at experimental arts nights. In May 2016, she had her first short story published and in November 2016 she won the MMU Novella Community Writer Award.


Julia BellJulia Bell is a writer and course director of the MA Creative Writing at Birkbeck. She has published three novels, most recently The Dark Light (Macmillan, 2015). She is also the co-editor of the bestselling Creative Writing Coursebook (Macmillan). She is currently working on a memoir in verse and a collection of essays. She divides her time between London and Berlin.  

Jo WroeJo Browning Wroe worked in publishing for 12 years before studying at UEA for a Masters in Creative Writing.  She writes for educational publishers in the UK and US and has received awards in both countries. She is Creative Writing Supervisor at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, and helps with the Cambridge Literary Festival. She has two adult daughters and lives in Cambridge with her husband.


Nick BurbageNick Burbidge has worked in the media, public and charity sectors for 20-odd years. In 2014, he completed with distinction an MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, where his portfolio of short stories was shortlisted for the Pat Kavanagh Award. Nick's short stories 'The Bad Sex Awards' and 'The Cat Licked Its Paws' have been published in The Bridport Prize Anthology 2015 and Shooter Literary Magazine respectively.


Graham BurchellGraham Burchell lives in South Devon. He has four published collections. He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. He is a Hawthornden Fellow, 2012 Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year, winner of the 2015 Stanza competition, and runner-up in the 2016 BBC Proms poetry competition. He has been widely published in U.K. and U.S. poetry journals. 




Joanna CampbellJoanna Campbell’s novel, Tying Down The Lion, was published by Brick Lane in 2015 and her short story collection, When Planets Slip Their Tracks, by Ink Tears in 2016. Her short stories and flash fiction have also appeared in all kinds of anthologies and literary magazines. Her short story, ‘Upshots’, won The London Short Story Prize in 2015 and her novella, ‘A Safer Way to Fall’, was a runner-up in The 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award.




Kate CarneKate Carne has always been drawn to the short story as a way of capturing that precious and fleeting glimpse. Her piece Early One Morning won the Bath Flash Fiction Ad Hoc first prize, and was published in the magazine ‘Project Calm’ in 2016. Another flash, Carry On due to be published in the second Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, due out later this year. Kate is also the author of Seven Secrets of Mindfulness: How to Keep Your Everyday Practice Alive, published by Rider in 2016. She lives in Oxford.




Claudia DaventryClaudia Daventry has worked as a professional writer, teacher and translator in various European cities. In 2007 she moved from Amsterdam to Scotland to focus on her writing, and to study at the University of St Andrews, where she did an MLitt with Don Paterson and Douglas Dunn and, more recently, she has been researching a PhD on the theory and history of poetic translation. Claudia has won several awards including a previous (2012) first place in the Bridport Prize, the inaugural Ruskin prize, Philip Larkin and McLellan prizes. She has published widely in the UK and beyond, from reviews and journals to anthologies like Hallelujah for the 50ft Woman (Bloodaxe), a homage to Giuseppe Ungaretti Like Leaves in Autumn (Luath), and the Modern Don Juan (Five Leaves Press) — a ‘tour de force’ in ottava rima by 15 poets from several countries. Her libretto for Scottish composer Rory Boyle’s piece Selkie Song was performed at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and she is working on another musical collaboration with the same composer to première at the JAM on the Marsh festival next summer. Claudia’s chapbook The Oligarch Loses His Patience won a Templar book and pamphlet award in 2016 and is currently putting together her full collection for 2018.


Ruth FiggestRuth Figgest is CEO of a charity which runs a community centre in Sussex. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Sussex and was one of the winners of the Bridport prize in 2012. Her stories were previously short listed for the prize in 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2016. Another of her stories was short listed for the Mslexia short story competition in 2011. In October 2013, Ruth’s short story ‘The Coffin Gate’ was broadcast on radio 4. In her spare time, Ruth teaches creative writing and belongs to writing groups in Brighton and Newhaven. The characters in “The Cockerel” and the content of this story form part of her novel, Magnetism, published by Myriad Editions: myriadeditions.com


David Forest HitchcockDavid Forest Hitchcock was researching for his doctoral dissertation in History at the University of Chicago when he was derailed by chronic fatigue syndrome. His parents cared for him. An awe of the mysteries of life and his love of words came together in poems. Winning a Shakespeare Sonnet Slam, in Syracuse led to his taking small parts in community theatre, usually Shakespeare's comedies. As his parents became frail with age, he cared for them. After his dad's death, his mom was proud when one of his haiku was selected for the "Syracuse Poster Project" and another poem was chosen to be part of a commissioned work of new music. His mom wanted him to get his work "out into the world". Since her death in 2015, he has done that. His poems have been selected for the long list in the Canberra University V. C. prize in 2015, the long list for the Ron Pretty Poetry Prize in 2015 and the short list for the Bridport Prize in 2015 and 2016. He was one of five short list finalists for the Ron Pretty Prize in 2017 and Highly Commended for the Bridport Prize in 2017. He is now caring for the lawns of neighbors and creating/organizing a collaborative multi-media performance piece.


Ben HinshawBen Hinshaw's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Carolina QuarterlyThe White ReviewLighthouse, and elsewhere. He holds MAs in creative writing (University of California, Davis) and cultural geography (University of Nottingham), and has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Born and raised on the island of Guernsey, Ben spent several years as a bookseller in London. He currently lives in Davis, California. 

Mary Jane HolmesMary-Jane Holmes is a writer, teacher, translator and editor based sometimes in Co. Durham, UK and at other times on the Tex-Mex border of the USA. Her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies including The Lonely Crowd, Prole, The Tishman Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and Best Small Fictions 2016. She is the recipient of the Martin Starkie Poetry Prize (2017), the Bedford International Poetry Prize (2017) and the Dromineer Fiction Prize (2014). She has previously been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize both for poetry and flash fiction, the Doolin Prize for poetry, the Penfro Poetry Prize and recently commended in the Settle Poetry Competition. She is currently chief editor of Fish Publishing Ireland and also editorial consultant at The Well Review, an international poetry journal based in Cork, Ireland. She is currently completing a Masters in Creative Writing at Kellogg College, Oxford and her debut poetry collection will be published in 2018 by Glasgow based Pindrop Press.


Rebecca F JohnRebecca F. John was born in 1986, and grew up in Pwll, a small village on the South Wales coast.  She holds a BA in English with Creative Writing (1st class hons) and an MA in Creative Writing (distinction) from Swansea University, as well as a PGCE PCET from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.  Her short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4Extra.  In 2015, her short story 'The Glove Maker's Numbers' was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.  She is the winner of the PEN International New Voices Award 2015, and the British participant of the 2016 Scritture Giovani project.  In 2017, she was named on Hay Festival's 'The Hay 30' list.  Her work was recently shortlisted for the RA & Pindrop Short Story Prize 2017, longlisted for the Bath Short Story Prize 2017, and longlisted for the Not The Booker Prize 2017. 


Barbara LeahyBarbara Leahy is from Cork, Ireland. She started writing in 2010, and since then her stories have appeared in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology, the Irish Literary Review, and the Words on the Waves Anthology 2016 and have been broadcast on RTÉ (Irish National) radio. In previous years she has won the Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition, the Wells Festival of Literature Short Story Competition, and the Words With Jam Shortest Story Competition. She was the 2015 winner of Cork County Library and Arts Service's From the Well Short Story Competition. Most recently, she won the 2017 RTÉ Guide/Penguin Ireland short story competition. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story and Flash Fiction competitions and she is thrilled to have won a Highly Commended award in this year's Flash Fiction competition.


Michelle LovricMichelle Lovric is a novelist, journalist and editor, with particular interests in Venice, art and the history of medicine. She has edited numerous anthologies of poetry and prose. Her fourth novel, The Book of Human Skin, was chosen for the TV Book Club; her third, The Remedy, was long-listed for the Orange Prize. She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow and writes regularly about her historical research on The History Girls website. For the past three years she has been a member of Robert vas Dias’s London poetry Seminar. She divides her time between London and Venice.


Isabelle NcNeillIsabelle McNeill is a lecturer in French and film studies at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge. Writing poetry has been, until recently, a secret pleasure and private necessity. She is working on a collection entitled ‘The Living and the Dead’ and a poem from this collection was commended in the Ware Poetry Competition 2017. She is also working (very slowly) on an installation using poetry, textiles and film called (im)material.

C G MenonC. G. Menon has won the Bare Fiction Prize, the Leicester Writes Prize, The Short Story Award, the Asian Writer Prize, The TBL Short Story Award and the Winchester Writers Festival award. She’s been shortlisted for the Fish short story prize, the Short Fiction Journal awards, as well as the Willesden Herald, Rubery and WriteIdea prizes and the Fiction Desk Newcomer award. Her work has been published in a number of anthologies and broadcast on radio. She is currently studying for a creative writing MA at City University and working on her first novel.


Simon MurphySimon Murphy  lives and writes in Bristol, and enjoys exploring countryside, rivers, coastlines and the Pennines. In 2017 his poems have been commended in the Magma Judge's Competition, placed second in the Doolin Writers' Competition, and shortlisted in the Oxford Brookes International Poetry and Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competitions. When not writing, he edits non-fiction. 

Neal MooreNeal Moore is the author of Down the Mississippi: A Modern-day Huck on America’s River Road, published by the Mark Twain Museum Press. A nomad, adventurer and storyteller, Neal’s citizen journalism from North America, Africa, and the Far East includes documenting fellow paddler Dick Conant for The New Yorker, an essay titled ‘I Felt Close to Mandela’ for Der Spiegel, and an interview with Wang Dan, Tiananmen Square’s ‘most wanted’ student protestor, for CNN. Originally from Los Angeles, he has continued to swirl the globe South Africa-way for the past twenty-five years.


Charlie MountfordCharlie Mountford is a humorist and poet. His family, originally from Birmingham, came to Canada early in the 20th century. He was educated at The University of Western Ontario (MA English) and The University of London (MA Librarianship). He has written books of humorous monologues and books of poetry. He has been a banker, a school librarian and a researcher of historical buildings. He has also written the librettos for five modern chamber operas which have been produced in Stratford. He enjoys performing his humorous monologues as solo shows.


Chris NeilanChris Neilan is an author, screenwriter and filmmaker.  He started his career in TV & radio comedy before moving into literary fiction and film.  He was shortlisted for the 2016 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and is working on feature projects in the UK and US.  His debut novel Abattoir Jack is available from Punked Books, and his work is featured in One For The Road, an anthology of poetry and prose published by Smith/Doorstop.  He is an associate lecturer in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he is also completing his PhD, and a writer-in-residence for New Writing North.  He has written for Film International and Little White Lies, and is the founder of the Manchester No Budget Filmmaking Collective.

Gabriela PaloaGabriela Paloa is an osteopath, practicing and teaching. She writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry. She also writes creative non-fiction about human physicality and movement. She was born in Gibraltar, grew up in London and is currently living in Tel Aviv. 

Victoria RichardsVictoria Richards is a freelance journalist and writer. She has worked for BBC News, The Times and The Independent, has appeared on Newsnight, BBC World and ITV News and regularly writes for Independent Voices. She won the inaugural Oh Zoe! Rising Talent Award 2017 was longlisted in the Bath Short Story Award 2017 and The Guardian Short Story Contest 2016, and published in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2017. She lives in East London where she is working variously on a novel, a short story collection, poetry, flash fiction and a series of books for children. 



Nicholas RuddockNicholas Ruddock has written three novels and two collections of short stories in Canada. And some poetry. In the UK he was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Award in 2016, won the Bridport Flash Fiction in 2013, runner-up 2014, and has had micro-fictions published in Irish Pages, Belfast.



Stephanie ScottStephanie Scott was born and raised in Singapore. She read English Literature at York and Cambridge, is a graduate of the Faber Novel Programme and holds an M.St in Creative Writing from Oxford (Distinction). Her debut novel, The Sentence, is set in modern Japan and based on the Japanese marriage-break up industry. Stephanie is a recipient of the National BAJS Toshiba Studentship for her anthropological work on Japan and has won several awards for her fiction including the Writers’ Centre Norwich Inspires Award, the Arvon Jerwood Fiction Award, the Writers’ Village International Short Story Prize and the Mslexia New Writing Award. Stephanie has placed in the Fish Poetry Prize and been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, the Glimmer Train Short Fiction Prize, the Mslexia Short Story Award, the Fish Short Story Prize and the London Short Story Prize.

Maresa SheehanMaresa Sheehan works as a Veterinarian in Ireland and writes poetry. She won First Prize in the Goldsmith International Literary Festival Poetry Competition and was previously Shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize and the Cuirt New Writing Poetry Competition 2015 (final 3). She was Highly Commended in Over The Edge New Writer of the Year International Poetry Competition and for Poet meets Painter Hungry Hill Writing Poetry Competition 2014. Her poems have been published in Blue Max Review, Boyne Berries and “All Good Things Begin” and have been accepted for publication in Poetry Ireland Review. She is working towards her first collection. She lives in County Carlow with her husband and son.

Jacquelyn Shreeves-LeeJacquelyn Shreeves-Lee completed an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University  in 2015 where she was awarded the Sophie Warne Fellowship and published in the Mechanics Institute Review. She has had several short-stories and poems published, short-listed and commended in major competitions. Her story, 'Mama B's Kitchen,' was published by Virago in 1996 in the 'Short Circuits' anthology. Her play, 'Let me Count the Ways,' was performed at the Millfield Theatre in 2008. In her writing, Jacquelyn tries to unzip the complex, internal universes we all occupy and navigate. By attempting to make her writing visceral, exciting and novel, she hopes to hold her reader captive.  She lives in North London where she works as a clinical psychologist and a magistrate.

E C SmithC Smith writes speculative fiction that tackles contemporary issues, normally the things that scare her, drawing on her background in the corporate and scientific sectors. Set twenty years after an antibiotic crisis, her shortlisted debut novel The Waiting Rooms is about a nurse called Kate’s search for her ageing birth mother in a world where no one over seventy-five is allowed new antibiotics. Eve’s previous job as COO of an environmental organisation took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she uses these experiences to build unsettling but familiar worlds. A Modern Languages graduate from Oxford, she returned to Oxfordshire fifteen years ago with her family. She has just started work on her next novel and is focused on getting published and developing her career as an author.

Stacey SwannStacey Swann’s fiction has appeared in Epoch, Memorious, Versal, and other journals. A former Stegner Fellow, she teaches with Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio and works as a freelance editor. She splits her time between Austin and Lampasas, Texas.


Colin WalshColin Walsh was born and raised in Ireland. He has lived in Scotland, France and Quebec, and currently lives in Belgium. His story 'Seen/Unseen' was shortlisted for the Bath Short Story Award 2017 and will be featured in the forthcoming 2017 BSSA Anthology. 

Terry WarrenTerry Warren
lives near Bridport, Dorset. He studied Fine Art in London and continues to draw and paint. He currently works as a Marketing Director and freelance copywriter. ‘Buttercups’ is his first published written work.





Claire WilliamsonClaire Williamson is currently studying for a doctorate in Creative Writing at Cardiff University exploring ‘Writing the 21st Century Bereavement novel’. She has had three collections of poetry published: Ride On (PoTA Press, 2005), The Soulwater Pool (Poetry Can, 2008) and a pamphlet Split Ends (Eyewear, 2016). Her new collection, Visiting the Minotaur, is forthcoming with Seren. She has been published in (among others) PN Review, Raceme, The Cardiff Review, Iota, Bristol Review of Books, and recent anthologies: The Echoing Gallery, edited by Rachel Boast and From Palette to Pen, edited by Frances-Ann King. Claire is Programme Leader for Metanoia Institute's MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes, validated by Middlesex University.

Michelle WrightMichelle Wright's short stories have won awards including The Age, Alan Marshall and Grace Marion Wilson. In 2013 Michelle was awarded a Writers Victoria Templeberg Fellowship to research stories in Sri Lanka. In 2015 she was the Faber Academy “Writing a Novel” scholarship recipient. Her short story collection, Fine, was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and published in 2016 by Allen and Unwin, who will also publish her debut novel in 2018. She was recently awarded an Australia Council residency and is currently spending six months in Paris researching her novel.


David Ye is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He is the recipient of the 2017 Henfield Prize for Fiction.


Susan ZatlandSusan Zatland lives in Buckinghamshire, has a degree in Philosophy and worked for several years as a lawyer. Having exhausted the creative possibilities of writing briefs for court – she found her use of rising tension and dramatic pause was not fully appreciated – she has just gained distinction in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. She enjoys writing in all genres, and is currently engaged in research for her first novel set in ancient Thrace; yet it is the lilt and tilt of poetry that continually pulls at her. If her novel is ever finished she suspects it will be heavily influenced by the rhythms and song of our oral traditions.


Poetry Report by Lemn Sissay

For a judge there is nothing quite like being amongst the unpublished land.  It’s like being an explorer  on the edge of  The Amazon (a forest of poems) in search of clearings and ravines and unchartered worlds as yet unseen.     And so I go in.  And I find the River Climber, I find the Siren,  I find the graveyard, (I find the girl asleep on the bench….. I find the BBC worker racing home..  and so many, many more.  But I’ll stop beating round the bush …

Painting a sun-room an off white’ reminded me of Sun in an Empty Room by Edward Hopper.  I love its minimal touch.   Stone’ drew me down to earth and up into the connection between child and parent. In this, I enjoyed how something so innocuous can mean so much.  The Ghazal is a poetic form from Persia similar to the sonnet.  In ‘Ghazal of Mourning’ the refrain this morning lulled me into a sense of occasion:  gentle, unsentimental and confident.  ‘Rough’: I absolutely loved this poem.  It is one of the greatest poems about childhood abuse that I’ve ever read.  She paints the picture with an assured hand and delivers a devastating last line, which would flounder if the lines before it were weak.

The free verse madness of ‘Unthinkably I Leave You’ set off at a pace and didn’t stop. I am unsure of what the event is in this poem that draws the protagonist home. But I love the contrast between the person writing the news and then becoming the news.  I don’t know what the emergency is.  The poem ‘Ectopic Pregnancyopened my mouth and poured the sadness in.  It was the domesticity alongside this life-altering event. Most of all it was the way a poem can hold memory. I loved the confidence of ‘I am Pig’.  I am Pig should be on T Shirts with a glorious picture of a PIG.  It’s an anarchic poem. It is the punk rocker of this selection of highly commended.

In ‘Niece comes out of the attic’, I was gripped by the gothic in this poem. And by what was not said.  It’s beautiful. Powerful. Evocative.  ‘Advice for Girls’ is defiant and playful: It should be in every school and staff room and home across the country. ‘Night walking’. Poems can be like short films.  The evocative shots in this one put me right in the picture. I enjoyed how the writer captured the morning light inside two people walking home in the elation of a night out and early blossoming caution of love.  

So, to my top three.  In third place ‘Ressurection’ I enjoyed the gothic.  There’s a resurgence of The Gothic Tale. So says Alan Moore.  The evidence is clear in Neil Gaiman and the like.  Harry Potter even. I liked how this poet painted the awakening of zombies.  So it was a pleasure to find myself in an awakening graveyard without the shock or horror. 

In second placer is ‘River Climber’.  I came across a river with a man in it. He invites me in.  He tells me the river was not for crossing or sailing nor something to drink or swim but to climb!  His love of nature reminds me of the Welsh writer Jay Griffiths or Robert McFarlane or the brilliant book The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd. It was a living river. He tells me we are made mostly of water.  Water meets water.   He awakens me inside the river.  When I was a child I was told I had five senses.  This is simply not true.   This poem introduced me to another.  The writer calls it “fluid intuition”. 

The winning poem is ‘Siren Call’.  I am drawn to a bleak coastal town. I am drawn by sound. It is like a short film.  Unsentimental.  Brutal even.  The writer draws us to sound from the outset.   I am lured into listening. Through aural sensation the picture unfolds.   It has all the detail of La Cite Des Enfants Perdus.  Listen as the writer instructs “no not the familiar sounds”.  The writer shakes the reader from complacency and into a Sirens Call.  There’s a confidence of line. I am hypnotized  by The Siren Call. 

We write alone not by committee.  Our poems don’t come with evaluation forms or boxes to mark  out of ten.  They don’t come with a “like” button or a “retweet” button.  They are defiant. They are extroverts even if the writer is an introvert.    Then they fly out to the world:  to books, to competitions,  to music,  to radio, to TV, to architecture, to Christmas carols, to family members, to lovers, to colleagues, to our selves.  All poems are  precious: the public ones and the private ones. 

It’s an honour to judge the  Bridport Poetry Prize and one I accepted with a real sense of responsibility to all who have entered and to each word of each poem.  It is a responsibility which requires honesty:  Another judge may likely have chosen other poems. There. I said it.  So if you are not one of the winners, or the highly commended, don’t give up.  As if you would!


Short Story Report by Peter Hobbs

You look for signs of life, for language that has a texture, sentences that have rhythm. For writers who have thought about how each sentence will be read and felt. Usually it’s obvious from the opening lines: a good beginning, the tone and flow established from the start. ‘We skip along Robinson Road, out of school, light as air, Graham and Siya and me.’ So begins To Be, and the story is already skipping. Or, from Cooking a Wolf: ‘So I was in the park with my son, Mitchell, who’s a little deaf, and these other boys – friends of his he says – are creeping up on him.’ The rest of the story continues the same way, the sentences sharp and precise, perhaps even a little sinister.

Literary style operates in the sentences – it’s here the work of voice is done, and where a story fails or succeeds. Old Harbour is dense, almost claustrophobic; the whole tale feels weather beaten, the sky low over the sea. Girvan Blues is contrastingly brisk and informal, though tightly-written: rich in dialect, with a wry lightness to match its easy humour.

Good writers get the weight and precision of descriptions exactly right – they shy away from vagueness. The Best Thing summons the world of its eight-year-old protagonist in concrete details – Tayto bags, Slush Puppies, and the ‘great red pagan tongue’ of the slide at Funworld – and feels all the more real and universal for it. But they avoid overwriting too, or indulging in descriptions that don’t serve the story. One of the strongest commended pieces, Grunion Running, is so lean, all character and dialogue and events, and yet its world is always present, alive.

Stories were too often let down by dialogue, which tended to the perfunctory, or even expositional. When done well – Must Be True is full of good dialogue – it brings pace and life and pleasure, it does the work of tone and character and narrative effortlessly. You can almost feel the pleasure of writing it. From The Cockerel:

‘Loretta honey,’ the man behind her says. ‘They’ve been doing drugs.’

‘Nothing to do with me, man,’ Carrie says.

‘No. No. I am not high,’ I say. ‘I am very, very low.’

One of the odd trends this year was the number of entries with child narrators. Perhaps there’s a simplicity and clarity in a child’s construction of the world that’s easier to summon, or find language for. The best of them allowed the reader to feel again what it’s like to be a child, gave a sense of the phenomenology of it, how their worlds are ordered and layered in meaning. And two of the most successful deal with forces that threaten to disrupt that order, such as the arrival of a group of Russian exchange students in the beautifully-judged  Subjunctive Moods. In Verichrome it’s the narrator’s father – his volatile anger and his actions – that cause ripples in the fabric of the world, and we feel the confusion and fear he generates.

Congratulations to all the commended stories – hopefully it’s encouragement for future work. And congratulations especially to the three finalists, who were in a class of their own; any one of them would have been a worthy winner. And because they were so different from each other, and so successful on their own terms, it was hard, and inevitably unfair, to put them in any kind of order.

Queen of the Forest is a gem. The language is so light and clear, and the sadness and humour of it are woven into the texture of every sentence. But the author wears their great skill lightly. Everything is so well balanced. There’s no showiness, only story, and it feels true; it feels like life.

Ends, written in the second person, was an exciting find. It buzzes with energy and ideas,  combining stand-up comedy with reverse timelines and quantum physics. And more than any of the entries it has the messiness of lived life about it; it seems to rail against the neatness of the short story form even as it succeeds in it. The reader can feel both the narrator and the story searching for the language to ask – how do we live, and how does it feel when we try?

And finally there is Esther, technically so accomplished, but playful too in its form and its long sentences. It plays with plot more than most stories, but the work of plotting is done so slyly it is almost invisible. There are many details, but none is extraneous. It has real humanity to it, and a tremendous cumulative power, conjuring the lives of its protagonists in a handful of pages, allowing us to live beside them for years, and ensuring that the final emotional pay off – again played out over a single long sentence – is utterly devastating.

Flash Fiction Report by Kit de Waal

There’s nowhere to hide with flash fiction.  No getting lost in excessive description, no room for indulgence, no fat.   The best flash stories are like sitting down with two people midway through a conversation and having to catch up on the hoof; the longer the conversation goes on the more you learn the history,  realise what went before, that she lost a child, that he a fortune, that she likes to shoplift, that he killed his wife.   More often than not the real story is not in the words nor on the page but scratched underneath in invisible ink or like tears, dripped and dried on paper, leaving a faint stain.  Flash fiction condenses a lifetime into a moment and some of the stories I read this year demonstrate the best of the craft.

The three Highly Commended stories,  ‘On the Seventy Third Day’, ‘Absence’ and ‘Sea Bite’ are all great examples of how flash fiction can transport you to another world in so little space.  In the spare ‘Absence’, about grieving parents,  the bereaved mother watches the father’s ‘naïve’ pain from a terrible distance, her own grief certain and absolute.   It’s a brave story with an unusual take on a recurring theme.    The flash ‘On the Seventy Third Day’ again has an unusual setting, captives recreating meals to pass the time.  The turn at the end with the jailer pulling off his hood and joining in is a wonderful moment.  It’s brave and original work.  ‘Sea Bite’ is technically very accomplished, much of the story churning beneath the surface and ultimately turning on the sentence ‘They played without him for a while.’  I was impressed with the writer’s confidence in the telling of this tale.

In third place, ‘Runaway’, about a hairdresser that ‘doesn’t do words’ deals wonderfully with silence and the unsaid.  There are echoes of slavery and longing and of going home.    As she does her customers’ hair, Pam sees, ‘a one way ticket, their partings carve coastlines in the Caribbean sand.’  Beautiful writing on a unique theme,  beautifully realised.

Second place goes to ‘Confirmation Class’.  Such voice.  ‘They say me mam’s a slack knitter.’  How’s that for an insult?   The humour in this story is offset by the darkness, by the suspicion of child abuse all overlaid with ‘God’s approval.’  The child’s point of view is the perfect one for this type of story, well crafted and well told.

The winning flash fiction ‘Buttercups’ is simply told and heart breaking.  It’s opening sentence, ‘People come’ is a masterpiece of understatement.  Again a grieving mother but in this flash she is in denial, waiting for solitude and silence to be again with her hidden child.  I loved the deceptively light tone of this story and its assured construction.   Despite bereavement being a recurring theme in many of the flash fiction stories this year, this felt original, fresh and very moving.

Congratulations to all the writers, to the winners and the Highly Commended writers, to the shortlisters and longlisters.  There were many stories that so nearly made the cut, some that made me laugh out loud and others that had little flashes of brilliance.  

To everyone who paid up and entered the competition but haven’t seen their name on this list, thank you for sending your story in and letting me read it.  There was so much good stuff, so much skill and talent.  It was apparent how much time and effort had gone into these submissions and, I know from experience, how much hope we pin on our chances.  It’s a privilege to be allowed to read your work.  Keep going.  Good luck next time.

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“The Bridport is a prize I have long coveted.  It was the first competition I plucked up the courage to enter as a new writer, and I have been chasing its prestigious name ever since.  I was thrilled, therefore, to be included in this year's anthology.  2017 was my most successful writing year to date, and being highly commended in the Bridport Prize played a big part in making it so”.

Rebecca F. John (UK) Highly Commended, short story competition 2017

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