What wonderful stories we received in this contest. There were nearly 300 entries. I read every one of them, most of them at least twice – most of the shortlisted stories six or seven times or more. There were stories we had to leave out that I really wanted to include in the longlist, and stories from the longlist I was sad to lose from the shortlist. Narrowing all of these down to just five felt like an amazing achievement, and a painful one. The contest organiser, Rupert, and I spent hours discussing and analysing our top 12, making the case for the merits of stories we each particularly loved. In the end we were united in the choice of the winners, but the standard was so high overall we had some tough decisions to make, and I expect to see many of the stories we deliberated over getting published and taking prizes over the next few months. Thanks so much to everyone who entered for making it so beautifully difficult for us.
The results and judges’ report are here. I hope you’ll go and read the stories as they are published on the site – we’re incredibly proud of them and you are in for a treat.
One of the happiest things that’s happened to me in approximately ever was being asked, this summer, to join the editorial team of the best flash fiction journal in the world, SmokeLong Quarterly. It’s hard work, endlessly fascinating, funny, challenging and a continual masterclass in flash, and there is nothing like it. The standard of submissions is astonishing and the staff team is so talented I reckon if they all stood in a field you’d see their shiny brilliance from space. It’s such a privilege to be part of it.
Go read this issue and find Sky Like Concrete, the story I chose for my guest editing week – the author’s first publication, sparse and utterly beautiful. And then read We All Know About Margo, which Jan Elman Stout pulled out of the slush pile for us all to read and which we were so excited about we just couldn’t accept fast enough. What a buzz to find something like that in the queue. And so many others. This is an experience that will never get old.
I have a new story up at New Flash Fiction Review, here. It comes with a big content warning for eating disorders, although I didn’t set out to write about that. The seed of this story came from a circus performer I’ve seen a couple of times who eats light bulbs and does other painfully astonishing things, but the story is not about her and the character in the story is not her, only that those skills collided with some other things I was thinking about at the time.
I’m really, really happy to be on this list. This story is close to my heart – the characters live for me and, ridiculously, even though they are entirely fictional, make me cry every time I read it. Writers are strange people. I’m so glad some other people liked it too.
I was at work scrubbing limescale off an Air B’n’B shower screen when one of my writer buddies messaged me to congratulate me on making the Bristol Prize longlist. I was nearly as surprised as I was delighted – my story is only just over flash length and, although I love it, I’m rarely convinced with any of my work that anyone else will, and I hadn’t kept track of when the longlist was being announced, not thinking it could stand up to nearly 2,200 stories in a competition with a word limit four times its word count. Hooray for people liking brevity in fiction! I am of course keeping everything I have crossed for the shortlist, but I feel lucky to have made it this far – I know some outstanding stories were entered, and the standard of the anthology last year was incredible. It has put a spring in my step, though.
I’m honoured – and right now, a tiny bit emotional – to be judging the Autumn round of this terrific flash fiction competition with Rupert Dastur of The Short Story. The deadline is 15th September 2018, for stories of up to 400 words. £400 first prize, £100 second, £50 3rd and up to five highly commended prizes of £25 each. Entry fee is £5. Details of how to enter are here: https://www.theshortstory.co.uk/flash-fiction-400/ Bit emotional because of Rupert’s standout commitment to encouraging diversity in publishing by offering free competition entry to writers from marginalised or disadvantaged communities, or people experiencing economic hardship:
‘This may include, but is not limited to BAME writers, those who identify as LGBTQ+, disabled people, or those on universal credit.
Writers may send one flash fiction (adhering to the T&Cs) as a word attachment (no PDFs please), to firstname.lastname@example.org (Please note this has changed from the summer comp).
Please include your name in the email, but not on the attachment itself. No explanation is needed, unless you wish to provide such details. All entries are accepted in good faith.
We look forward to reading your work.’
And I’m excited, too. Send us your polished 400-word gems and we’ll look after them, I promise. I can’t wait to read them.
I’m so excited to be guest editing at my all-time favourite literary journal this week. SmokeLong has always been my go-to place to find the best flash fiction. I can’t quite believe they’re asking me to pick this week’s story, but I have the Submittable queue now, so I guess it must be true. I LOVE reading and choosing stories so, so much. Getting to pick from the incredible submissions in the SLQ slush pile is not just an honour but also a huge treat. Thanks so much for having me, you guys.
Gatehouse Press publish the beautiful quarterly print journal, Lighthouse (check out their font, a digitisation of a vintage typeface – blooming gorgeous), as well as poetry and short fiction chapbooks. They’re based in Norwich UK, where the launch of Chris’s outstanding flash fiction collection, Other Household Toxins, took place last month. If you’re on Facebook, you can still view the video stream of that on the I Must Be Off blog page – you’ll need to scroll forward to the 40 mins mark to get to the start.
Gatehouse kindly offered to publish an interview on their blog in the run-up to the launch. We worked on it and I sent the text to the editors – yay! Only, it was the wrong file (because I am a writer and those genes have clearly nuked the smart, organisational ones I’m sure I would otherwise have expressed with great efficiency). However, the brilliant and long-suffering Andy from Gatehouse has put that right, and the actual proper version of that interview is now up on their site, here: http://www.gatehousepress.com/2018/01/interview-christopher-allen-flash-fiction/
It contains some invaluable flash writing advice from someone Kathy Fish describes as ‘a writer of uncommon skill and grace’, and Sara Lipmann calls ‘a master of flash fiction’. Christopher Allen is the managing editor of the legendary flash journal SmokeLong Quarterly, whose 15th anniversary flash contest is currently running, so this might be of interest to anyone who’s considering entering that (which you can do here: http://www.smokelong.com/the-smokelong-quarterly-award-for-flash-fiction/)
And if you haven’t bought the collection yet, you really should. It really is all kinds of awesome.
The lovely humans and other exotic creature creatives at Nothing In The Rule Book asked me for an interview. Here it is: https://nothingintherulebook.com/2018/03/26/creatives-in-profile-interview-with-helen-rye/
If you love short stories/flash fiction and live near Norwich, UK, we’re holding a book launch for this outstanding collection on Saturday 3rd March, 6.30pm at Nunn’s Yard Gallery. Christopher is the managing editor of the legendary literary journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, and runs a travel writing competition and blog.
This book is so good. I mean so, so good. It will break your heart and make you laugh, and then break your heart all over again. It contains some of the best flash I’ve ever read, and Christopher is a terrific human, kind and generous and extremely funny, and you will love him.
Also, we have Tania Hershman reading as special guest – anyone familiar with the short story and poetry scene in the UK will know her work, but hearing her read live is a real treat, as she does it so beautifully. Her recent story collection is called Some of Us Glow More Than Others, and honestly, she kind of does – I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. She’s amazing. She’s also been mentoring me for free through the Womentoring Project for the last few months, a fact that still occasionally makes me shake my head like a labrador with water in its ears at my good fortune.
I’ll be reading a couple of stories at the beginning as well. And there’s gin. Like, really nice gin. It’s going to be an incredible evening – I’d encourage you to come if you possibly can.