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Derby Book Festival announces Flash Fiction competition winners

By - 25 March 2024 - 10:00am

Read this winning Flash Fiction entries on the theme of 'Spring'

Derby Book Festival has announced the winners of its 2024 Flash Fiction Writing Competition, which this year was on the subject of ‘Spring’. The challenge was to write a story of up to fifty words and 562 entries were submitted across four categories. The winning stories will be printed on Festival bookmarks with illustrations by a University of Derby Illustration and Design student.

The winners: Abi Day (18 and over), Grace Etuwewe (12 – 17 years) and Susannah (11s and under) each receive a £50 Waterstones token and a framed copy of their illustrated story. There was also a category for HMP Foston Hall which generated a record number of entries with 27 in total with the winner, Elizabeth, who will also receive a Waterstones token and framed story. The judges also chose Highly Commended stories in each category (the full list of stories are attached).

The bookmarks will be available at the Summer Festival, which is funded by the University of Derby and Arts Council England with sponsorship from local businesses, and will be held in venues across the city from 30 May – 5 June 2024.

The winning stories will be illustrated by Sama Abu Khalaf, who won a separate competition for University of Derby second year Illustration and Design students, and then printed onto a set of Festival bookmarks which will be available at this year’s Festival.

The winning stories were chosen by a panel of three: Sarah Newton, Festival Trustee and Director of Penguin PR agency and a former journalist; Simon Heywood, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Derby and previous Flash Fiction winner from 2018, Habiba Rana.

The competition, a key activity since the Festival’s inception in 2015, attracts hundreds of entries each year. In previous years, writers have been invited to tackle a variety of themes: ‘Love’, ‘Secrets’, ‘Journeys’, ‘If Only’, ‘Our World’, ‘Home’ and ‘Space’. The theme can be interpreted as widely as the author wishes, so long as the story is no more than fifty words.

Festival Chair, Professor Keith McLay, Provost (Learning & Teaching) at the University of Derby, said: “We are delighted to see that the Flash Fiction Writing Competition continues to inspire people of all ages and walks of life. It is good to see the growth in entries from HMP Foston Hall, and fantastic that University of Derby students are able to showcase their creativity in designing the Festival bookmarks. This is just one great example of how the Festival is supporting cultural engagement in our city.”

The winners and runners-up stories:

18 and over
Winner: Abi Day
Spring Clean

“I hate ladders.” I groan, scrambling into the loft. Boxes, broken suitcases, vacuums, and twelve biscuit tins stuffed with tat. “Why’d he keep them?” I open the nearest, reading its label. Nursery to Primary. It’s filled with pictures, rubbish really. But I well up. Because they’re mine, every last one.

12 – 17s
Winner: Grace Etuwewe
Water for Sale

Pick up bottle. Read label. “Spring Water” it says. “Natural free-flowing source.” It used to flow freely, roaring and rising and replenishing. Not anymore. Now it sits in my hand. Dormant and caged in plastic. Ready to be bought and sold, not free anymore. Still. Shake bottle. Put it back.

11s and under
Winner: Susannah
What happens when the grumpy tree is happy?

What does happen when the grumpy tree is happy? Well ... He woke up today with a smile on his face (you can imagine how fast that rumour spread!). He let birds nest on his branches, he let foxes dig their homes next to him! He even didn't shoo away bugs!

HMP Foston Hall
Winner: Elizabeth

Spring or climate change? Equinox and neap tides, scouring sands and flooding fields. Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils mimicking yellow ducklings diminished by killer kestrel.

And outside? Tax returns, costs, elections with benefits; full moons and MOTs. Whilst here? Sunshine refracted through dirty panes and spring walks traipsed along tarmacked paths.

18 and over
Highly Commended: Jane Ricot
A Name for Life

Aicha leaves her bucket to cool herself in the brown burbling stream. Camouflaged behind a yellowing bush, the cheetah watches, his hind legs tense, ready to spring. He’d never hurt this child, but beware to anything that might. Her name means alive and well. His duty, to keep her so.

Highly Commended: Bronwen Rees

Focus. Eyes on the runup, deep breath, exhale, calm. Go. Stride length and speed perfect. Feet barely touch the board. Flex, spring, hands brushing leather. Into the air, flying, twisting, turning. Keep legs straight, toes pointed. Landing, bend knees to absorb shock, don't step back. Solid. Nailed it - Gold!

12 – 17s
Highly Commended: Eisha Kaur Chandi

Above, the doctor’s grave voice delivered the news. I was in a coma. Weeks passed, but I felt enraged. I was screaming inside, but unable to let them know I was awake. Coiled up like a spring, the thoughts inside came bursting out. To no avail. No-one could hear me.

Highly Commended: Nina Rowland
The Rite of Spring

Headline: Ballerina dances herself to death! Flora Blum, seventeen, ensemble dancer for The Rite of Spring. Frozen, in the middle of the stage, until the end. That’s when she went into hysterics, dancing like a pagan. Her final words: “Spring awakens…” Police declare her dead at the scene. “Hmm, priorities…”

11s and under
Highly Commended: Chloe
Flying springtime

“Woah! Just like that I’m flying!” the breeze whistles and brushes past my fluffy, warm feathers while flowers bloom in the sunlight. I swerve left towards happy and bright clouds other birds pass me singing and humming but out of know where I suddenly fall …

Highly Commended: Tharun
The smartest bird

An eagle said, "Whoever tells me the true meaning of spring is the smartest." A raven appeared with a flower and said it meant spring. But its rival, a parrot, claimed babies meant spring. The cockatoo said spring was about new beginnings. The eagle declared the cockatoo the smartest.

HMP Foston Hall
Highly Commended: Kerry
I am a coiled spring

"I'm like a coiled spring, a lion ready to pounce,

My dissatisfaction grows daily, ounce by ounce,

I try to contradict, to change my mood

I try meditation, anything to improve

Still, the coil winds up, until my belly aches,

Fearing what will happen when the spring

finally breaks"

Highly Commended: Lauren
On your marks

A year ahead she plans,

Grafting, training, honing her skills,

Hard sessions, long sessions, practice runs,

Rest, recovery, food and sleep.

Total focus, total commitment,

One thing in mind.

Now's the big day,

The start line beckons.

Her nerves are building -

part of the plan.

She's coiled like a spring.

Highly commended: Stella


I were born with a spring growing up my spring got bigger, and I'd always Spring, run, to where I had to be, my spring was born within me. I just had to make it work throughout my life, and here I am, 45, rusty as hell.

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