Posts filed under Competitions

Winner of the Bath Flash Fiction Award - Things Left and Found by the Side of the Road

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Chuffed beyond words to have won the February 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Award with my piece of flash fiction, Things Left and Found by the Side of the Road

It was written (in my head) driving home from my friend's house in a stream of listicle consciousness and took shape at home later, constrained by the modest 300 word limit. It was going to be a poem but I am not a poet and I have a soft spot for one-paragraph stories. 

Fun fact: The errant imaginary friend was real (at least to me), and his name was Tan Tan. And one fateful day he was flung from an open window somewhere on the A23, never to be seen (or unseen) again.

Celebrating with pizza and ice cream (even though it's snowing here right now) because that is how we roll. 

Thank you to judge Tara L. Masih and the Bath Flash Fiction Award team. I won't traumatise you with video evidence but just imagine the happy dancing going on in my house at this very moment. 


Bare Fiction and an interview

Hey, here's some quick news:

bare fiction prize results

My story, And There, was chosen for the shortlist of the Bare Fiction flash fiction prize, which is pretty damn cool. The full rundown of winners and runners up for all categories can be found here. Massive congratulations to everyone on the list!


Just before Christmas, Scott Mullins interviewed me for This is Writing about inspiration, fear, writing habits aaaaand sex puns. If you'd like to ask me about writing - or simply have an awkward question you'd like to challenge me with - you can do so at my Goodreads page.


You can find a lot of my short fiction online here, and a handful of other interviews here. Or dive right in and buy a copy of White Lies. I would like that a lot.

2014: an excellent year of booky things

2015 snuck up like a sneaky thing with sneaky bits, didn't it? Jo Gatford books

All things told, 2014 was a pretty good year for my bookshelves. My first novel, White Lies, was published by Legend Press, my story, Bing Bong, won the Fiction Desk flash fiction competition, another story, Someone Elsewas a finalist in the Aesthetica Creative Writing competition, and yet another, Vitamaximafeatured in the beautiful third issue of Vector Press. Online, the wonderful editors at Sundog Lit and FlashFlood published a couple more of my stories online.


And if that wasn't enough, I ended 2014 with two very exciting pieces of news... which I can't yet shout about, because they're highly covert and, well, I love a good dramatic pause.

So, as the first day of 2015 settles its cold, cloudy arse down upon the land, I will start the year as I mean to go on: by making a cushion fort with my kids and reading comics by torchlight.

Thanks to everyone who made 2014 an excellent year of books and writing - to the generous and supportive publishers and editors who decided my work was worth the paper; to the readers who picked up a book with my name on it, left a review, or listened to a live reading; to the many wonderful writers who have held my hand, kicked me up the bum, raised a glass, and helped me be a better writer; to friends and family, my tirelessly encouraging husband and my ever-inspiring boys.

Cheers for a great year, and here's to a brand spanking new one.


Posted on January 1, 2015 and filed under Competitions, Flashes, Novel, Publications, Short Stories, White Lies.

Past and Future Jo Stuff

A vague calendar of past and future events: May 15th: I turned 30. Not much has changed except I can't get on certain lists of 'successful people under 30' any more. Ho hum. To celebrate, we went out for steak and watched Godzilla. Meat = good. Godzilla = terrible. Godzilla steak = probably tastes like napalm and regret.

Early Junish: My story, Vitamaxima, will be published in Vector Press' third issue. Take two Vitamaxima capsules with every meal to ensure long life and literary satisfaction (side effects may include feelings of inadequacy and uncomfortably sexual public dancing).

Vector Press Issue Three

Also Early Junish: Another of my stories, Bing Bong (which won the 2014 Fiction Desk flash fiction comp), will appear in The Fiction Desk's seventh anthology. Press the button. Just press the fucking button.

June 11th: I sit a 3-hour exam on Shakespeare and finish my current OU module. Much drinking and carousing will follow.


July 1st: My first novel, White Lies, will be released, published by the marvellous Legend Press! (Involving more drinking and carousing. And possibly a small heart attack.) Pre-order it now, or the type of things you see in threatening chain letters will happen to you. For sure.

Date TBA: Launch party for White Lies - details as yet unknown but will surely include, yes indeed, drinking and carousing (and a demonstration of terrified public speaking from me).

White Lies by Jo Gatford

To sum up: June/July are lined up to involve several hangovers and a real life book thing. If you can't wait until then, fill your time with my 'How to Procrastinate' guide, as featured on Brighton Writers Retreat.

Posted on May 26, 2014 and filed under Competitions, Flashes, Novel, Publications, Short Stories, White Lies.

An announcement... and a miniature tree

A few weeks ago I accidentally made a  grand entrance at the Luke Bitmead Bursary presentation... carrying a miniature tree:


Because that is how I roll.

I'd made my husband promise that he wouldn't let me demonstrate my incredible talent of making an utter tit of myself in this particular social situation - he didn't seem all that confident but assured me he would try. Surely it was a simple task to play it classy: be calm, mingle a bit, talk about my book, meet the other shortlisted authors and judges and, you know, be cool. And then the bartender passed me a small tree so he could identify our table when our food was ready. Marvellous.

I'd been shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary - an amazing fund organised by Luke's family and Legend Press with the aim of supporting emerging authors to get a leg up in the industry. When I got the news I did my customary happy dance and then promptly tried to forget about the possibility of winning. My book had made it onto another shortlist earlier in the year but when nothing came of it I was well and truly gutted, and I didn't want to approach this opportunity in the same all-or-nothing way. Making the bursary shortlist was a fantastic notch on my literary bedpost and if that's as far as things went, so be it. I was content, and very chuffed.

And then there I was - tree in hand - introducing myself to Tom Chalmers of Legend Press and Luke's step-father Chris at the presentation in London. I met a couple of the other authors and their families too - all of them friendly, chatty and slightly anxious (let's face it - busy social events aren't the natural habitat of a writer) - and started to wonder if I was really meant to be there. "Hey, we get travel expenses and a few free glasses of wine," was my mantra. A few judges came past to wish me well, including the lovely Ruth Dugdall (previous Bitmead winner and author of The Woman Before Me) who told me what a supportive team Legend Press were, and said I needed to get a 'finalist' sticker so everyone could point and stare. "They keep looking over at you," my husband kept telling me, which was ridiculous, obviously. Obviously.

Then: the results. Lauren and Lucy of Legend Press began reading out the six runners-up and the crowd closed in, our view obscured by a wall of suits. My husband and I perched up on the back of our seating booth and clapped enthusiastically for each writer as they were called up to be congratulated. And as each one passed I mouthed my own name, expecting it to be read out next. But it wasn't.

"Top three!" my husband said quietly, and I began to shake a little bit. Sue Luddem, who we'd been sitting with all evening, was also waiting for her name to be called, and I thought it best to poke her in the arm to see if she was as gobsmacked as I was. (She was.) But neither of our names were next - Liam Brown received third place for his novel Fade to White and the applause got louder until:

"Second place: Susan Luddem - Getting Away With It."

And that left just one place and one name, and somehow they were both mine. Someone in the crowd turned around and shook my hand. Whispers spread and fingers pointed to our little booth. My husband started bouncing up and down, whispering: "You did it, you did it!" and all I could do was slap him across the chest and hiss, "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" I'm used to challenges, rejection, not-quite-getting there, you see. I'm good at recharging my stoic resources and soldiering on, but success is a bit of an unknown. I have no idea how to react to coming first in something, let alone finally seeing my biggest dream come true. This book is my second completed novel (my first is languishing away in a drawer, as so many first novels must do, waiting for better days, better skills, better ideas) and has been my paper-baby for getting on for six years. I've always been a great believer in the power of optimism and determination and it wasn't ever that I *knew* I'd get published one day, but I was damn sure going to keep trying until it happened. And now... a crowd was gently nudging me towards the front of the room and I sort of fell into Elaine's arms for an enormous congratulatory hug.

"Meet your publisher," she said, passing me to Tom, whose face had turned into one massive grin, and I proceeded to repeat "Thank you, thank you, what the hell is going on? Thank you," to everyone I spoke to for the following couple of hours, laughing because it was so utterly surreal. A publishing contract with Legend Press. And an oversized comedy cheque. And a general feeling of being very, very drunk without actually having had more than one glass.

Jo Gatford Luke Bitmead Bursary 2013 winner

Eloquence and articulation are lost in the face of such things. Instead I'm left with: "My book, story, baby, thing, is gonna be a proper thing. Like a book. I mean, a BOOK. With pages and a cover and you can hold it in your hands and it will have words in it. My words. Stuff wot I wrote and stuff. And you're gonna buy it, yeah? Cos I'll be a writer. With a book. A real papery book! Why are you looking at me like that?"


And breathe.

Yes, I am flying on clouds of awesome right now, but in all seriousness, there are thank yous and nods and points to be made. The bursary was created in honour of Luke Bitmead, author of White Summer, The Body is a Temple, and co-author of Heading South, all published by Legend Press. After Luke's tragic death in 2006 his family set up a fund "to support and encourage the work of fledgling novel writers" in association with Legend, which now offers the largest literary prize for new writers in the UK.

Luke Bitmead

At the presentation evening Luke's mother Elaine gave a speech about the importance of making personal connections, of inviting in new experiences, and relieving the isolation in which writers often find themselves. I was drawn to the Luke Bitmead bursary because of what it stands for - not simply the support of emerging authors in a tough financial climate, but also the attempt to break down the stigma attached to mental health issues. There are far fewer than seven degrees of separation between you and someone with mental health problems, I guarantee it. And yet it's very hard to talk about, or acknowledge, or find peace with. But when lines of communication do open up, the taboo quickly becomes something of a norm - people sympathise, empathise, sidle out of the woodwork to admit that they, too, have experienced similar problems, and it's not such a lonely place after all.

At the core of my book lies a battle between whatever normality the characters are hoping to achieve, and the psychological problems that are fundamental parts of their personality. A father with dementia, a son with depression, and a splintered family in between, grappling to retrieve lost connections - because sometimes the people closest to you can feel the furthest away.

White Lies will be published by Legend Press in 2014.

(Oh my...  Did I say that out loud?)

Posted on November 26, 2013 and filed under Competitions, Life, Novel, Publications.