The National Flash Fiction Day Micro Competition

by angela readman

I was recently one of the judges on The National Flash Fiction Day Competition, it was lovely to be asked. Today the results were announced. Congratulations everyone! I loved reading your work! It was really interesting to be involved, as last year’s winner I was on the other side. It was lovely to win, but I wasn’t sure how I did it or what goes on behind the scenes. And it occurred to me, so often when we enter competitions we go in blind. We aren’t always told what the judging process is, and perhaps we would like to know. Perhaps, if nothing else, it gives us confidence the work we are tying up will be treated fairly. (Personally, I always want to know the process. There are so many competitions around these days, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to enter them all! If I know a little about what will happen to my work on the other side I’m much more likely to enter, it gives me faith.)

I very much liked how The National Flash Fiction Day Competition was administered. There were several judges. Over 400 stories were sent to all of us without any names on. In addition to this, they all looked the same. Every story was presented in the same font and size, which surprised me. I know not all competitions can do this and work lands on desks in different fonts, different sizes, (sometimes with pictures on or on different coloured paper!). On the judging side of things, I was grateful they all looked the same. I couldn’t be swayed by a font size being too small, or in that font i don’t like, I couldn’t imagine I may know who had written the work by such things. It was stories. Here they were- words, all with an equal chance of getting my attention.  

The process was, I printed out all the stories first (I know, I know we are kindle people now, there is nothing wrong with reading on a screen, but I personally like a page and felt I’d give each entry more attention this way.) I wanted to sit with a cup a tea and read them at leisure, like I would anything else. I read all the stories over some time and made piles- no, maybe, yes. Then I read everything again, then again. The judges had to submit a list of their top 25. 

Some of the stories were so close to making it through I had to read them again to wittle my top 50 down. If you weren’t in the top 10, I want to tell you- don’t despair. There were some brilliant stories that didn’t make the final top 10, you may well have made it to the top 25, you may have been in some of the judges top 10- it doesn’t mean your work isn’t good. Another competition, another publication, another day- please. I’d hate to think some of those stories I loved won’t get to delight someone else.

Once each of the judges had submitted their top 25 a list of 25 was compiled for the second round. This was a heartbreaking moment, for many of us I’m sure, when some of the stories we personally loved didn’t make it further. It was also a joyous moment to see many of the stories I thought Yes! to on the first read make it. From this 25 the judges chose their top ten, and from these lists the overall winners were decided. Again, it was a joyous and heartbreaking moment- yay! That story I loved made it! Arggg, that story I loved didn’t! Nooo! 

The heartache of judging isn’t something I ever considered before. So many, so close…I wished more could have won. What I loved about it though, was how it was done. No names, identical looking work, multiple judges and a score system- the stories that were rated highest on the most judges lists won in the end. Congratulations to the winners, once again. And if you didn’t win, try again.