Short Story Writing Competition – How Will Microbiology Change Our Future?


The #FEMSmicroBlog is opening a short story writing competition to showcase how microbiology touches our lives. The theme we have chosen is ‘How Microbiology will Change our Future’ and is open to any perspective, genre, and microbiology topic. Deadline for submission is 30 June 2022. #FEMSmicroBlog #FEMSmicroStories


Submit your story here
Why a writing competition?

The motivation to open a writing competition is dual.

  1. We believe that microbiology is the context, pretext, background, or inspiration for many stories – think about Cordyceps fungi zombie apocalypses, Hollywood contagion mystery thrillers (spoiler alert: the chef is the culprit), ten friends telling ten stories while fleeing from the Black Death in 1348 Florence, and many more.
  2. We believe that the potential of microbiology-inspired topics in fiction is underappreciated and underdeveloped. Very often, microbiology is the pretext to unleash infection, diseases, and mayhem. But what about all the good stuff? What about other perspectives and narratives?

Microbiology is extremely important for our lives, environment, health, economy, wellbeing, nutrition, and habits. It’s time to showcase that microbes are mostly for the good (although please, don’t hold back if your story involves infectious diseases, we’d like to read those as well). It’s time to polish that story idea that you had while spending many hours locked at home during COVID-19, realizing (knowing) that microbiology can help save the world.

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What are we looking for?

We are are looking for flash fiction stories with the

Story theme: How will Microbiology change our Future?

Many aspects of our lives which we take for granted today would not be possible without advances in microbiology knowledge and its application. But what aspects of microbiology will be changing our future? How will the future be changed, what are the obstacles and opportunities?

We want to read stories that address these questions, and leave the reader craving for more. The story can be inspired by microbiology in any way, and any genre is welcome. Speculative fiction and Sci-Fi are welcome, but not exclusively what we are looking for. We would like readers to be captivated by a story, and (subconsciously) realize that microbiology is already changing our future.

We value storytelling approaches over scientific thoroughness. The underlying microbiology principles or inspiration can be as tangential or as prevailing as needed. (We will ask participants to provide a short statement/blurb of their story indicating the microbiology context.)

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Guidelines & instructions for submitters
  • Format: Original (not previously published) flash fiction of up to 700 words (we allow flexibility, 700 +/- 50 words is Ok)
  • Font, size and spacing: Please use Calibri, font size 11, and 1,5 line spacing
  • Genre: Any (cross-)genre is welcome
  • Deadline for submission: 30 June 2022
  • Notification of winners: by 15 August 2022 at the latest
  • Submission fees: None
  • Submission will be anonymouswe ask authors not to reveal their name upon submission (although publication will be accompanied by a short author bio)
  • Multiple submissions are possible (up to 2)
  • Selection process: Three podium winners, special mentions possible
  • Award criteria: Stories will be judged based on
    • Storytelling craft (1/3) – We want readers to be captured by the story rather than ‘numbed’ by facts
    • Relevance for society (1/3) – A protagonist wondering about the use of microbiology for circular economy, for example, is more enticing than a character appreciating microbes over a fermented beverage
    • Novelty (1/3) – We’d like to be surprised and read a story which uses a novel approach or incorporate an aspect of microbiology which is generally not much used in fiction
  • Decision by the judges will be final. We want to focus on the story itself, and we ask authors to submit anonymously. We are aware that the theme, genre, and format allow for a wide range of stories, and the decision might be subjective to the panellists. Every story will be read by at least two panellists independently (more for shortlisted entries) and scored based on award criteria. In case of multiple excellent stories, we might decide to publish the story of more than just the three winners.
  • Examples of short, microbiology-inspired stories we loved:
  • Prize for the winners: Please provide us with your address if you’d like to receive a ‘FEMS surprise’
  • Publication and promotion: We aim to highlight the winning stories and the writers. Selected short stories can be published on the #FEMSmicroBlog alongside the author bio and promoted on social media. Winner(s) might be interviewed in a Microbes and Us podcast episode
  • Help us share the news on social media with the hashtags #FEMSmicroBlog #FEMSmicroStories
  • Questions? Write us an email!
Submit your story here

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Joanna Verran | Corrado Nai | Joseph Brooks Shuttleworth | Sarah Wettstadt

Prof Joanna Verran is Professor of Microbiology (Emeritus) at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her lab research focuses on the interactions occurring between microorganisms and inert surfaces. She has also received awards for her teaching and public engagement work. Both utilise interdisciplinary approaches that incorporate humanities and the arts with ‘the science’. Most recently, Jo received the 2019 AAAS Mani L Bhamik award for Public Engagement with science for ‘her commitment to devising and delivering innovative microbiology-focused public engagement with the same rigor as laboratory-based research, with attention to appropriate design, thorough evaluation and wide dissemination’. Her microbiology engagement project Bad Bugs Bookclub is always grateful for book recommendations, feedback or comments. Prof. Verran is FEMS delegate for the International Biodeterioration Biodegradation Society and former FEMS Director of Education & Public Engagement.

Dr Corrado Nai is Project Manager at FEMS and works to support and grow various microbiology communities, including those of enthusiastic blog authors. Before joining FEMS he has worked in the fields of environmental mycology and fungal biotechnology. When he writes (which is not as frequent as he would like to), his stories are often inspired or influenced by science. He cannot wait to read the short stories submitted for the first ever #FEMSmicroBlog writing competition!



Joseph Brooks Shuttleworth is the Science Communications Project Manager at FEMS, where he leads on the digital and social media side of things, and manages various communications projects and volunteer teams with a content creation and SciComms focus. Previous to FEMS, he worked in science communications in London at the Science Media Centre UK, and spent time as political factchecker for Full Fact, the UK’s independent fact checking charity. His academic background is in Natural Sciences (M.A. University of Cambridge) and the History and Philosophy of Science (M.Sc. University College London), with a focus on the philosophy of computing. Originally from Oxford (UK), as a school student he spent 3 summers interning at the William Dunn School of Pathology, where he cultivated copious E. coli colonies and a love for microbiology.

headshot of Dr Sarah Wettstadt: science writer and science communicatorDr Sarah Wettstadt is a microbiologist-turned science writer and communicator working together with scientists and life science organisations to help them disseminate scientific knowledge. Her overall vision is to empower through learning: she shares scientific knowledge with both scientists and non-scientists and coaches scientists in science communications. Sarah publishes her own blog BacterialWorld to share the beauty of microbes and bacteria, edits and publishes microbiology-research content for the #FEMSmicroBlog and co-founded the scicomm video platform STEMcognito. Previous to her science communication career, she did her PhD at Imperial College London, UK, and a postdoc in Granada, Spain.

Submit your story here

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Shortlisted and winner stories

In August 2022, the panellists selected a shortlist of ten stories and three podism winners. All of them can be read on the #FEMSmicroBlog.

Read on this link: all shortlisted stories.

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