Let your talent flow and compete with authors from the world! Anyone 17 years or over can submit stories up to 3000 words and poems up to 40 lines.

1st Prize


2nd Prize


3rd Prize

Welcome to...

The Bedford Competition

Open for entries until 31 October

This is a competition that reaches out to help you achieve the recognition you deserve

We are an International Competition, open to everybody from around the world aged 17 or over, with prizes totalling £4,600 including special awards for young writers and Bedford writers (Please see Rules). All winning and shortlisted entries are published by our partners, Ostrich Books. We donate proceeds to charities that support literary and literacy skills.

The short story competition is for stories up to 3,000 words. The poetry competition is for poems up to 40 lines.

Entrants can write on any theme.


Latest News

We held the Awards Presentation event on 15th March when the results of the 2023 competitions were announced. All the results can be found on this page by scrolling down.

Congratulations to everybody who won a prize. The standard of entries was particularly high and there were nearly one thousand in both the short story and poetry competitions. The prizewinners can be justly proud of their success.

If you were not a winner this year, then please try again in the next competition which opens for entries on 1st May 2024.

2023 Short Story Competition - Shortlist

Story Title Author Location
All BusinessJames Watson Axminster
Church GoingVictoria Stewart Liverpool
A dying breedTony Durrant Sedbergh
HideChris Belson Bedford
Home TurfJoy Clews Snitterby
Inner LoopJosie Turner Tonbridge
I Wanted to be a Blues ManDavid Joseph El Segundo, United States of America
JoeyIsaac Hogarth Sydney Australia
A Song from a Different RoomGwen Williams Llanfairfechan
StarfishSheila Killian Ballyneety, Ireland
Sunday MorningDell Kaniper Oaxaca de Juarez Mexico
Thomas and WillFelicity Reid Coryton

2023 Poetry Competition - Shortlist

Poem Title Poet Location
Ars Poetica: 6pmLouise Walker London
Autumn WindJeanette Burney San Antonio, USA
Color BlindGina Shaffer Laguna Woods, USA
Counter mealsStephanie Powell Melbourne, Australia
End of an AfternoonDonald Wildman Cary, USA
HomecomingAmy Levitin Graver Branford, USA
Ode to a Chimú Pot Mark Fiddes Dubai, UAE
OtsuchiBen Verinder Tring
Life in a Hammershøi Painting:Lois P Jones South Pasadena, USA
MythologyBen Verinder Tring
PANTOUM (after Béla Tarr)Ben Howard Leeds
A River Running ShallowKevin SmithMaleny, Australia

2023 Short Story Competition - Long List

Story Title Author Location
All BusinessJames Watson Axminster
AoifeMuiread O'Hanlon Lancaster
at my table, two strangersJay McKenzie Pimpama Australia
Best Day EverDAVID Haworth Wrexham
Best of ThreeEdward Fry London
The Bitterest FlowersNoel Taylor Estoril, , Portugal
The BollardDeborah Meade Oxted
BurdenJeremy Dixon Driffield
Church GoingVictoria Stewart Liverpool
The DitchPenny-Anne Beaudoin Amherstburg Canada
Dress-up NightGary Finnegan Celbridge Ireland
A dying breedTony Durrant Sedbergh
Facing The PressBruce HarrisSEATON
HideChris Belson Bedford
Home TurfJoy Clews Snitterby DN21 4TP, United Kingdom
I Wanted a Blues ManDavid Joseph El Segundo United States of America
Inner LoopJosie Turner Tonbridge
JoeyIsaac Hogarth Sydney Australia
Last day on the job.Peter Calder Glasgow
The Life and Animals of Elsie MayLiz Barnes steyning
Light at the End of the RoadImani Powell QUINCY United States of America
Magic Credit CardPeter HankinsUnited Kingdom Wallington
New-tick Flory does look rumKeith McKibbin Glasgow
A Night with ElvesJanet Howcroft Ongar
On Franco's SideRon F Berisha London
The Ordinary Girls ClubROBERT HALLIDAY Bury St. Edmunds
Our RobTom Kirkbright Halifax
The Parents and the PigAidan Everett Nottingham
The Price of ParenthoodAndrea WattsWallington
Quartet for the End of TimeFrances Thimann Ribblesdale Road NG5 3GA, United Kingdom
A Self Made ManNatasha E Derczynski Catford
La SensibileElena Traina Penryn
Shadow CompanionsDale Marie Oxford
Single.Jane MilesSnitterby
A Song from a Different RoomGwen Williams Llanfairfechan
SquirrelsRichard Woulfe London
StarfishSheila Killian Ballyneety V94 CD5H, Ireland
The stranger at my funeralBen Henry Godalming
A Stroll Along the SeineAdena Graham Christchurch
The Summer AfterShere Ross London
Sunday MorningDell Kaniper Oaxaca de Juarez Mexico
Thomas and WillFelicity Reid Coryton
Tiger Dog SmogRachael Scotson Bradford on Avon
Time to iFace the MuzakJohn Barfield Eastleigh
The Unwanted GiftJoy Clews Snitterby DN21 4TP, United Kingdom
Watch out for SnakesTerry Mulhern Brunswick Australia
WoelinamAndrew Wilson Stafford
X11Emma Williams Ludlow
Young ThugsJohn P. McEnenySnitterby

2023 Poetry Competition - Long List

Poem Title Poet Location
A Poem I Read in a Dream // Strong Little WomenZenae Chung Leiden
Ars Poetica: 6pmLouise Walker London
AT RAYNES PARK IN 1975James Sutherland-Smith 080 01 PREÅ OV
Autumn WindJeanette Burney San Antonio
Buried SongMichael Opperman Minneapolis
CatnipSukie Shinn  Bedford
COLOR BLINDGina Shaffer Laguna Woods
Counter mealsStephanie Powell Melbourne
End of an AfternoonDonald Wildman Cary
Fishing in the Aral SeaCorrinna Toop Aylesbury
For the Woman on the TrainJeanette Burney San Antonio
FoxholeAlison Grove
HomecomingAmy Levitin Graver Branford
Late EpistolaryLois P Jones South Pasadena
Life in a Hammershøi Painting:Lois P Jones South Pasadena
Master of ArtsOlivia Tuck Swindon
MythologyBen Verinder Tring
Naming the LightDavid Terelinck Biggera Waters QLD 4216
Ode to a Chimú Pot Mark Fiddes Dubai
OtsuchiBen Verinder Tring
PANTOUM (after Béla Tarr)Ben Howard Leeds
PrayerPatricia Sheppard Belmont
Prison BallRobert Michael Oliver Washington
Prodigies of the loaded GunEd Frankel Forestville California 95436
ReturnF. J. Bergmann Madison
ScannerJosh Ekroy Barbican
searching for herMandy Pannett
sonMary Mulholland London
that noise! the incessant beepingAlan Bern Berkeley
The Ballast of Old PhotosJustin Hunt Charlotte
The First FrontierSuzanne Burns Bend
The Giving and Receiving OfEd Limb London
The Stalking HorseEd frankel Forestville California 95436
TOPIARYRoger Craik Ashtabula
VicKait Deaton
Viewing boats with my fatherChristian Ward 65 Great Peter Street
We Cry TogetherFrederick Joseph Long Island City

2023 Competition – Judges

Tim Jarvis

Short Story

Timothy J. Jarvis is a writer of supernatural fiction. He grew up in north Bedfordshire, and now lives back in Bedford. He is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University. His 'last man' novel, The Wanderer, was first published in 2014 (Perfect Edge) and was reprinted in a new edition in 2022 (Zagava). Short-fiction has appeared in Harvard Review, Infra Noir, Bitter Distillations, An Invite to Eternity,The Far Tower: Stories for W.B. Yeats, The Shadow Booth Vol. 1, 3:AM Magazine, Leviathan 4: Cities, and New Writing 13, among other places. He is a member of the committee of the Friends of Arthur Machen, a society dedicated to the life and works of the Welsh author of the fantastic, and co-edits the Friends' journal, Faunus.

Kirsten Norrie


MacGillivray is the matrilineal pen and performance name of poet, musician and artist Kirsten Norrie. The author of four collections of poetry published by Bloodaxe in the UK and Red Hen in the US, she has made nine records, working with producer and musician James Young (Nico, John Cale) and her music features in the soundtracks of three films by avant-garde British director Andrew Kötting. She makes a literary appearance as a cameo in Iain Sinclair's writing and worked with cinematographer Anonymous Bosch to write and direct a Gaelic short film, returning to the Isle of Skye to shoot on location with funding from Creative Scotland. Trained at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, she writes, performs and composes using Scots, Gaelic and English with French for her 2022 album derived from the poetry of Mary Queen of Scots, released on Antigen Records. In 2018, she raised funds to visit the great grandson of Sitting Bull to make the recording The Last Wolf of Scotland. In November 2023, Bloodaxe will publish her fourth collection based on Norwegian-Shetlandic poet Kristján Norge who vanished from Eilean a' Bhàis in 1961. She has taught at Oxford, the ECA and the Royal College of Art and directs the Oxford School of Poetry. See more on her website.

J S Watts

Cygnature Story Prize Judge

J.S.Watts is a British poet and novelist who weaves the fantastical and the literary with other vibrant strands to create glowing, multi-faceted writing. Originally from London, she now lives in Cambridgeshire.

Her poetry, short stories and non-fiction appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the States and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. She has edited various magazines and anthologies and performed her poetry across England, Scotland and Wales, but not yet in Ireland (should anyone from Ireland be reading this). Along the way, she has won various awards and had honourable mentions in others, but nothing so outstanding that she wants to make a big thing out of it. .

J.S.'s three poetry collections, Cats and Other Myths, Years Ago You Coloured Me and Underword, are published by Lapwing Publications, as is her multi-award nominated SF poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue. Her poetry pamphlet, The Submerged Sea, was published by Dempsey & Windle. Her novels, A Darker Moon- dark fiction, Witchlight, Old Light and Elderlight - an urban fantasy trilogy, are published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press

For further details see her website:

Sarah Davies

Cygnature Poetry Prize Judge

Sarah Davies is from Merseyside via Edinburgh and London, but has lived in Bedford for over 20 years.

She has always written poetry and is a firm believer in its ability to communicate and give access to all voices.

Sarah has helped run Bedford poetry night Ouse Muse for several years.

Sarah has been published in a wide range of poetry publications, been shortlisted for poetry prizes and is working on a collection.

Paul Barnes

Bedford Story Prize Judge

Paul Barnes retired from teaching secondary school English Language and Literature in Bedford in 2019. He has been a keen attender of poetry and cultural events in north Beds, and chairs Poetry Café monthly, in succession to the late Richard Hancock. The group has seen four compilation volumes edited by Paul in 2021-22. He writes occasional poetry and prose, co-runs the monthly Read Poets Society, helps in two local bookshops, and is a fanatic for cricket umpiring and Shakespeare, The Place Theatre, the Rothsay Education Centre, and the Campaign for Real Ale.

Liam Coles

Bedford Poetry Prize Judge

Liam Coles is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge. His project focuses on sound and religiosity in twentieth-century US poetry. He researches how poetic sound forms can interrelate with cognitive understandings of consciousness, and traces an historic lineage from pulpit to lectern heard in the voicings of American poets during performance. He secured a scholarship for his master's degree at the University of Oxford (2017-18), where he wrote mainly on nineteenth-century religious poetry, including the work of the Rossetti siblings and Keats. He has a first-class BA in English Literature from the University of Bristol (2013-16), and his undergraduate dissertation concerned the Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Born and raised in Bedford, Liam now lives in London and enjoys cooking and nature, but poetry is his real joy, and outside of his academic work he loves to discover writers he has not yet heard of!