Is #Writing #Fiction about Having Fun?

Bath Flash Fiction Award: Shortlisting and Judge's Commendation

As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog,  we heard from Tara L. Masih last week. Today, it is my pleasure to welcome Jude Higgins, a UK author, writing coach and the founder of the Bath Short Story Award and the Bath Flash Fiction Award. She gives great advice about the writing life, flash fiction, submitting to writing contests, and how to keep fiction writing fun. I’ve highlighted the parts I found particularly insightful in blue.

  1. What brought you to fiction?

Our house is full of books and I’ve always read a lot but I never tried writing fiction until I joined a writing group with award winning novelist Lindsay Clarke in the 1990s. I was hooked from the beginning. Completing my first short story draft was like crossing the ocean in a rowing boat. I still love the challenge of writing – you can try anything you want, even if it seems impossible.

2. What writing rules would you personally never break?

I’m not so keen on the word ‘rule’ – all rules can be broken in experimental writing but I do avidly read suggestions about writing from authors I admire. This list by Thomas Morris, whose debut story collection I refer to later, is partiuclarly good. My mantra is ‘you can always learn something new, however old you are‘. For me, this is applies to life, as well as writing.

3. What makes a successful short story? How is it similar or different from successful flash fiction?

Today I’ve read A Ford Mondeo, a story by novelist, poet and short-story writer, Gerard Woodward, from his 2008 collection, Caravan Thieves. It’s both deeply unsettling and witty, and raised many questions. Flash fiction can work in the same way. It’s exciting to read tiny pieces where the language sparkles and much is said in few words. For me, a story of any length is successful if it lingers after reading.

4. For a writer joining a writing group, what advice do you have based on your experience of running workshops?

Ask if it’s fun. I run sessions in Bath with my colleague Alex at Writing Events Bath  In these groups, we introduce prompts to spark off short pieces. Beginners feel encouraged, experienced writers enjoy a boost. In a feedback writing group, writers need to be willing to ask for and accept precise, concrete feedback from anyone who has read and thought carefully about their work. The feedback process should be fun too. Writing is playing.

5. Could you link us to three of your short stories on line. Why did you choose these in particular?

A flash fiction, Their Memories,  was inspired by a photograph on the Visual verse website and the piece was later highly commended in the 2015 Ink Tears Flash Fiction competition.  I chose it because the pace works well. Both Maturity,  one of ten winners in the National Flash Fiction Day micro contest and When I Met the Devil,  share an enduring theme about the mother/daughter relationship.

6. You mentor aspiring writers. What are the qualities that incline you towards mentoring them?

I will mentor any writer or budding writer who wants one-off sessions or on-going support to get them started or to continue a project if they are stuck. I’ve many years experience of one-to-one work from my long career as a Gestalt Psychotherapist. Read more on my blog.

7. Could you recommend any three books you’ve read recently, and that you think all aspiring writers should read?

I’m currently reading two new debut short story collections – We don’t know what we’re doing,  by Thomas Morris, who edits the literary magazine The Stinging Fly in Ireland and Dinosaurs on Other Planets by Irish Writer, Danielle McLaughlin.

I’m also reading Rift,  an exciting flash fiction collaboration by well-known flash fiction writers from the United States, Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan. Be prepared to be challenged and awestruck by the quality of the writing in all three collections.

8. You run the Bath Short Story Award and the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Could you tell us more about these?

I launched Bath Short Story Award with friends from my Bath writing group four years ago. We thought Bath needed an international short story contest with a substantial prize fund to complement the two literary festivals hosted in the city each year. The contest has grown rapidly and several up-and-coming writers have won the main prizes. We have a special prize for unpublished writers and produce a print and digital anthology each year.

A year ago, I set up another big prize competition, the International Bath Flash Fiction Award  to spread my enthusiasm for reading and writing very short fiction. It’s enhanced by another Bath Flash project – Ad Hoc Fiction, a popular free weekly micro competition where each week, longlisted writers have the chance to be published in an easy-to-read ebook. The week’s winner, chosen by public vote, receives a free entry to the main contest. The second round of Bath Flash fiction ended on 14th February and you can read the winning pieces on the website.

The third round, judged by Michelle Elvy, writer and editor of the literary journal Flash Frontier and founder of National Flash Fiction Day, New Zealand, is open for entries and closes 12th June. We’re looking forward to more exciting reads from around the globe.

9. What are the three things you wish you knew when you first started off writing?

    • Make many radical drafts. Keep asking what your story is really about.
    • Write from the white-hot core of your being. (And have fun!).
    • Years slip by quickly, so if you love writing, don’t stop.



Jude Higgins is a writer, writing tutor and writing events organiser. She founded the International Bath Flash Fiction Award and co-runs The Bath Short Story Award and Writing Events Bath. Jude has an MA in Creative WritingFiction Writing Fun Jude Higgins from Bath Spa University and writes short stories and flash fiction. Her work has been successful in many writing competitions and she’s published in Visual Verse, Landmarks, (the 2015 anthology for National Flash Fiction Day), the Fish Prize Anthology, 2014 and Cinammon Press.

Is fiction writing fun? Do you write short stories or flash fiction? Do you submit your stories to writing contests? What issues do you face while writing fiction? Do you have questions for Jude ? Have at it in the comments!

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  1. sargondorsai

    This is a fantastic interview. So many great pieces of advice being shared.

    The two most important pieces of information (to me) that I took away from this interview were that “Writing is Playing” and to “Make many radical drafts.”

    The other thing I took away from this was to just keep writing! No matter what, no matter how long it takes, just keep writing.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Jude

      Thank for your feedback. Much appreciated. Hope you have a playful writing day. If you want to try a free little contest, you can play around with 150 words in And you might win a prize…

  2. Gargi Mehra

    Damyanti the site looks great! Also I loved this interview and especially the 3 bits of advice at the end. These points are so important but we often forget to enjoy our writing and continue questioning our story.

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Thanks, Gargi! Yes, Jude is full of good advice: I’m glad you liked her interview.

    • Jude

      Thank you for your feedback. I just have to remember to follow my own advice and also send the inner-critic on holiday. Jude

  3. macjam47

    There’s a lot of great advice in the post, especially the question and answer to 3. What makes a successful short story? How is it similar or different from successful flash fiction? – I think that any writing is successful if it is memorable for the reader, short story, flash, or novel.

    • Jude

      Yes, some great works of fiction just stick around all your life, don’t they? Amazing when you think about it.

  4. Rachael Mare

    I love the quote “Writing is playing.” So true, and it’s when we forget that that things get difficult, no? And our writing gets worse. I always try to tell myself when I sit down to work that I am just playing. Writing notes. Whatever comes into my head about this thing I’m working on. Having fun!

    • Jude

      Hi there, I like your point about writing becoming difficult when we forget to play. And it’s always a shame when play is labelled as only something children do.

  5. jazzfeathers

    Enjoyed the interview a lot. I like your ideas abotu ‘rules’. I think we should be elastic about them… but we should also know them very well, how they work and especially why they exist. Only them can we decide when, how and why to break them.

    I’ve been a member of an online workshop for many years and I recommand that experience to anyone. It was a great learing curve for me. I learned a lot and a lot faster then before.
    May be awkword at the begging, it does take time to get accustomed to be critiqued, but when you get over it, there’s a lot to enjoy and learn.

    Thanks to both for sharing this 🙂

    • Jude

      Yes, like it when those grammar rules go into the back ground and you don’t have to think about them. Being critiqued can be fascinating can’t it? When I did the MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University a few years ago, it was so interesting getting feedback from a wide range of people of different ages, genders and nationalities.

  6. Stephen

    Yes writing fiction is the best thing that I often love to do if not sketching though sketching is primary to me. Fiction writing is a process that invokes to mind to go an extra mile and makes you live in an imaginary fantasy world where you meet people and write stuffs about them and make it awesome. I love it because they stroll inside my mind. I loved reading your views and the answers 🙂

  7. BeckyHelps

    I’m currently reading OUTRUN by Amy Liptrot and I’m finding it really hard to put the book down. I’ve work to do, but keep diving in and having a read, a bit longer, just a bit longer, drats look at the time!!!!

    • BeckyHelps

      Answering number 7 of your list, I recommend the book above:
      OUTRUN by Amy Liptrot. I bought it online on Sunday, it arrived on Monday and I finished it last night after not being able to put it down for long.
      As number 3 in your list, the success in her story is sobriety after being washed up by drinking in London. I don’t normally read biographies, but this had so much going on. It included interesting information about Orkney, wildlife and ancient, prehistoric monuments in a personal story that is as unique as Amy.

  8. Jacqui Murray

    Wonderful interview. I especially liked your thoughts on rules. I’m with whoever it was who said (can’t remember who) that once you know the rules, you can intelligently break them. But it starts with knowing them.

  9. miladyronel

    An enjoyable post. Especially liked number 9. 😉
    I’m having a bit of fun with extra characters from my novels by writing short stories about them and posting them on Wattpad. By writing their adventures in the form of short stories that don’t have to really follow each other, I’m getting a better sense of these characters and how they will act in future events in my novels by how their past in formed in these stories I write based on visual prompts. (It gets a little weird at times… Who knew magical libraries existed in mountains?)
    I entered my first short story competition last year, writing something quite different from my usual topics and genre, and was a runner up. 🙂 I learned a lot by writing in a shorter medium – I’m applying these lessons to my novel writing.

  10. BeckyHelps

    It’s hard to see the pale blue writing on the white background, that’s used on link words here. If it was just a bit darker I think it would help. I’m reading this and enjoying learning what is said, but for the difficult pale blue bits 🙁 e.g. Bath Short Story Award

          • BeckyHelps

            I’m in more light here. I can see it. So it must be working. 🙂 Thanks, I might even give it another read when I have time (I put it in my Bookmarks).

            • Damyanti Biswas

              Great! I’ve just moved to my own domain and am still tweaking my site, so every bit of feedback helps. thanks for your patience, and generosity.

  11. ianscyberspace

    Writing can be fun but it has its serious intent too. I write as a hobby and for the purpose of sharing my thoughts with family and friends for their input and enjoyment. Sometimes I’m moved to write about my own personal experience, sometimes I write mini-novels for the fun of the exercise, but sometimes a social issue moves me and I try to construct a fictional story with a clear social message. Writing can be a compelling urge and is not a mechanical thing. From just one sentence a story flows without prior thinking or a plan, alternatives are quickly grasped or discarded and it’s difficult to interrupt the continuing thought process and pick up threads again. Sometimes an unfinished work has to be discarded because inspiration is lost where there is a gap in writing the story. I’m never satisfied with a finished work but consider it work in progress going back over stories I’ve written long ago and tinkering with words. I write because of the love of writing and it doesn’t bother me that I’m not classified in the professional league. 🙂

    • Jude

      Hello there, I like how you write about all the different purposes of writing for you. To go with this interview, I wrote a bit more about what I mean by ‘fun’ in writing on my blog Love your phrase ‘Writing can be a compelling urge, and is not a mechanical thing’

  12. Indywrites

    Such sound and wise advice. It is always so motivating to read your posts. Loved this…..Years slip by quickly, so if you love writing, don’t stop.

  13. hilarymb

    Hi Damyanti and Jude – what a great guest .. giving us the low down on starting out. I don’t write stories – long or short .. but one day I’ll give it a try. Congratulations on such achievement with your Bath Story Writers .. Cheers Hilary

    • Jude

      Hello there, Thank you very much for your nice feedback. If you did want to give writing a go, it’s ever so easy to write for,our free weekly contest. You can write straght on a page the website, it tells you when the word count is up, and reminds you if you haven’t used the prompt word and you can just play around. Then you just press a button and it’s submitted!

  14. abuamirah

    That’s very inspiring. Am looking at the links posted here and they are just splendid. I have been trying my hand at flash fiction and i would really love some help and insight. Thank you

    • Jude

      Hi there. Glad you found it inspiring and liked the links. Just to say, if you keep entering the free weekly micro contest, that we organise at Bath Flash Fiction you can try your hand at all sorts of styles of flash. Also,if you read and vote to choose a winner, that helps you think how a story works which also helps with the writing,
      All the best,Jude.

      • Kloudiia

        Thanks for this great piece, Damyanti, and thanks Jude for confirming that writing can be fun, though at times, pretty testing!

        On another note, would like to know what, in your opinion, is the one thing that makes a good story great?

        • Jude

          Hello there, it’s a very interesting question. There’s one story Funes the Memorias, by Argentinian writer, Jorge Borges which I read when I was about 19. I would put in that in the category of great. It’s not only his prose style but the layers of meaning in the story. I think reading it, might have begun a life long interest in the nature of perception.
          May be that’s the one thing that makes a story – it teaches something new, provides a completely new angle on the world?