Vote Now in the #ReadersChoiceAward2024: Celebrate Literary Brilliance


The Broken Spine is excited to open the voting for the #ReadersChoiceAward2024, spotlighting the extraordinary flash fiction and poetry published on our platform in 2023. Curated by Alan Parry, after selction from himself and his distinguished editorial team—Katie Jenkins, David Hanlon, and previously Elizabeth Kemball and Lucy Aur—this work embodies the best of what we’ve shared with our readers over the past year.

Your Opportunity to Shape Literary Recognition

This is your chance to acknowledge and celebrate the writers whose works have left an indelible mark on your heart and mind. By participating in the #ReadersChoiceAward2024, you’re not only elevating the voices of talented authors but also supporting the vibrant community that makes The Broken Spine a beacon of literary excellence.

Mark Your Calendars: Voting Window

You have a limited time to make your voice heard, with the voting window open from Monday, March 18, until Monday, March 25. This period is your opportunity to participate in a significant moment of recognition for the writers who have enriched our lives with their storytelling and poetic expression.

The Prize: Beyond Recognition

The winning writer will be honored not just with the prestige of winning a distinguished writing competition but also with a goody bag filled with The Broken Spine’s past publications. This prize symbolises the community’s appreciation and offers the winner a tangible connection to the tapestry of literature we’ve woven together over the past year.

How to Cast Your Vote

Participating in the #ReadersChoiceAward2024 is straightforward:

  1. Review the Nominated Works: Reflect on the incredible selection of flash fiction and poetry chosen for their impact, innovation, and the emotional resonance they’ve brought to our readers.
  2. Submit Your Vote: Access our voting form through the link provided and select the work that has moved you the most. Your vote is a powerful gesture of support for the art of writing.
  3. Encourage Participation: Spread the word about the #ReadersChoiceAward2024 to friends, family, and fellow literature enthusiasts. The more people engage, the richer the celebration of our 2023 literary gems.

Submit Your Vote Here

A Celebration of Literary Achievements

The #ReadersChoiceAward2024 represent more than just a competition; they are a celebration of creativity, passion, and the enduring power of words. This is an invitation to join us in acknowledging the exceptional talent of the writers we’ve had the privilege to publish and to ensure their voices are celebrated and remembered.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to contribute to the literary landscape and to show your appreciation for the stories and poems that have made an impact on you. Cast your vote between Monday, March 18, and Monday, March 25, and help us honour the best of 2023.

Let’s come together to celebrate the richness of contemporary literature and to champion the writers who continue to make The Broken Spine a home for exceptional literary art.

Nominated Works

1 Palimpsest

Celia Carrington

From: Stolen Moments Poetry Project – February 2023

She is creating a garden,
within walls; beds and
paths of limestone. She
prises stone from the
ground; gathers it from
collapsed field boundaries.
It takes all her strength
to barrow it home.

Her hands weigh the
stones; sorts them into
sizes. Her eyes assess
the gaps. Experienced
wallers pick a stone only
once. Her stones are lifted
several times before they
find their place.

Her gaze becomes more
precise, tutored by
uneven sides of rocks,
irregular holes. A stone,
unpromising on its own,
is placed and transformed.
Out of the untidy pile
a garden emerges.

2 When Impressing a Female Bell-ringer

Morag Anderson 

From: Poetry Unwrapped – December 2023

Gain written permission for keys to the tower.
Sign your name against those numbered seven.
Pause in the stained-glass cast of evening light.
Let her note the cobalt blue in your eyes.
Unlock the wooden door at the tower’s base.
Stretch your arm to hold the weight ajar.
Invite her to manoeuvre through. Smile.
Admire her spiral one hundred stone steps.
Follow the worn tread of those who’ve gone before.
Observe pace losing power as she summits.
Squeeze neatly past to unlock the chamber.
Do not enter yet. The city’s snow-bright spires will
catch what’s left of her breath. Lock the door.

3 How to Build a Boy 

Vic Pickup

From: #SelectedPoetry – October 2023

Combine cells and wait for them to take.
The exact combination is essential for optimum results.

Feed regularly with milk or evaporated formula for the first months,
orange juice and cod liver oil for the prevention of scurvy and rickets. 

Your baby boy may have trouble sleeping.
A gentle rocking motion will soon send him back to the land of nod.

Try to teach your boy his ABCs. Wooden blocks with carved letters
may be helpful with this, and tuneful signing of the alphabet song.

Wear soft clothing and ensure a generous dusting of talc after your bath.
A boy should associate his mother with comfort and a pleasant aroma.

As your boy grows, he will undoubtedly play rough with his chums.
Do not pander to a scuffed knee or black eye. He must learn to be tough.

Increase meal sizes as your boy gets larger to ensure healthy development.
He’ll need meat for muscle, fish for brains, eggs and fruit for immunity.  

Steer towards appropriate behaviours – to think of his friends as brothers.
He may find a sweetheart. Encourage this; her letters will boost morale. 

When the call goes out, if you have succeeded in your role,
He will wish to volunteer. Pack him a flask and sandwich for the queue. 

Be excited for his departure. Your son will soon be a hero:
Look at him so handsome in his uniform!

The cost of war is high. He may return fractured, so do what you can
to repair him. The field nurses will have patched him up.

Recommence feeding schedule. If bedridden,
spoon him plenty of broth, chicken if you can get it.

Be prepared to receive nothing more than an envelope.
Some explosives are designed to erase a soldier on impact.

4 Desert Streets

Regine Ebner

From: #SelectedPoetry – September 2023

In these shambled fields of quince daylight
dark gathers deep in the sharp desert thistle

canyons whisper of cold plateaus
columns of silver thorns
and homeless mountain fugues

and the dead things there can all rest undisturbed
in the still of the bristle and sage
in the ripple of the bare-winged grasses

while the brackish desert sleeps

tiny pieces of tempered sand
float up and wide
into the saffron wind

5 Anne Neville

Bex Hainsworth

From #SelectedPoetry – August 2023

I first saw him in the grounds of Middleham.
The castle was a cold incubator and I was a girl,
ripening, on the cusp of currency – a betting chip
ready to be cast onto the hard table of diplomacy.

I crept out to watch him train on grey mornings.
There were mutterings, mimicry, but I saw neither
monster nor minotaur. He was a knight, wild
as our northern home, strong as sandstone.

The second I bled, I became a princess –
a year’s sabbatical ended with Edward dead
and barely an ellipsis before I was thrown back
into his orbit. He gave up an earldom to marry me.

Our bed was always warm, safe from the blustering
of court. He arched under me, the S of his spine
not a hiss, but a hush. When my belly swelled,
we slotted together, perfectly threaded, tapestry.

The country prickled with rebellion, a creature
caught clawing against a stinging net of alliances:
women were blood sport. I welcomed the creaking
beams and solid glass of the House of York.

Everything changed the summer I felt the heat
of a crown on my brow. Margaret carried my train
and I felt her fingers pulling the ermine to my throat,
saw the son in her eyes, the trumpets were a battle cry.

I lived with Death at my heels like a terrier, muzzle
bloodied from the hunt; losing our son, whilst we were
far away, brought grief like a morning star. We were two
halves of a wound, trying to knit ourselves back together.

I never healed. Each morning brought blood like a rose
in my kerchief and each night, reaching for him in the dark,
I heard the crash of halberds. I never lived to see him
thrown from the horse, his body dragged from the battlefield.

Our bones were hastily buried, graves unmarked, souls
slowly wasting in churches half a country apart. I think
of him still, holding me to his breast, close as armour,
the soft thud of his heart, my love, neither tyrant nor traitor.

6 Everyday Miracle

Oenone Thomas

From #SelectedFlashFiction – December

You lost your key to the Dublin room. You lost your rail pass at Lille. You had lost your watch by the time you missed the day’s last bus. You were taken in by nuns, somewhere 

in the empty middle of Spain. You lost the paper they inked as you left, the script place-name in cursive light blue. In Spanish to miss the bus is to lose the bus. You gave your thanks to the wind when at last you got home, said you believed in the reach of gratitude, without the substance of an envelope or stamp. The convent was a just apparition, in a mislaid moment, as you lost your way.

I asked you how the cloister looked, for a taste of the soup with beans and wild herbs, how you slept. Your answers were small, fine, OK.  Miracles from your every day.

7 ‘Studying’ Mathematics at school has proved to be the single greatest waste of time and resources of my life.’

Ronnie Smith

From: #SelectedFlashFiction – October 2023

Discuss. [20 Marks]

An Allegory

During the early 1970s someone in authority concluded that the Latin and Maths Departments, holding joint pre-eminence, should be on the school’s fourth floor. The top students would certainly be inspired by the panoramic views across the Firth of Clyde to the islands of Great Cumbrae, Arran and Bute and let’s not forget the Cowal Peninsula, gateway to the Highland fastness of fabled Argyll to the North West. 

“Question!” Chalk squeaks on the board. “If X equals Y then what is the value of P…? Mr Smith!?”

I hear my name and turn my head to face the front of the classroom. I try to look alert but, you know…

“Mr Smith, shall we save time by agreeing that you are unable to solve this conundrum?”

I nodded my agreement, “I might add sir, that not only can I not answer the question, I do not understand the question itself.” The usual giggling was replaced by what P.G. Wodehouse might have called a few sharp intakes of breath.

“Would you, Mr Smith, mind telling the class what you could possibly find more interesting, out of the window, than the value of P? You may stand up for this.”

I stood, straightened my blazer and generally composed myself. Public speaking had not yet become a medium in which I was comfortable but I had a feeling on this occasion that I should give it my best shot.

“Well sir, I was watching an American nuclear-powered submarine sail down the river to begin its patrol, somewhere out there”. I waved my arm in a broad westerly arc, “carrying its payload of Poseidon Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in its Hold.”

“Indeed Mr Smith?”

“Yes sir, indeed. And I was wondering if we are close enough to its base, in the Holy Loch, to be immediately vaporised during a Soviet first strike. Or will we all suffer a slow, agonising death?”

Now the rest of the class were no longer there, this had become a conversation between him and me which, if we met in the street, would be perfectly normal even interesting. But we were not in the street.

“Well, I’m sorry Mr Smith but we are not discussing Armageddon today. Our immediate task is still establishing the value of P to which we shall return in a few minutes, after come to the front and I administer two strokes of the belt for impertinence and disruption.”

“Yes sir.”

8 Routine

Sadee Bee

From: #SelectedFlashFiction – July 2023

Nights spent alone are never ideal for her, at least not without constant movement or distraction. It has been years since she truly sat alone with her thoughts or assessed the nature of her situation. She was always silently at war with herself. Her rules kept her safe; they were necessary for her survival in a world full of things designed to kill her. Never stray from routine, always have a plan, keep her mind occupied, and never gaze too long in the mirror. Looking at herself was to remember the pain; she did not like to remember.

Her night was meticulously planned from when she stepped in the door from work. Eat, write, paint, watch T.V., and scroll social media in between; last was shower and then bed. When she arrived home, ready for hours of repeat activity, her house felt colder than usual on a winter day. Slightly panicked, she flipped every light switch and fiddled with the thermostat, but nothing worked. There was no power. Winter outages happened occasionally; there was no use in calling anyone. Hastily she lit her small fireplace and searched for emergency candles; the night was coming soon, and she could not be alone in the dark with her thoughts. She found only one, small and broken at the bottom of a drawer. She did not know how long it would last. 

Defeated, she broke her precious routine to shower before it was too dark to see. A single, small candle burned on the sink as she scrubbed her skin raw from rushing, the water frigid and uncomfortable. She stepped out of the shower, shivering, and noticed the sunset was earlier than expected. She looked at her single candle at the sink, wishing she had put it elsewhere. She tiptoed warily to grab it, gripping her towel around her, and kept her eyes on the floor. She reached for the light without looking, burning her finger, and knocking it to the ground. Suddenly surrounded by total, absolute blackness; she looked up into the mirror. 

She did not recognize the face staring back at her.

9 Origami

Daniel Addercouth

From: #SelectedFlashFiction – May 2023

That was the day you took me to the deserted shopping mall which was closing the following week, with all the stores shuttered and signs in the windows saying where the businesses had moved to, if they’d moved at all and not just given up after the gleaming marble dream of the mall had evaporated, the symbol of boomer prosperity steamrollered by the convenience of ordering hoodies online at 2am after a few White Claws, and we’re walking around in the sticky heat, with the air conditioning either broken or switched off, the management not even pretending that business is continuing as usual, because for this place business will never be usual again, and I feel like getting an iced coffee but nowhere’s open, and you need the restroom and fortunately that’s still open, and as I wait for you I notice someone’s left a cardboard box outside this abandoned craft store, and amid the ceramic pumpkins and artificial flowers there’s this perfect origami fox folded out of stiff orange paper, and I take it and hold it lightly in my cupped hand, and when you come back you lead me down a side passage and I demand to know where we’re going and you refuse to tell me, and by this stage I’m irritated and keep saying can we just go home and you keep saying in a minute, in a minute, I just need to do one thing, then we’re in front of this one store that’s still open, the last oasis of commerce in this retail desert, and I can’t even tell what it is because the sign’s already been removed but it doesn’t look like anything special or even the kind of place you’d want to enter, but you insist we go in and I’m thinking now he’s really gone crazy and feeling a bit scared, and inside there’s a counter with this decrepit old man and he greets you by name and I’m like how does this dude know my boyfriend and he hands you this little box and gives me a twinkly look and I turn back to you and you’re down on one knee with the box open and inside is this ring and even though the diamond’s small I know how much it means because it must have cost you a month’s salary, if not two, and afterwards I hug you and start crying, right in front of the old jeweler, and I smell the sour milk of your sweat and feel the dampness of your back through your t-shirt, and the cold metal of the ring feels strange but just right on my finger, and I hold you as tight as I can, and I’m still cradling the origami fox in my hand, feeling the sharp corners of the folds and making sure to keep my grip loose because at that moment it feels like the most precious thing in the world.

10 Enough

Jen Feroze

From: The Codex May 2023

What if there had been no angry fling
out of the window? What if instead,
she had recognised what lay there –
curled coffee dark and yet somehow shimmering?

She might have placed them reverently
in one of her many unused jam jars
(the plum harvest had been poor,
trees offering only sour, greenish fists).

Together they would have worked the damp soil,
planting each one deep and soft as prayer.
And overnight there would have been green shoots,
the beginnings of a rainbow of vegetables. 

They would have woken having rubbed away
some of their sharp edges, hearing the strains
of a distant harp and clouds hanging low,
weighed down by the frustration of giants denied. 

What if she had embraced the trade he made
and its possibility of magic?
Would the ripening of this small patch of earth
be worth more than gold snatched from the sky?

Would she have seen that in his childlike faith
and fervour, his will to please her,
his small, grubby palms,
she had always had everything she needed?

11 Birch Tree 

Rachel Deering

From: The Codex – October 2023

I would make my home
in the trunk of a birch tree,
if I could; a small cavity hewn
into hollow, set against the ruin
of squall and bitterness.
And when a buff-tip moth emerges,
branch-like, and wonders, 
wintered, if our birch is asleep 
or dead, I will tell her
what this tree has seen – 
the long desolation of an ice age,
yet was the first to renew, and
will be the earliest to leaf,
that its roots are waking 
from annelid dreams, 
the journeys of worms, stirred
by light to movement 
in the unravelling of a March. 

Submit your vote here!

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