Author interview: Jude Higgins on launching the Flash Fiction Festival

I’m delighted to have Jude Higgins on the blog today talking about the UK’s first ever Flash Fiction Festival, which she has launched along with a team of other talented flash writers. Jude is also behind the Bath Flash Fiction Award and won the first RW Flash Fiction Prize in 2016 with her story, At the Hospital, which will be published in the anthology later this year. She also won one of our 2016 themed flash competitions with her story, Out of Bounds, which you can read here.

Sadly, I cannot be at the Flash Fiction Festival as it is on the same weekend that we are running the Crime Writing Retreat in Dorset – 24-25 June. But I know it will be a great weekend filled with great workshops, talks and stories.

Jude, you’ve now launched both the UK’s first ever flash fiction festival and the Bath Flash Fiction Award – can you tell us what gets you so excited about this very short form?

It’s true, I am excited about the short short form. For myself, I like the challenge of writing succinctly and the many ways to be inventive. Also, so many writers of flash fiction are experimenting and developing the form. I  read hundreds and hundreds of stories from around the world each year and marvel  at the brilliant use of language and structure, the different themes and subject matter.

I launched the Bath Flash Award to share the love of short short fiction and help it grow. I believe there is a huge surge of interest in the form so, with support from Meg Pokrass, it seemed the right time to hold the first ever UK flash fiction festival this June and bring so many great UK writers and teachers  together. And it’s exciting to have Meg and Pamela Painter, both leading American exponents of flash fiction involved too. I am very grateful to the Arts Council England for funding the festival, along with Bath Flash Fiction Award.

How did you go about designing the programme to make this first flash festival suitable for beginner and more advanced flashers?

All the workshops and talks  at the festival are suitable for beginner and experienced flashers. I’ve taught a lot of creative writing workshops myself as a tutor for Writing Events Bath, an organisation I run with a friend, and know if people who have never written before are given prompts and exercises, they can write a first draft. Often something they never thought they could create. And that’s a great confidence booster.

Experienced writers also love getting new ideas from exercises. All the tutors at the festival are intending to get people writing. I expect everyone will come away with several little stories drafted. The talks and readings will be  inspiring for newer and old-hand flashers too. I like the phrase, ‘Zen mind, beginners mind’. If you are open and aware, you will always learn something new, even if it’s something you’ve heard hundreds of times before.

As an award-winning flash writer yourself, which of your stories are you most proud of and why?

I am proud of those two winning flash Fictions I wrote for Retreat West. At the Hospital which won the yearly contest and Out of Bounds which won a themed monthly contest. These two are a couple of fictionalised pieces based on my childhood. They’ll both be published in different versions in my forthcoming V.Press Flash Fiction pamphlet.’The Chemist’s House.’ It is a great boost to win something, and it’s also lovely to receive comments  from judges and feel acknowledged.

Which flash writers have inspired you?

I have always liked fiction by American writers and currently I love Meg Pokrass’s flash Fictions and the way she takes such unexpected leaps. Her collections Damn Sure Right and The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down are a revelation. Kathy Fish’s writing, like her teaching, is very inspiring. A recent flash I read of hers called Strong Tongue which will be published in Best Small Fictions  2017, says so much in so few words. Pamela Painter is a genius for great beginnings and endings. I keep looking at her work to see how she does it.

Beyond coming to the festival, what is the best advice you can give aspiring flash writers?

Yes, do come to the festival because it will be so much fun. Actually having fun writing is my best advice. Even if you are writing about something very hard, have fun thinking about the language and form. It’s astounding what can emerge from your imagination. It never ceases to amaze me what can be on the page after ten minutes if you let yourself play.



Thanks so much for coming, Jude, and I’m very sorry to be missing the festival.

You can find out more about the UK’s first Flash Fiction Festival here.


Comp results: April 16 Themed Flash

Many thanks to everyone that submitted stories on the theme of Danger. I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling tense recently while I’ve been reading them! Congratulations to the winners and all on the shortlist.

Winner: Out of Bounds by Jude Higgins

The creeping sense of dread here was so well done. Wondering what the next dare was going to be and knowing that the danger levels of each were going to keep escalating had me completely gripped. Really lovely imagery and great use of the senses. The use of second person narrative really drew me in as well and gave it such a sense of immediacy.
Read It

The author: Jude Higgins converted to flash fiction a few years ago after trying her hand at a novel on the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA. She’s had pieces published in the Fish Prize Anthology, 2014, Landmarks anthology for National Flash Fiction Day, Flash Frontier, Visual Verse and forthcoming in Halo Literary Magazine and Severine literary magazine. She organises the Bath Flash Fiction Award and blogs at

Runner-Up: We’re Going to Pick Daddy Up by Jan Kaneen

The contrast of the child’s voice and the danger that I thought was coming is very effective. I loved that the danger didn’t turn out to be what I thought it was and that the ending is so open to interpretation.
Read It

The author: Jan Kaneen is a mum, wife, sister and pug servant who recently got a distinction on the OU’s course A215 in Creative Writing. She loves flash fiction and writing short stories and is learning as much as she can about teeny tales to get match fit as she writes her first novel.

The Shortlist

  • Debris by Diane Simmons
  • Fire Ants by Ali Forbes
  • Out of Bounds by Jude Higgins
  • Pear by Helen Young
  • Red Things by JC Winter
  • Rough Wine by Cath Barton
  • Synthflowers by Robert Grossmith
  • We’re Going to Pick Up Daddy by Jan Kaneen


The next Themed Flash Competition deadline is 31st May 2016 and the theme is Riches. Winner and runner-up stories get published on the website and there’s cash prizes too. Find out more here.

The annual RW Flash Fiction Prize has substantial cash prizes and the winning and shortlisted entries all get published in the annual anthology with innovative new indie press, Urbane Publications.

This year’s judge is the esteemed flash writer, and novelist, David Gaffney. Read his tips on writing flash with an impact before you submit. The deadline for entries is 30th September 2016. Get more info here.

Out of Bounds by Jude Higgins

Out of Bounds

Jude Higgins

That day, your brother dared you to put pennies on the railway track. You lay on the bank waiting for the train to steam by, close enough to hear the crunch as the pennies flattened out. Because you didn’t have your sweet money anymore, your brother dared you to nick liquorice and sherbet lemons from the sweet shop while the slow old lady fumbled out the back. You got two handfuls from the open jars and refused to share them with him. So you had a fight and he prised open your fingers and snatched away most of the liquorice.

At home, your parents were busy in the pharmacy so you both went into your brother’s bedroom to drop marbles on people walking down the street. You were already in trouble after your father came out of the shop, and shouted that you could kill someone doing that. But your brother dared you to go into the attic when everyone was asleep. The attic was out of bounds because that’s where Mr Perkins, the previous chemist, had stored arsenic for sheep-dip.  It was still there, in cardboard boxes. Your father didn’t know what to do with it, now it was banned. Your brother said you had to stay in the attic for an hour even though he knew Mr Perkins’ ghost came roaming at night. And while you were up there you had to taste the arsenic. If you didn’t do that, he’d say you stole the sweets from the old lady.

That night you crept up the stairs while your brother watched from the doorway of his bedroom timing you with his new watch. Even though you tiptoed very softly, the floorboards in the attic room swayed and creaked like your grandfather’s dentures. The room smelled of dust and something sweeter, like gone-off cherries. Moonlight filtered through the cobwebbed skylight and lit up the staring eyes of the toy lamb your father used for window displays. You thought you saw a shape in the corner of the room, heard a rustle and froze.But it was only your brother coming in to watch. He pointed to the boxes of arsenic.

‘You’ve got to tell me what it tastes like,’ he whispered. ‘Then you can have the last piece.’ He dangled a string of liquorice in front of you. ‘I’ll tell on you, if you don’t.’

You poked your finger into the white powder and licked it.

‘It doesn’t taste of anything,’ you said.

‘It won’t hurt you, then.’

When you’d gone downstairs, eaten the liquorice and swilled out your mouth under the cold tap, you looked in the mirror and opened wide as if you were at the doctor’s. Your tongue was still black, like the inside of an oak tree struck by lightning. You wanted to show your brother, but when you opened his bedroom door, he was already asleep.



Jude Higgins converted to flash fiction a few years ago after trying her hand at a novel on the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA. She’s had pieces published in the Fish Prize Anthology, 2014, Landmarks anthology for National Flash Fiction Day, Flash Frontier, Visual Verse and forthcoming in Halo Literary Magazine and Severine literary magazine. She organises the Bath Flash Fiction Award and blogs at

Let Jude know what you think of her winning story in the comments below!