For a long time now, I have followed the Bath Fiction contests –I even made the short list once. Recently, I asked the Bath people if their upcoming flash fiction was open to mystery and if I could interview the man who was going to judge it. They agreed, and the judge, Michael Loveday, provided answers in a timely manner. However, dear readers, I allowed things in my life to delay the posting of the blog entry and for that I apologize. Fortunately, Michael’s thoughtful answers provide insights into the judging process, into the mind of a person asked to judge a writing contest that I think are useful not only for the Bath contests, but also to other contests we writers might enter. Lesson number one–it is good to get to know a bit about the judge.
So, here, for those writing for the new-ish category on Bath, the Novella in Flash Award, here is the interview with Michael and a bit of information about the contest. He also provided us with a link to an example of the form.
Bath Novella -in-Flash
Independent Judge: Michael Loveday
Closes: Midnight GMT January 14th 2019
Winners: Announced April 2019
Prizes: £300 first, two £100 runners-up
Winner and two runners-up published in a three novella collection
This is a contest with an entry fee and in a genre that is new to me, so I looked up novella -in-flash to discover what it is supposed to be.
Here are Michael’s Gracious answers. For those of you who like to see a judge, face to face, he did provide a photo but I am having some trouble posting photos at the moment. I do not want to delay any longer–you now have five weeks left to enter the contest.
In boca al lupo to everyone.
Joan: Please tell us a bit about the history of your writing career and how you came to be a judge?
Michael Loveday: I started writing in 2001, mainly writing poetry. After a number of courses (mainly writing drivel!), eventually in 2009 I moved on to an MA in Creative Writing, focusing on the poetry pathway, and wanting to “become a poet”, whatever that meant. But one particular module called “Structure and Style” involved being forced to write in other forms. I wrote a short play, and some miniature stories. I absolutely loved and felt at home doing the stories. Although I still write and publish poetry, the short-short stories get written more easily, so they happen more often. As to how I became a judge, after I moved to Bath in 2016 I got to know Jude Higgins, who is based in Somerset and runs the Bath Flash Fiction Award and Flash Fiction Festival. I offered to help at the Festival, and also met Jude at her evening flash fiction events which take place every few months at St. James’s Wine Vaults, a pub just round the corner from me (I’m off there tonight in fact for someone’s poetry launch! – great to have a writing venue so nearby). Jude knew I had published a novella-in-flash, and I was passionate about the form. I was lucky and grateful that she asked me to become judge of the 2019 novella-in-flash competition.
Joan:What are the top three criteria you think make a short mystery successful? Any short story?
Michael: Mystery stories aren’t a specialism of mine, so I’m not sure I’m any more qualified than a general reader to answer that first question. I do tend to prefer endings that seem to emerge organically from character and situation rather than gratuitous plot twists, but I’m not alone in that. As for short stories, I suppose (1) I look for well-crafted sentences written with complete conviction. My favourite writers often read as though there’s an electric current running through their sentences, the vocabulary is so vivid and specific, full of what Jennifer Peironi calls “smart surprise”. Secondly I do enjoy writing with a dash of rage or tenderness in it. And thirdly characters that defy convention – quirkiness, rebellion, madness… people who speak from the margins or who are misfits, round pegs for society’s square holes.
Joan: What are you seeking in general and what especially delights you in a manuscript submission?
Michael: When a really good manuscript arrives, it’s completely compelling from the start. It’s distinctive, contains the unexpected, and uses fresh language to make you see its world and your own world in a fresh way.
Joan:What is an instant turn-off in a submission?
Michael: Not adhering to guidelines! And spelling errors, typos etc make it much harder for the manuscript to be successful. Don’t clip your own wings.
Joan:What are some of your favorite journals/magazines?
Michael:To be honest, there are too many to mention. Editors and journal administrators do a fantastic job, generally unpaid, and often underappreciated. I wouldn’t want to single any out. Here’s a great link that can lead you to many really good journals: https://shortstops.info/literary-magazines-that-publish-short-stories/
I also recommend getting to a local library or shop that stocks (print) magazines publishing fiction. Just browse, nurdle (sic) around and find ones that chime with your interests and style. And maybe buy one or two – support the industry you want to be part of!
Joan: Is there anything else you would like to say to writers who are considering submitting to this opportunity?
Michael: The novella-in-flash is a very special form, a story arc built out of small, compressed narrative moments. Read a few examples (try some of the ones at this link http://www.smokelong.com/twelve-great-flash-fiction-novels-novellas/) and go for it!
Here’s the link to submission to the competition:
Thank you, Michael!