Last month I was thrilled to hear that I’d won the Bare Fiction short story prize. For those who don’t know, Bare Fiction is a wonderful literary magazine that’s been going a few years. The pieces in it are very, very well-written and I’ve discovered many fantastic new authors by reading this. It’s also quite high-profile, attracting some very well-known names both as contributors and judges for the competition. This year the short story entries were judged by Courttia Newland, which gives you a sense of how thrilled I was to hear I’d won!
As it happens, I’ve been reading a lot of short story submissions recently – some of them as a judge for the wonderful Hysteria short story competition and others for a number of courses and publication opportunities.
So what’s leapt out at me from all this? A lot of mental notes for the number of ways “housekeeping” issues can result in wonderful writing failing to make it onto a longlist or shortlist. There are hundreds of “How to win short story competition” blogs out there and I’m not convinced of the utility of these. The real answer – write a good short story – is not, perhaps terribly helpful…
So, most of these tips have nothing to do with the quality of the writing. I’m not sure that it’s possible to teach people how to write a good story, and I’m certain that I shouldn’t be the teacher. But here are the other tips – the ones that’ll stop even your best story from winning, being accepted or being shortlisted. Most of them will seem like common sense, but I find that sometimes my common sense needs an explicit reminder.
I’m a member of The Whole Kahani, a collective of South Asian writers. Earlier last year, we are approached by Dahlia Publishing to put stories forward for an anthology that the press was considering putting out.
We workshopped quite a number of stories, and although not all of them could be included, finally came up with what I think is a pretty good, thematically consistent collection. The overarching theme was “love, longing and friendship” – so a fairly wide range of stories could be considered eligible!
Once the stories had been workshopped, Dahlia Press considered our list, and put together a working copy of the anthology. After a good few iterations, we’re proud to have had the launch of The Whole Kahani’s first anthology: Love Across a Broken Map!
And to continue catching up, way back in March I was very pleased to be included in the third Words and Women anthology. These showcase the work of women writers in the east of England, and are published by Unthank books.
Friday was the launch of the Fugue II anthology, from Siren Press. The editor, Lucy, organised a fantastic evening of reading, wine, nibbles and – of course – books, at Enitharmon Editions in London.
Fugue I had some wonderful reviews from, amongst others, Sabotage Reviews. Reading the other stories on the tube home, Fugue II seems a worthy successor. The stories include a macabre and beautiful Northern-set tale of an abbatoir, a zombie outbreak, Edvard Munch, a lesson plan gone wrong and a dream house that is far from what it seems. As well as me, the other authors are Catherine McNamara, Sally Oliver, Clare Fisher, Brandon Robshaw, Darren Lee, L.D. Lapinski and Alyson Hallett. Very pleased to be in their company!
So this blog has been languishing for far too long, reaching for its smelling salts and swooning at the touch of fresh air. Hopefully this will be just the pick-me-up it needs to start pulling its socks up and being a decent member of society.
So what’s been happening since the last update?
Last night I went to the results and launch event of the Willesden Herald Short Story Prize 2014, and a Good Time Was Had By All ™. Some of the stories were performed by the Liars’ League which is a liaison between professional actors and short story writers. They have branches in London, Hong Kong, New York and Leicester, so if you’re globe-trotting then do check them out!
My story Rock Pools was read by the lovely Helen Belbin, who brought a depth of perspective and realism to it that blew me away.
Some time before starting this blog, Words and Women held the first Words and Women Writing Competition. I’m very pleased to announce that my story “A Time for Rain” was shortlisted in the competition, and included in the forthcoming anthology.
On 8th March, the anthology was launched to celebra...