Flash Fiction Slam 2017 winner Phil Olsen on impressing the judges

At The Northern Short Story Festival Flash Fiction Slam, flash fiction writers compete to win prizes, glory, and the respect of their peers, by reading their shortest stories of 5 minutes or under, out loud to an audience. Winners get a bundle of books, publication on the Northern Short Story Festival website, a detailed story critique by Strix editor SJ Bradley, and a coveted and hotly-contested place in the Flash Fiction Hall of Fame. This year’s judges will be Tania Hershman and Benjamin Judge. You can book your tickets for this year’s Slam here.

Here Phil Olsen, who won in 2017 with his story “The Haunted Pan”, tells all about his experience of impressing the judges.

“I remember being on the train from Liverpool to Leeds, fanning out my concertina string of tickets for various workshops and panel discussions. In the middle was a ticket for the first ever NoShoSto Flash Fiction Slam. Oh no! I realised I’d left the print-out of my flash piece at home! So, I had to re-write ‘The Haunted Pan’ in my pocket notepad from memory. Perhaps that’s what did the trick – the extra run-through of dialogue under my breath, next to the luggage rack.

Aside from the dazzling spotlight, the theatre was dark, but the crowd sounded warm and everyone was getting big claps. Without my A4 print-out to clutch onto with both hands, I found myself involuntarily gesticulating with haunted arms. Perhaps that’s what did the trick – the hands, physically guiding my protagonist as he took a running jump at a wall.

I’m sure all writers experience ebbs and flows in their confidence but winning this was a real boost for me. Hearing your work read out loud helps sharpen it and I’d definitely recommend it. At the moment I’m trying to write some longer short stories. I’ve recently been appointed Fiction Editor at Sabotage Reviews, which means I’m reading a lot more too, honing my critiquing skills and looking out for what works, for what does the trick.”

Phil’s story certainly impressed the judges, and The Haunted Pan was awarded first place. The competition that year was tough, with nine other talented writers competing for the top prize, but judges commended Phil’s story for its humour and for his compelling performance.

Fancy entering our Flash Fiction Slam, or maybe you just want to come along and hear brilliant new stories from our competitors? Book tickets here. 

Booking is now open for competitors’ slots at the Flash Fiction Slam. To book your slot, email northernshortstoryfestival @gmail.com from 10am on Wednesday 1st May onwards. Please tell us your name, give us your Twitter handle, if you have one, and the approximate length of your piece. Be quick though, because once the pre-bookable slots are gone, they’re gone! There will also be slots available to sign up on the door.

The prizes are as follows….

1st place: Publication on Northern Short Story Festival website; a book bundle; entry into the Flash Fiction Slam Hall of Fame; and a detailed short story critique for a short story of up to 3000 words by author and Strix editor SJ Bradley.

2nd place: Publication on Northern Short Story Festival website + book bundle