Winners: Bridges Themed Flash Competition

Our judge, Sandra Arnold, has decided on her winners! Well done to everyone who was longlisted and shortlisted for this quarter’s theme, and to all who entered. We enjoyed reading them all. And HUGE congratulations to our winners!

Judge’s Report

First, I’d like to thank Amanda Saint and the team at Retreat West for inviting me to judge the shortlist for the BRIDGES flash fiction competition. Thank you also to the other judges who worked through all the entries to make a long list and a short list.

Flash fiction is sometimes described as being similar to prose poetry. However, while flash may utilise the semantics, rhythm and elliptical leaps of prose poetry it needs a narrative arc. There should be a beginning, a middle and an end, though not necessarily in that order.

Because of the brevity of the form each word must carry its own weight in meaning and allusion. There must be enough information for the reader to fill in the gaps, but not so little that the story is incomprehensible, and not so much that it is bogged down in detail. This requires a skilful use of language and the ability to suggest more than is explicitly stated.

I enjoyed seeing how the ten short-listed stories explored the BRIDGES theme in such interesting and varied ways. In some stories the bridges were metaphorical or symbolic and in others they were real. What I looked for were well-crafted stories with an adept use of language, narrative drive and emotional complexity. The three stories I chose as winners were impressive in the way they depicted anger, grief, tragedy, and a future that was in some
way cut short. Congratulations to the writers of the following stories.

Girls of Summer by Sara Hills

Sandra said: This is a beautifully written story about adolescent assumptions of a bullet-proof life as two young girls dive into a river on a bright summer’s day. The story is heart-rending, authentic and poignant. The ending, with its dreams and hopes loops back to the beginning in such a way that the inevitable outcome is all the more powerful.

Runner-Up: The Boy Who Only Ever Wanted to Build Bridges by Anne Howkins

Sandra said: The beginning of this story is visceral in its depiction of a father venting his anger at his son’s death by destroying all the models
they built together. He finds a book of architecture and shows his wife pictures of bridges. The ending is achingly sad as he tells her the stories he’d told his son about the bridges.

Runner-Up: Unspeakable by Sam Payne

Sandra said: In deceptively subtle language the story of an abusive father unfolds as two siblings meet again after a year apart. One appears to be living on the streets. The other is hiding in a place where no one knows her. What they are running from is shown in powerful imagery such as the brother cutting into the heart of his steak and the girl’s red wine spilling
like blood.

Fantastic stories all – well done to Sara, Anne and Sam!

The next themed flash competition closes on 28th March and the judge, Sherry Morris, has chosen the theme CIRCUS. Get writing!

Join our friendly and lively writing community and you can get entries to these competitions included, along with monthly masterclasses, weekly live flash writing sessions via Zoom, feedback sessions and lots more.

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