Winners, Oct 8th Great Festival Flash Off Writing Challenge

We’re channelling The Great British Bake Off TV show again in our trio of online days. On the first day, Jude offered a ‘signature’ writing prompt based on this painting,’The Green Cloth’, from 1976, by Norwegian artist. Roald Kyllingstad. Writers were asked to pick details from the painting and think of ‘what if’ scenarios including some of these details and write a piece of up to 350 words. There were some very inventive takes on this.

Thank you to everyone who entered and we’re now delighted to announce the winners. The first prize winner receives three free entries to plus two Ad Hoc Fiction books and publication here and in our forthcoming festival anthology. The runners up also receive three free entries and one book from Ad Hoc Fiction plus publication.
Diane Simmons judged the competition and first prize goes to Anika Carpenter and the two runners up to S. A. Greene and Kathryn Aldridge=Morris. Congratulations to all!

Diane’s general comments are here and we have posted the winning stories and her specific comments below.

Diane’s General Comments
“I really liked the painting by Roald Klyingerstad that Jude provided as a prompt and was impressed with the wide variety of stories it inspired. The image of the frying pan on the wall though proved to be a little problomatic as it generated a number of stories about the murder of a spouse – a rather well-worn theme in short fiction competition submissions. I think writing from a prompt that other writers are also using can be tricky and it’s perhaps a good idea for the writer to discard the first idea that comes into their head as the chances are that someone else will have come up with that idea too.”


Diane’s Comments

‘Interview with Alice Moore, Potion Maker’

“This flash, told in the form of an interview, has an interesting structure and a title that helps the reader understand from the off what is going on. It’s confidently written and it feels like the author had fun writing it. I felt in safe hands from from the first sentence and was immediately engaged, smiling more than once as I read.”

Anika Carpenter

Interview with Alice Moore, Potion Maker

Alice Moore’s love potions are credited with bringing together over eighty per cent of the couples in Worthing, but after twenty years of playing cupid, she still lives alone.

Moore has been working as the town’s potion maker since she was seventeen, mixing remedies in her one bedroom first-floor flat; initially, traditional treatments for stomach cramps and colds. Cures for heartache came later.

When I arrive, Moore doesn’t offer me a seat, or a coffee, not because she is a poor host, but because it’s just not possible. Moore has only one chair and one mug; one iron frying pan hanging beneath one wooden shelf, one shining white plate on one table. She’s quick to explain, ‘I can’t have pairs or sets of anything. It’s vital I feel absence. Without the addition of genuine longing, my potions would be useless.’ What Moore has plenty of is jars, dozens filled with dark brown liquid, the kind you’d find in a forgotten vase of flowers; discoloured, stagnant. She has them perched on window sills, beside the cooker, on top of the fridge; a captivated, slowly fermenting audience.

I ask Moore about her teenage heartbreak. The infamous registry office no-show. Does the rejection still sting? She laughs. ‘I look him up on Facebook. It’s easy to see how unhappy we would’ve been.’ She shows me his profile. There’s nothing personal, only memes and links to Acid House tracks. What of the rumours Moore hasn’t left her flat since her eighteenth birthday? ‘It’s folklore. Plenty of locals have photos of me at their wedding.’

I’m curious to know why she’s limited her production to love potions. ‘Look, what I make, it’s fetid, tastes foul. You wouldn’t drink it just for a sore belly. But for love, you would.’ She invites me to taste some, promising that when she makes up a potion, she doesn’t have particular people in mind. ‘I don’t believe in contrived infatuation,’ she tells me.

I’ve not been able to stop thinking about Moore’s flat, the love that’s brewing, the space by the table where my chair would fit so comfortably.

Anika Carpenter lives and works in Brighton, UK. Her stories can be found in Ellipsis Zine, The Molotov Cocktail, Reflex Fiction and Janus Literary. Her work has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Prize and the Bridport Prize. You can find her via her website or Twitter @stillsquirrel

Diane’s comments.
‘What if the Sun’
“I just loved the details in this story: the appliqued strawberries on the espadrilles, the plastic heart-shaped glasses, the damsons bleeding into reddening gin… It’s beautifully written, making effective use of repetition.”

S. A. Greene

What if the Sun

    …woke up that morning feeling conscientious and immediately set to work peeking through windows and saw a woman at a table in a kitchen with her face cupped in her hand? What if the Sun observed that all the colours in that kitchen were ebbing gently away like love can from a marriage and, not liking what it saw, breathed fierce rays at the window to make the room so hot the woman was forced to lift her face from her hand, rise from the table and rush to the bedroom to change out of her warm black clothes? What then?

    Would the Sun, still at the window, see Anna dance back to the kitchen in her strappy lemon sundress and the espadrilles with appliquéd strawberries and the ironic plastic heart-shaped shades instead of her big serious glasses? And would the kitchen brighten at the sight of her, the colours swimming back into the gooseberry-green tablecloth, the terracotta walls, the damsons bleeding into reddening gin in glass jars on the windowsill? Would the aspidistra wave its arms at her in summery camaraderie? Would the window fling itself open to swellings of birdsong and the distant smell of pine from the forest where she once walked with the giver of her wedding ring?

    And then would Anna smile?

    What if that pale and pitiless morning the Sun hadn’t woken feeling lazy? What if it hadn’t closed its eye and gone straight back to sleep, pulling a cloud-grey blanket over itself, leaving Anna all alone behind her big sad glasses with her face cupped in her hand, remembering faded birdsong and lost walks in old pine forests as she stares at the door, watching for the ever-absent owner of her wedding ring?

    What if the Sun hadn’t waited until 13:27 before looking through the window? Would it still find Anna Ingersoll, aged 39 years and 2 days, with her cheek flat on the table, one arm outstretched beside her, the other limp and dribbling rivulets of Anna onto the reddening floor; and those big sad lonely glasses staring blindly at the door?

    S. A. Greene has written about a musical vagina (Reflex Fiction LL), a foetus with dodgy political views (NFFD Anthology) and a man with a cardboard box over his head (Flash Flood ’21, Bath Flash Festival anthology 4, and Pushcart nomination.) A story featuring a blue sponge (Janus Lit.) made this year’s Wigleaf 50 Longlist and another piece – yet to be published – made this year’s Bridport Shortlist.


Diane’s Comments
‘Cold Toast’
“This was an engaging story and the products such as pop-telephone directories, Wagon Wheels and C&A, all help place the story firmly in the 1970s. I am a big fan of strong endings and this one worked really well”

Kathyrn Aldridge-Morris
Cold Toast

In the seventies we become mothers. We buy brown curtains and burnt- orange sofas and make homes for husbands who don’t come home at night. We make toast and marmalade and set the table and we get the kids ready for school. We put Clubs and Kit Kats and Wagon Wheels and white bread sandwiches in Tupperware lunchboxes. We have cream rotary telephones and pop-up telephone directories with our girlfriends’ names. Our phones ring sometimes in the night. Always during the day. In the seventies we answer the phone and say 648-9938 HELLO? or whatever number it is—so many things we can’t forget. We hear the breath of other women on the other end, and we move the magnifying slider from A-Z, each letter popping up a new possibility. We call Speaking Clock to hear another adult voice, to know we’re not going mad: the kids are late for school, our husbands are late back, from their shifts, their picket lines, their liquid lunches. The Speaking Clock tells us it is eight twenty-five and thirty-six seconds. We call back, and the Speaking Clock tells us it is eight twenty-five and fifty-five seconds. We pack the kids off to school and our phones ring again when the house is empty, and we let them ring. We sit with our husband’s toast and write up our study notes from Open University courses aired at two in the morning. We learn about psychology and sociology and all the ologies we never dreamt we’d be good at before we got jobs at Lewis’s, Woolworths, and C&A. When our husbands come back with just enough time to shower and change into new shirts, we cry and we scream, What time do you call this? and they ask if we’ve had our Valium, prise our arms from their waists and go again.

In the seventies, we eat cold toast, we call the Speaking Clock, and we wait for our time.

Kathryn Aldridge-Morris has work published in a variety of print and online journals including New Flash Fiction Review, Pithead Chapel, Flash Frog, Bending Genres, Janus Literary, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. Her stories also appear in several anthologies, most recently And if that Mockingbird Don’t Sing (Alt Current Press, 2022) and she has two shortlisted stories in the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology Snow Crow. She lives in Bristol and tweets @kazbarwrites

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