Slade Graves - Mslexia Women's Flash Fiction Competition 2019 winner

Slade Graves, ‘23rd January

‘Sylvia Plath said: ‘I love my rejection slips.  They show me I try.’ Trying is sometimes rewarded. Winning this contest is what sometimes happens. I challenged myself to push forward in writing this piece of flash fiction.  To push against the reluctant editor that lives inside.  The word count limitations in this genre of fiction call forth the editor.  Some words twist and fall by the wayside clearing the path for others to fall in. When it happens just right there is a brief moment of satisfaction in this endless reach. There is a conciseness in the play. This, my first piece of flash fiction demanded that I sharpen my focus.  I had my eye on the prize all along but to actually win it blindsided me! I am full of gratitude that someone recognised my voice. I am over the moon for being rewarded for my attempt!’

SLADE GRAVES lives in Arizona, where she teaches yoga and is developing an Airbnb business. She has worked as an ecological designer, has taught life-drawing and painting, and run her own recycled clothing stores. She finds toggling these activities with her two forms of art is more productive and rewarding than full-on writing or painting time. But solitude, tea and cats are helpful for the deep-dive that’s essential to produce the art itself. ‘23rd January’ is her first publication.

What did the judge say?

The winning story, ‘23rd January’ by Slade Graves, has a poetic sensibility along with the essential storytelling of flash fiction. I found it gorgeous, original, unforgettable. I felt the rhythm of the prose like a heartbeat, and the images moved me, made me feel and ponder. It’s simple and affecting, with an assured, compelling voice, and lands very powerfully. I applaud this writer for what she achieved in a very short space.

KATHY FISH teaches on the Mile-High MFA at Regis University in Denver, leads two-week intensive Fast Flash Workshops and runs Flash Fiction Retreats with author Nancy Stohlman. Her short fictions have been widely anthologised and also published in five individual collections; the most recent is Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018 (Matter Press). She is the recipient of a 2020 Ragdale Foundation Fellowship and her work has recently appeared in Literature: A Portable Anthology (Macmillan), and The Norton Reader (W W Norton).


And congratulations to the finalists!

  • Tania Hershman, ‘The offer
  • Chelsea Stickle, ‘I told you I would take your hand
  • Laura Theis, ‘Bird girl
'I particularly enjoyed the quick creative exercises, the book suggestions and the job adverts'
Sophie Livall