We have never done this before, but to shake things up a bit, we are going to pull-back our veil of secrecy and reveal our three stellar judges for the 2018 InkTears short story contest, and let them each tell you what they are looking for.

Joanna Campbell, Hannah Persaud, and Melanie Whipman

All three have won InkTears prizes, and many other writing awards, and have in-depth knowledge on what it takes to write a winning story

Joanna Campbell

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Joanna is a full-time writer from the Cotswolds. Her work has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. She won the 2015 London Short Story Prize. In 2017, her flash-fiction story, Confirmation Class, came second in the Bridport Prize and the Bath Flash Fiction Award published her novella-in-flash, A Safer Way To Fall.

Her short story collection, When Planets Slip Their Tracks,published by InkTears, was shortlisted for the 2016 Rubery Book Award and longlisted for the 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize. In 2015, Brick Lane published her novel, Tying Down The Lion.

In 2018 her story, Nearly There, was chosen for publication in 24 Stories of Hope for Survivors of the Grenfell Fire. In the same year, her story, Brad’s Rooster Food, shortlisted in the Royal Academy Pin Drop Award, was chosen for A Short Affair, an anthology published by Simon and Schuster. She is currently editing her second novel. Website: Joanna-Campbell.com


What I look for in a story...

I’m looking for a story which stops the clock. I want my world to close down, to forget I’m judging, forget I’m reading, and be fully immersed in the realm the writer has created. I would like the central character to face a conflict or dilemma and then drive the action, rather than be passively steered through the story by the plot. Give me someone I can picture, someone who intrigues me, someone I can root for. I don’t need to like them, but I do need to care about their fate.

I hope to be pulled into the narrative from the opening sentence. In a short story, there is no time for lengthy build-up or scene-setting or back story. Take me straight into the action, then weave in a contextual detail here and there, but only once your story has already held me in its thrall. There is no need to use artwork or photographs to illustrate your story. The words should tell me all I need to know. Anything extra is a distraction.

Your story needs to be told in an original, compelling and memorable voice, which sets it apart from the hundreds and hundreds of other entries. If that voice stays with me after I finish reading, I am far more likely to recommend it for the shortlist.

Hannah Persaud

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Hannah has been writing for three years, juggling it around her young family and her paid job. Hannah won the InkTears short story contest in 2017 and was runner up in 2016. This year she was shortlisted for the Cambridge Short Story Prize and has had flash fiction, short stories and poems published in numerous publications including Ellipsis Zine, Riggwelter Press, Flash & Cinder, TSS Publishing and Dodging the Rain. In the past three years Hannah has had stories shortlisted and longlisted with The Brighton Prize, Magic Oxygen and The Royal Academy Pin Drop Award, amongst others. In 2016 she won the Fresher Writing Short Story Prize. Hannah is represented by Laura Macdougall of United Agents, and recently completed her debut novel, Margins of Truth. She is currently writing her second novel. You can contact Hannah via @HPersaud / www.hannahpersaud.com


What I look for in a story...

I want short stories to follow me around for days after I’ve read them, pestering me for my attention. The best stories have their own heartbeat.  I adore visceral language and evocative descriptions but these need to be woven into a compelling narrative that spurs me forward. I am not a fan of stories that hinge on a twist. A great story can pivot on the subtlest of detail; the pause before opening a door or a change in tempo. A short story can withstand an intensity that the novel can’t – be brave, be bold, I can’t wait to read your entries.

Melanie Whipman

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Melanie is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Chichester; leads creative writing workshops in Farnham, and is commissioning editor for The Story Player. Her stories have won numerous prizes and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Her debut short story collection, Llama Sutra, was published in 2016. It was the winner of the Rubery International Book Award short story category and was a contender for the 2017 Edge Hill Prize. She is currently editing her novel, which was written during her MA in Creative Writing, and which was awarded the Kate Betts Prize. Website: www.melaniewhipman.com 


What I look for in a story...

It’s tricky to know exactly what I’m looking for. A good short story presents both a microcosm and magnification of life. it has to be something well-written, compressed, that exposes our human frailties in some way, yet isn’t didactic, that resonates, that surprises and challenges and so forth. It’s about balance too - a balance of all the ‘ingredients’ of a short story: character, setting, tone, tension, etc. Often it’s just a certain alchemy that you can’t define, but you know it when you read it, and the best ones have the power to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. 

The InkTears Annual Short Story Competition is open now.

You can find the full details here