Category Archives: short stories

Library gig

I’m off to Simon Armitage’s neck of the woods (or neck of the moors, perhaps) on Monday for the latest event in the launch tour for my new short-story collection, Letters Home. At the invitation of the Friends of Marsden Library, I’ll be talking about the book and reading extracts from it at the latest in the Northern Writers Reading series at the famous old library, which is housed in the West Yorkshire village’s Mechanics Hall.

The Friends are a community organisation of volunteers set up in 2015 to promote the library, to assist the staff, and to keep the place open in the face of increasing pressure on local authority finances. In the summer of 2016, Kirklees Council approved the first stage of transferring ownership of Marsden Mechanics Hall to the village, represented by Marsden Community Trust (MCT). MCT will be responsible for the upkeep and will need to generate income from rent and room-hire to cover the costs.

Marsden Library is a very important part of the building, which has housed a library for the whole of its 150-year history. The MCT Board, Friends of Marsden Library and the Library Service have agreed to re-design the library to make better use of the space as a multi-purpose venue for the community. To this end, a fund-raising appeal has been launched and I’m very happy to do my bit to help promote the library and its campaign.

Please click here to visit the Friends of Marsden Library website for full details of the event, which is from 7.00-8.00pm on Monday November 20th. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

Book launch dates

A busy week looms with not one but two launches for my new solo collection of short stories, Letters Home.

The book isn’t officially published until November 16th but copies have already arrived at the publishers – the Manchester-based independent, Comma Press – and will be on sale at the two events. The stories – old and new, published and unpublished – span twenty years of my writing career, and the collection marks my first publication for an adult readership since The Island of Lost Souls (Bloomsbury) in 2006, after which I switched to writing teen/YA fiction.

The first launch event, billed as “An evening with Martyn Bedford” (what a horrible thought), is at the wonderful Waterstones branch in the Wool Exchange, Bradford, from 6.00-8.00pm on Tuesday (Nov 7th). I’ll be discussing the collection in-conversation with my brilliant editor at Comma, Ra Page, and reading extracts from some of the stories, as well as taking question from the audience. The event is free but space is limited so please contact the bookshop to reserve a place. Click here to visit the relevant page on the Waterstones website.

Then, on Thursday (Nov 9th), I’m taking part in the Leeds Short Story Salon from 6.30-8.30 at Blackwell’s bookshop in Woodhouse Lane, opposite Leeds University. I’ll be sharing a stage with Leeds-based author S.J. Bradley and there will also be open-mic slots for members of the audience. Again, the event is free but please contact the shop to get a ticket. Here’s the link to the event on the Blackwell’s website.

If you are unable to attend either event but would like to buy a copy of Letters Home, you can pre-order one directly from Comma Press for £9.00 (RRP £9.99) through this link.

New book cover

I’m very excited to be able to reveal the cover of my new book – Letters Home, a solo collection of short stories – which is coming out next month. The stories (for adults) include several new ones written especially for the collection, along with some previously unpublished pieces and others which have already appeared in anthologies, newspapers and magazines over the years.

Here’s the back-cover blurb:

“When an out-of-work actor discovers his bedsit once belonged to an obscure, suicidal painter, he turns his talents to re-creating the ultimate site-specific performance . . .
As a teenage girl drifts from depression into a permanent state of sleep, she becomes the focus of both scientific interest and an unexpected, cult following…
Against a backdrop of hooliganism and hostility, an asylum seeker writes letters home assuring his family how welcoming England is…
Many of the characters in Martyn Bedford’s stories find themselves at a point of redefinition, trading in their old identity for something new. Whether it is an act of retreat or escape – fantasising about storming out of a thankless job, or just avoiding a bad-tempered husband for a few moments on Christmas day – they each understand the first step in changing a reality, is to reconstruct it.”

I’ve been flattered to receive a couple of wonderful pre-publication quotes from other writers:

Haunting and intimate portraits of vividly different lives that get under your skin and stay there – Jeremy Dyson, co-writer of The League of Gentlemen.

Letters Home further establishes Martyn Bedford as a stand-out writer of highly memorable fiction – Jacob Ross, author of The Bone Readers, winner of the 2017 Jhalak Prize.

Letters Home is published on November 16th by Comma Press. Please click here for the Comma website, where physical and digital copies can be pre-ordered.

On stage at ILF

I’m looking forward to appearing at the Ilkley Literature Festival later this week . . . and not just because the venue is walking distance from my house. I’ve done quite a few events at ILF down the years – my debut was way back in 1996, alongside Stan Barstow at the Craiglands Hotel – but this will be my first time on stage at St Margaret’s Hall (although I was a frequent visitor there with my daughters, when they were little, for parents-and-tots sessions.)

It’s especially exciting to be appearing at the festival alongside two writers as renowned as Maggie Gee and Jacob Ross for what promises to be a lively evening of political and literary debate. The three of us will be reading extracts from, and discussing, our short stories, which have been included in Protest: Stories of Resistance, the latest anthology by Comma Press. Maggie’s story revolves around the night-cleaners’ strike in Hoxton, London, in the early 1970s; Jacob’s focuses on the New Cross Fire and Brixton riots a decade later, while mine is centred on the so-called Battle of Orgreave during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

For the anthology, Comma paired twenty writers with expert consultants – social and political historians and academics – each of whom has written an afterword which sets the fiction in its historical context. For my story, “Withen”, I collaborated with Prof. David Waddington of Sheffield Hallam University, who was present as an academic observer on that infamous day when riot police broke up a mass picket outside the coking plant at Orgreave, South Yorkshire.

Other authors whose stories appear in the anthology include Sara Maitland, Kit de Waal, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Alexei Sayle, David Constantine and Courttia Newland, with protest topics ranging across seven centuries, from the Peasants’ Revolt to Greenham Common, the Aldermaston March to the Diggers, the Suffragettes to the Anti-Iraq War demo.

The anthology has already received glowing reviews and I’m flattered that my story has been mentioned in despatches:

“Many of the stories explore the long-term legacy of the events upon its characters: perhaps none more so than Martyn Bedford’s skilful, sensitive depiction of estrangement caused by the divisiveness of the 1980s mining strikes.
Bethany Creamer,

Martyn Bedford’s “Withen” uses flashback to devastating effect to lay out the impact on a single family of Thatcher’s pit closures: the ending of this story is one of the most chilling we can recall in this or any collection.

“Protest Lit”, event 92 at this year’s festival, is at St Margaret’s Hall, Queen’s Road, Ilkley, from 7.30-8.30pm, on Friday October 6th. Tickets priced £7 (£5 concessions) can be obtained via the Ilkley Literature Festival website – click here – or simply pay at the door.

Indie night

I’m looking forward to a trip to Manchester this week for a celebration of independent publishing in the north of England. I’ll be one of eight writers sharing a stage at the first Northern Fiction Alliance roadshow, to mark the formation of a new collective of indie presses.

The event, from 6-8pm on Tuesday 26th September, at Waterstones, Deansgate, will showcase a variety of NFA presses and books, with talks and readings from editors and authors. I’ll be reading an extract from “Withen”, my story about the battle of Orgreave, which is published in Protest, the latest anthology from Manchester-based Comma Press.

Here’s the full line-up of writers:

Martyn Bedford (Comma Press)
Heidi James (Bluemoose Books)
Joanna Walsh (And Other Stories)
Paul Hanley (Route)
Jacob Ross (Peepal Tree Press)
Naomi Booth (Dead Ink Books)
Benjamin Myers (Mayfly)
Graeme Macrae Burnet (Saraband)

Tickets cost £3 and include a glass of wine or soft drink on arrival. There will also be a 10% discount on any books purchased on the night published by any of the presses in attendance. For more information, email, or tweet us @waterstonesmcr.

Time to protest!

In these febrile political times, it seems apt for a new anthology of fiction about resistance to be hitting the bookshelves (virtual and physical). Protest: Stories of Resistance is the latest book of short-fiction to be published by the excellent Manchester-based independent Comma Press . . . and I’m pleased and honoured to be among the contributing authors.

In putting together this anthology, editor Ra Page paired twenty writers with leading social historians and other experts, to produce stories and commentaries ranging across centuries of political dissent – from the Peasants’ Revolt to the Poll Tax riots, from the Suffragettes to the anti-Iraq War demonstration, from the Diggers to Greenham Common. For my story, Withen – which centres on the Battle of Orgreave, during the 1984-85 miners’ strike – I worked collaboratively with Prof. David Waddington, of Sheffield Hallam University, who assisted my research and has written a factual afterword to accompany my fictional response to those events.

Other contributing authors include: Kate Clanchy, David Constantine, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Maggie Gee, Matthew Holness, Sara Maitland, Courttia Newland, Alexei Sayle and Kit de Waal. I’m proud to see my name – and my story – alongside theirs, and to be making my small contribution to the political discourse generated by this recasting of social history through the prism of imaginative literature.

Protest: Stories of Resistance (hardback, £14.99) is officially published on July 6th but is already available online direct from Comma Press at a discount price of £13.50. Click here to visit the book’s page on the Comma website.

Orgreave revisited

As a former fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, I was recently invited to contribute an essay to the RLF’s website about the way in which the germ of an idea can evolve into piece of fiction.
I chose to reflect on the process by which I conceived, researched and wrote my latest short story, “Withen”, which is centred on the Battle of Orgreave, during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. The story is being anthologised by Comma Press in Protest! Stories of Resistance, to be published later this month. In the meantime, if you’d like to read my essay on the story’s genesis – and how it all began more than thirty years ago . . . in Hong Kong! – please click on this link to the RLF website.

Now for WoW

I’m looking forward to a trip to Liverpool next month to take part in the 2017 Writing on the Wall Festival, where I’ll be helping to launch a new anthology of short fiction about political dissent and resistance. The anthology – Protest! : stories of resistance, published by the Manchester-based independent Comma Press – includes my latest story, Withen, which centres on the Battle of Orgreave during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

For the book, Comma Press commissioned twenty writers – including Frank Cottrell Boyce, Kit de Waal, Alexei Sayle, Maggie Gee, Sara Maitland and Courttia Newland – to bring to life crucial moments of protest in British history through the medium of fiction. The stories range across topics as diverse as the Suffragettes, the Peasants’ Revolt, the Brixton riots and the civil rights movements of the 1960s.

Each story has been written in consultation with a specialist historian or, in the case of more recent protests, in partnership with activists who helped organise them. The resulting fictions are accompanied by short essays by the historians and activists, contextualising the events and offering insights into the political climates that produced them. For my story, I worked closely with Prof. David Waddington, a social historian from Sheffield Hallam University, who was an academic observer at Orgreave.

At the festival, I’ll be sharing a stage with Stuart Evers and Jacob Ross, whose stories also appear in the book. The event is at 7.30pm on Thursday May 25th, at Blackburne House, Blackburne Place, Liverpool, L8 7PE. Tickets (£6/£3) can be obtained via these links to Comma Press and the Wowfest site.

New story!

I’m very pleased to announce that my latest short story has been published this week in an anthology of prose and poetry by new and established writers. The story, “The Wrong Coat” – which evolved
LTU journeys coverfrom a creative-writing exercise – tells the tale of a man troubled by unbidden memories after he pulls on someone else’s coat when leaving a party. It has been included in Journeys: a Space for Words, the second annual anthology from Leeds Trinity University tutors, students and guest contributors. The book, edited by two of LTU’s Creative Writing MA students, Stephanie Buick and Lucy Brighton, and English lecturer and poet Oz Hardwick, has been released by Indigo Dreams Publishing.
It is available directly from the publisher via this link or from Amazon via this link.

Short snories!

It’s publication day! There have been two or three launch events already, and I received my copies of the book a week or so ago, but October 29th is the official publication date for Spindles: Stories from the Science of Sleep, which includes my short story My Soul to Keep. (Actually, I’ve found three different ‘official’ publication dates online but I have time to write a blog post today so I’m going with this one!)

The anthology, published by the very marvellous Manchester-based independent, Comma Press, is the latest in their series in which fiction writers collaborate with researchers and academics to produce science-themed stories and accompanying afterwords.

Spindles coverTo quote from the blurb on the back of the book: “For centuries, sleep has provided writers with a magical ingredient – a passage of time during which great changes miraculously occur, an Orpheus-like voyage through the subconscious daubed with the fantastic. But over the last ten years, our scientific understanding of sleep has been revolutionised. No longer is sleep viewed as a time of simple rest and recuperation. Instead, it is proving to be an intensely dynamic period of brain activity: a vital stage in the re-wiring of memories, the learning of new skills, and the processing of problems and emotions. How will storytelling respond to this new and emerging science of sleep?”

There are fourteen stories, from a strong line up of specially commissioned writers, including M.J. Hyland, Deborah Levy, Sara Maitland, Adam Marek and Adam Roberts. The standard is high throughout but I was especially taken with Maria Hyland‘s A Sleeping Serial Killer and The Raveled Sleeve of Care by Adam Roberts. Many of the scientific afterwords make fascinating reading in themselves.

For my contribution, I was paired with Ed Watkins, Professor of Experimental and Applied Clinical Psychology at the University of Exeter, a specialist in mood disorders. With his help, I researched and wrote a story centred on the interconnections between depression and hypersomnia, or excessive sleep. Narrated by Kim, a technician in a sleep laboratory, My Soul to Keep is the tale of a young woman, Charlotte, who is entering her 365th day of uninterrupted sleep, confounding medical science and all attempts to wake her. Meanwhile, in the street outside the lab, hordes of Charlotte’s devotees have set up a sleep camp and are chanting her name, convinced that she is some kind of living (or sleeping) goddess.

Me on stage with Dr Simon Kyle of Oxford University at the Manchester Science Festival.

Me on stage with Dr Simon Kyle of Oxford University at the Manchester Science Festival.

The Manchester Science Festival, where I took part in a recent launch event, heralded the anthology as follows: “Despite storytelling’s age-old fascination with sleep and dreams, authors have yet to properly address even the basics of contemporary sleep science. Comma Press have commissioned a talented and exciting group of sleep scientists and fiction writers to tackle this most ordinary, and most mysterious animal function. From memory consolidation, to the ‘printing’ of new memories during sleep, from sleep disorders like parasomnia, to genetic theories about insomnia – this anthology of short stories and scientific afterwords covers everything the modern field has to offer, whilst staying in touch with the age-old mythology that still surrounds and informs our understanding of sleep.”

comma logoSpindles was supported by the Wellcome Trust and is edited by Ra Page, of Comma Press, and Dr Penelope Lewis of the University of Manchester’s NaPS (Neuroscience and Psychology of Sleep) lab. For more details about the collection or to order a copy at a discount price of £8.75 (RRP £9.99), please click on this link to the Comma website.

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