Saturday, 6 May 2017

A Ship Called Crazy And Other Stories 21 May 2017

In total 82 Gloucestershire writers submitted 109 stories - the second highest number of submissions ever - for the now sold-out 21 May event at the SVA, John Street, Stroud. All 82 authors have now been contacted. Below is a statement from my co-judge on this occasion, short story author, Ali Bacon. In my view, this was the highest quality batch of stories ever received for a SSS event. Reducing the final 20 brilliant pieces to 10 was particularly hard.

Here are the 10 we have chosen for the event (in librarians' alphabetical order by title) -

Bodgers - Claire Morris (Cirencester)

Dream Noir - David Jay (Stroud)
Journeys - Philip Douch (Stroud)
Keeping Time - Jan Petrie (Sheepscombe)
Paper Sails - Joanna Campbell (Bisley)
Platform 2 - Pam Keevil (Ruscombe)

A Ship Called Crazy - Katherine Hunter (Stroud)
Spring Clean - Sian Breeze (Chalford)
Stolen Orange - Michael Hurst (Cheltenham)
#truebeauty - Jason Jackson (Kingswood, South Gloucestershire)

Congratulations to these authors. I can't wait to hear them read their brilliant stories on 21 May. They will also be offered publication in our next anthology due in 2018. Four have read at SSS before, but six will be making their debuts. It's worth bearing in mind, if your story is not in the ten, that at least three of the writers making their debuts have submitted to SSS previously.

It's really important to me that writers who submitted should not conclude that these are the only outstanding stories to be submitted. That's far from being the case. 

Here is Ali Bacon's statement as co-judge -

As a long-time fan of Stroud Short Stories, and as someone who has submitted several times (not always successfully!) I was thrilled to be asked to act as John's co-judge. It's been an absolute joy to see the range of imagination and creativity on display in the stories submitted, and an absolute headache choosing 10 stories out of the 109 we received. Of these, nearly all were worth considering and a high proportion ranked as possible contenders straight away. Even after some serious sifting, those we judged to be ‘outstanding’ were double the number we needed.  
If you were not successful this time I think it’s important to reassure you that the judging is fair and rigourous - every single story is read by both judges. And your submissions are anonymised so we do not know the identity of the author. 
In reading your stories, you have made me think harder about what actually makes a good story. A few weeks ago I would have said that a good (i.e. satisfying) ending was paramount, but then what is a good ending if the start or the middle fall short? A story has only a short time to grab our attention - all of it has to work for the reader. And since we have only listeners (with no time to mull over or flick back) at the SSS event, it all has to work straight away.

That’s a tall order, so I thought you might like to know what, for me, separated the outstanding stories from the simply good.

I wanted to feel the writer was in absolute control, that as a reader I was in safe hands as the story unfolds, which I think comes from a mastery of language and style. It’s a kind of technical merit, I suppose, but without it the artistry fails. Linked to this is the issue of clarity. I wanted to be clear about what was happening - not in the sense of knowing where the story was going, but being able to follow every step without hesitation. I want to be intrigued but not mystified or hoodwinked.

With the more technical criteria satisfied, I looked for interest and originality. Which brings me to the last and most subjective part of the selection process - the impact on the audience - the entertainment value to the reader/listener.  Will it get a reaction and stick in the audience’s minds? For this a satisfying ending is crucial of course - which brings me back to where I began!

These are my own views, and not necessarily John’s, but I’m glad to say that when it came to putting forward our own favourites for inclusion in the final ten, the overlap was gratifyingly high. A final thanks to you all - the writers of Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire - who have taken part. You are all amazing, and if you didn’t make it this time, keep trying.
Ali Bacon

Thank you, Ali, for being such a brilliant judge.

NB If anyone has a spare ticket for the event (which has sold out), or wants to join the waiting list for returns that come my way, please email me at

I hope to see many of you at 'A Ship Called Crazy And Other Stories'. 


John Holland
Organiser, Stroud Short Stories
Twitter @StroudStories