AFTER Themed Flash Winners

Thanks again to all who entered the final themed flash competition of 2021. We are delighted to reveal our winners as chosen by Shaun Levin, author and founder of the brilliant Writing Maps. Thanks for making the tough decision, Shaun!

Many congratulations to all who were shortlisted and well done to our winners!

Judge’s Report

There’s a lot of noise out there and maybe there’s always been. But especially now, particularly now, there seems to be so much noise in the world, a virus, wars, people shouting, out there and in my apartment, too, I’ve been living in noisy apartments for the past 4 years and it’s a lot, a lot to live with, but there are ways to reduce the news, because noise is noise whether it’s out there in the world on the news on facebooktwitterinstagram whether it’s in your flat in your head, all the spheres echoing and mirroring each other because the noise trickles down from the heavens and functions on every level, or something like that.

And we go looking for ways to quieten the noise, something that’ll make it all go away even while it’s still there. Music is one way, I would die without music or eat my own face, or something, I would die without nature, without my evening walks daytime walks, one that takes me to the woods and one that takes me to the olive trees and the part of the river where it gets really beautiful and actually looks like a river running through trees, rather than a stream winding through the city so streamy, streaming, ugh, enough Netflix enough Amazon Prime, just noise to quieten the noise.

The thing that quietens the noise the most, the thing that actually silences the noise is pure clear voices, a piece of writing, even a paragraph, even a line, that is crisp and clear and so open and alive that nothing can get at it, nothing can harm it. That’s what I look for when I sniff around my bookshelves looking for something to read next, when I browse the secondhand bookshops online and in the world, what can I read that will quieten the noise, that will show me how to transform my own noise into art. That’s how desperate and demanding we’ve become, that’s how deep our need is for quiet.

So when you come across writing that feels like that, that has a voice that is so clear, so honest, writing for its own pleasure and belief that writing can save us, you can see when a writer is saving themselves one line at a time, that nothing else matters but the writing itself, not audience, not shame, not accolades, not food or air or love, just the writing itself, in its pure and painful beauty. The winning stories are definitely that.

At the moment I’m carrying Arthur Miller’s words around with me, something about our finest work being done when that work is on the verge of embarrassing us. What is the one thing you would write that would embarrass you, even just a little. Write that and keep writing (is what I tell myself).

First Prize Winner: Things the Fortune Teller Didn’t Tell You When She Read Your Fortune by Iona Rule

Why I love it: An elegant and moving story that is true to the flow of the imagination. A summing up of a whole life, with a sense of hope that ripples outwards. The applause at the end is well deserved.

Runner-Up: Onset Winter Proposal That Ends in a Happy Acceptance by Sharon Boyle

Why I love it: A lyrical and unique piece. A glimpse into a singular imagination, a particular way of seeing and interpreting the world.

Runner-Up: Spanners by Letty Butler

Why I love it: A beautifully-structured tender piece, and a satisfying shift in perspective along the way.

Congrats Iona, Sharon and Letty!

The deadline for the next themed flash contest is fast approaching! You have until 27th March to send us your FOREST themed flashes for judge Jeanette Shepherd to choose her winners from. See all the info here.

If you’re writing a novel, or thinking about writing one, our Pitch to Win contest closes on 20th March and you could win a place on our year-long Novel Creator Course to write it with 1-1 mentoring all the way!