Every year we set a Flash Fiction challenge with a unique prize. Can you write a story in 50 words that will spellbind and engage us, and win the chance to have your work published on a limited edition Festival bookmark illustrated by a local artist? There’s also a £50 Waterstones book token for every winning author.

This year the theme was ‘Our World’, and we received nearly 350 entries across the four categories. You can read all the winning and highly commended stories on our blog, which were chosen by competition organiser Jackie Carpenter and her crack team of judges.

We spoke to Jackie to find out more about the Flash Fiction Writing Competition.

What’s been your favourite part of running the competition this year?

Jackie: This is the first year I’ve been involved with the Flash Fiction competition, and my favourite part was the excitement of opening each new entry form and reading a new story.

Where did the idea for a Flash Fiction competition come from?

J: The idea came from a former staff member at QUAD, Sarah Kennedy, who introduced the Festival’s founders Jenny Denton and Sian Hoyle to Flash Fiction. The Festival had always planned to use bookmarks as promotions, so it must have seemed an obvious thing to do!

The first year’s bookmarks were illustrated by the Festival’s design team, but after that it was awarded to students from the University of Derby’s Illustration course as part of a competition – although this year the competition was to design the Festival programme cover, and an illustrator was commissioned for the bookmarks.


This year the theme was Our World – what did you hope to see from the stories coming in?

H: I hoped the theme would give us little peeks into other people’s takes on the world, to see the world afresh through new vision. To me, it meant: how did each individual interpret the same world we share?

Have there been any stories that have stuck with you?

H: There were so many really good stories, that made us laugh, cry, think. It was really hard to narrow it down to just three or four. One story that did stay with me came in during the last couple of days. Using a chess board as a metaphor, it really made me think differently. But it was one word over the word count, so it couldn’t be included. That was such a shame – but worth remembering if you enter in the future.

Are there any words of advice or inspiration you’d like to give to people who might enter next year?

H: Have a go! You never know what you can do until you try. Fewer people aged 12-17 entered, so if you’re that age it really is worth having a go. Be prepared to try a few times, if you don’t like your first effort, do another one.

Avoid clichés and the obvious, really think about what the theme means to you. And count the words! Don’t rely on your computer to count them, count them yourself, and double check you’ve done everything the competition asked.

Read all the winning and highly commended stories from the last two years of the Festival:

Winners and highly commended, 2019

Winners and runners up 2018

And if you need a creative nudge for next year, why not try our list of inspirational ideas?

Sign up for our eshot and get all the latest Festival news sent straight to your inbox.

Derby Book Festival

29 May – 6 June 2020

Site by Codemakers

Derby Book Festival is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales Number 1159763