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WriteWords 22

Congratulations to the winners and runners-up of WriteWords 2022  

Flash Fiction


Vertigo by Valerie Fox


He Doesn't Believe in Ghosts   

by Geoff Mead 



Wild Weather by Tina Cole


Cockpit Voice Recorder

by Germain Canon

Short Stories:


Animal  by Mary Francis


The Entertainer

by Kate O'Grady

What the Judges said

David Gaffney
Flash Fiction

David Gaffney.jpeg

David Gaffney lives in Manchester. He is the author of several books including Sawn-Off Tales (2006), Aromabingo (2007), Never Never (2008), The Half-Life of Songs (2010), More Sawn-Off Tales (2013), All The Places I’ve Ever Lived (2017) and graphic novel The Three Rooms In Valerie’s Head (2018). He has written articles for The Guardian, Sunday Times, Financial Times and Prospect magazine.


'One hundred and fifty words by Gaffney are more worthwhile than novels by a good many others.' The Guardian. 

His novel Out Of The Dark is out on Confingo in January 2022 and his graphic novel, Rivers, is out now on Top Shelf.


See for more

What keeps me reading? That was the question that I kept asking myself as I read the entries to the Phare flash fiction competition, and there was plenty to keep me reading in these stories – in one, a mysterious network of spores and fungal microorganisms assisted the bodies of murdered women to communicate with each other as they lay buried underground, in another there was a disturbing encounter on a country lane between two joggers than left many questions but no answers- not always a bad thing. Some of the stories made me challenge myself about boundaries and  the way we habitually approach certain subject matters. It felt transgressive. And that's a good thing, I think. What kept me reading the winning story, Veritigo, was the fascinating and curious technique of using crossed out words and phrases throughout which was both intrusive, and compelling. It made me wonder what tone of voice or mannerism you would employ to read out the crossed out bits when you performed it live. It felt like reading two different stories at the same time - a split screen for a short story which might be a first? I loved it and if felt very effective. After all, every time we read a story we sense there is are many different stories lurking behind it and woven in between the sentences like invisible microbial veins of fungi, which the writer has chosen to disguise.  There you go; one of the stories helped to enjoy one of the other stories better. And that’s got to be a good thing. Thank you everyone for keeping me reading and congratulations to the winner and runner up.

Maura High

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Maura High was born in Wales. As a child, she moved often, as her father transferred from one overseas military posting to another. She taught in secondary schools in Nigeria before emigrating to the United States. She now lives and works, as an editor and translator, in North Carolina. A chapbook, The Garden of Persuasions, was published by Jacar Press, and other poems have appeared in online and print journals and anthologies. Her website is

Wild Weather takes risks in its language and form, starting with the title. It uses a common phrase, “wild weather,” provoking the reader to ask what this writer can do to make it wild and strange enough to go past clichéd treatments of weather. The story and domestic situation, even the time frame, are indicated only obliquely. There is authority in the steady and varied music of the lines, in the enjambments, in the precision and richness of its language, in the juxtaposition and patterning in the sequence of images. There are many surprising turns of phrase that pique the imagination. That skill in the crafting of the poem is also evident in the way the story is told, gradually building up through images and fragments of narrative, of a household in which one elderly person is unwell, probably suffering from dementia, and another is painfully aware of the process of disintegration. One can read it and reread it, discovering new things each time, and being increasingly moved by the compassion and reticence and puzzlement of the person setting this all down.


The way Cockpit Voice Recorder unfolds is so appropriate to the title, which alludes not just to the black-box object, the recorder and its recording, but also to the narrator, who is recording that last conversation and all that it entails for the listeners—the person recounting the story and by extension, us, the readers. The fragments of speech by which the poem deftly creates the last moments of the flight, and also a family’s fraught relationships, are framed by the vivid imaginings of the speaker, huddled under the bedclothes as night falls. The narrative is what draws us in and stays with us long after we’ve finished reading.

Electra Rhodes
Short Stories

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El Rhodes is an archaeologist who lives in Cardiff and Wiltshire. She writes a range of prose and prose poetry, is widely published and anthologised, and has placed in more than forty competitions in the last year. Her polyphonic flash novella, Sextet was recently shortlisted for the Louise Walters Books ‘Page 100’ competition and is now on submission; her CNF manuscript, My Family & Other Folklore was long-listed in Canongate’s 2021 Nan Shepherd Prize and is also out on submission; she won last year’s Elliott & Thompson ‘Spirit of Summer’ Flash CNF prize; The Phare’s ‘Write Words’ Short Story competition; and the the Intrepid Times ‘Reunions’ Travel Writing Prize; and recent prose work has been nominated for the BIFFY50, the BOTN, and the Pushcart Prize. 

One of the joys of a writing competition with an open theme is that you never know what you’re going to read. With a theme you get to admire the ingenuity of diverse interpretations, but an open category bounces you straight into a range of worlds.


This is true for this year’s Write Words Short Story shortlist, they all present interesting characters, interesting circumstances, and a narrative impetus that means you let your tea get cold while you read to the end. Despite their differences, there are commonalities - extended metaphor, sidereal peregrinations, external threat.


I like to read each piece several times and let it wiggle in my mind. I do the washing up. I cook the tea. I wander round the local Lidl. I give it time to wheedle its way into me, like woodworm through the timbers of a rough-hewn ship, waiting to see which one is going to sink me, drag me to the depths, and won’t let go.


This time, the story that grabbed me was Animal, I love how it only partially braids the past with the protagonist’s present. It isn’t that it’s evasive, it just invites you to infer what’s been left out as well as in. It’s writing that pushes the reader and trusts them. Likewise for the story in second, The Entertainer poses more questions than it answers but it signposts the reader without coddling them, is generous in invoking compassion for the protagonist, and lands the ending with a pleasing aplomb.



Winners of each category will:

  • win £150

  • appear in our competition issue to launch April 2022.

  • be invited to record their entry for our Podcast page

  • take part in on-going publicity

Runners-up of each category will:

  • win £50

  • appear in our competition issue to launch April 2022.

  • take part in on-going publicity

Prizes will be paid through PayPal or direct bank transfer.

All winners, runners-up and long-listed will be published in The Phare’s competition issue in March 2022.

No correspondence can be entered into. Judges’ decisions are final.

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