Category Archives: short stories

Time to Read!

Smashing news this week with the announcement that my short-story collection, Letters Home, has been selected for a reading promotion across the libraries of north-west England.

The New Words project, supported by Arts Council England, will see new books from five independent publishers displayed by the 22 public library authorities serving Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

The project, organised by the Time to Read North-West Reader Development Partnership and supported by Manchester City Council, is a collaboration which aims to encourage reading and independent publishing throughout the region.

Time to Read has partnered with Comma Press (Manchester), Carcanet (Manchester), Dead Ink (Liverpool), Saraband (Salford) and Knives, Forks and Spoons (Newton Le Willows). The five publishers supplied a longlist of books featuring fiction, non-fiction and poetry, from which librarians selected ten books which have been bought for every participating library authority.

I’m delighted to hear that Letters Home, published by Comma Press in 2017, is one of the selected titles…and a second Comma book chosen for the scheme – the anthology Protest: Stories of Resistance – includes my story “Withen”, about the Battle of Orgreave. I’m looking forward to taking part in one or more of the 22 events, readings and workshops being held across the north-west between March and September to promote the scheme.

To find out more about New Words and to see a full list of the selected books, please follow this link to the project’s website.

Story on stage

I’m pleased to announce that one of my short stories is to be performed on stage at a special charity event in London later this month. “The Interaction”, which was commissioned by the A Thousand Word Photos project, is to be read by an actor as part of two nights of storytelling and photography at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston, on February 19th and 20th.

A Thousand Word Photos is a creative project in which photographers and writers collaborate to create original fiction. The stories – each of which must be exactly 1000 words long – are shared with Interact Stroke Support, a charity that engages actors to read to patients who are recovering from strokes. Profits from the two-night event will be donated to the charity. On each evening, six stories will be read by actors against the backdrops of the images which inspired them.

Those whose work will be featured are: (Photographers) Chloe Dewe Matthews, Kate Stanworth, Phil Fisk, Tim Smyth, Dan Sully, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, Morteza Nikoubazl, Lyle Hart, Phil Sharp, and Marika Kochiashvili; (Writers) Toby Litt, James Young, Nicci Cloke, Martyn Bedford, Max Sydney Smith, Phil Whitaker, Amanda Huggins, Helen Bridgett & Julian Edge, Will White, Kate Hardie, and Jasmine Ward. My story, inspired by this photograph (above) by Chloe Dewe Matthews, can be read here.

To book tickets for the readings click on this Eventbrite link.

New short story

My latest short story is released this month, nicely wrapped up inside the covers of Mystery, a new anthology of prose and poetry issued by Devon-based independent press Indigo Dreams Publishing.

The book, published under the Wordspace imprint of Leeds Trinity University‘s creative writing programme, includes work by new and established writers from the staff and student cohort as well as the wider regional writing community. It has been edited by two current students on the MA in Creative Writing – Rosi Gemmell and Jasmin Williams – working alongside my colleague at LTU, the poet Oz Hardwick. As the title suggests, the stories and poems offer a range of interpretations of the “mystery” theme – my contribution, The Misreading of Madame Marika, centres on a care-home resident grappling with the mysteries of her ailing memory.

To buy the anthology direct from the publisher please click on this link to the Indigo Dreams website.

Miriam reappears

My interactive story, “The Virtual Disappearance of Miriam”, is to be discussed in Postdigital Storytelling: Poetics, Praxis, Research, an academic book written by Dr Spencer Jordan, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham, and due to be published by Routledge later this year.

The story – a collaboration between me and designer Andy Campbell – was originally commissioned and published online in 2000 by the Ilkley Literature Festival, in conjunction with Route Publishing, and is regarded as a key hypertext in the early development of digital, interactive narrative fiction in the UK.

It’s smashing to think that the story is still being read and studied nearly 20 years after it was written!

Miriam is now hosted by Dreaming Methods and can be viewed via this link: https://dreamingmethods.com/miriam/

New short story

My latest short story is newly published online as part of an innovative project that pairs writers and photographers to produce pieces of fiction and accompanying images for use in hospitals working with stroke patients.

A Thousand Word Photos has been conceived and set up by Ben Lambert (creator and editor) alongside Alexia Singh (photographic editor), with the idea of commissioning 1000-word short stories inspired by photographs – in my case, an intriguing and atmospheric shot of a basement storeroom, taken by the internationally renowned, award-winning photographic artist, Chloe Dewe Matthews. Using this as my starting point, I wrote The Interaction, a Pinteresque piece in which an unnamed protagonist is subjected to interrogation.

Here’s the opening to give you a flavour:

The procedure is the same as always. I am escorted to the Interaction Room and made to sit at the desk, facing the glass screen that divides both desk and room. My escorts retreat but do not leave. After the customary wait, my Interactor lets himself into the other half of the room, briefcase in hand. He sits opposite me, shaved head gleaming beneath the spotlights that enclose us in white haze. His suit shimmers like a seal’s pelt. The screen holograms my reflection over his face, as if we are one entity. This thought hasn’t struck me before but I daren’t let it distract me: it might be months until my next Interaction – assuming this one ends in failure, as the others have done. I shut that thought down, too.

In addition to being published online, the stories selected for the project are read aloud to stroke patients at hospitals by professionally trained actors working with the charity InterAct Stroke Support to aid recovery through creative stimulation.

To read my story in full, click here. You can also view some of the other photographic images and their accompanying stories by following this link to the A Thousand Word Photos website.

Story (re)published

I’m pleased to announce that one of my short stories has been given a new lease of life by being published for the second time. “The Wrong Coat” appears in Reflections, the newly launched anthology published by Cleckheaton Literature Festival and featuring prose and poetry from writers who have taken part in the festival. My story was originally published in Journeys: a Space for Words (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2016).

Off to Durham

I’m looking forward to a trip to the north-east next weekend to take part in the prestigious Durham Book Festival – my first gig there in nearly twenty years.

I’ll be reading from and discussing my short-story collection, Letters Home, and sharing a stage with Jacqueline Crooks (The Ice Migration) and Colette Snowden (The Secret to Not Drowning) in a panel event chaired by Kevin Duffy, founding editor of Bluemoose Books. The event is organised by the Northern Fiction Alliance, a radical collective of independent publishers based in the north of England, showcasing work from Bluemoose (Hebden Bridge), Peepal Tree Press (Leeds) and my own publishers, Comma Press (Manchester).

Durham Book Festival, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors, is now in its 29th year. The 2018 festival runs from October 6th to October 14th and includes some stellar figures from the world of literature: Pat Barker, Sarah Waters, Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Sarah Perry, Kate Mosse, Alan Johnson and Andrew McMillan, to name just a few.

Our session will be in the Burlison Gallery at Durham Town Hall, from 4.00-5.00pm on Saturday October 13th. Tickets, priced £5/£4, can by booked by phone or online – please follow this link to the event’s page on the festival website for more details.

Hebden Bridge gig

I’m very pleased to be sharing a stage (again) with my good friend and fellow writer, Mandy Sutter, at a gig in Hebden Bridge next week. In a reprise of our recent “Mad, Bad & Sad” event in Ilkley, we’ll be reading from our story collections – Letters Home (Comma Press 2017) and Bush Meat (New Welsh Rarebyte 2017) – and discussing what draws fiction-writers and readers to dark and disturbing subject matter.

The event is at 7pm on Thursday October 4th in Hebden Bridge Library, Cheetham Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8EP (doors open at 6.30.) There will be plenty of time for audience questions and we’ll be signing copies of our books, and generally mingling, afterwards. Admission is free but tickets can be booked in advance – please click on this link for full details.

Mad, Bad & Sad

It’s rare that you get the chance to do a gig within walking distance of your home, so I’m looking forward to an easy stroll down to Ilkley Playhouse for “Mad, Bad and Sad” – an event which will explore the dark side of life (and fiction).

I’ll be sharing a stage with two other writers – my good friend, Mandy Sutter, and acclaimed debut novelist Clare Fisher – to give readings from our work and to discuss why so many writers, and readers, are drawn to stories which explore the sordid and the seedy, the grim and the gruesome, the traumatic and the tragic.

Mandy, winner of the 2016 New Welsh Writing Awards, is the author of two novels – Stretching It (2013) and Bush Meat (2017), three poetry pamphlets, most recently Old Blue Car (2015), and co-author of two non-fiction books about the lives of Somali women. Bush Meat was described by Booker-shortlisted Alison Moore as “atmospheric…wonderfully unexpected…disquieting, touching and darkly humorous.”

Clare’s first novel, All the Good Things, was published by Penguin last year – described as “a sparkly and unsettling debut” by The Guardian – and her collection of short fiction, How the Light Gets In, is out this month.

I’ll be reading excerpts from my own story collection, Letters Home (Comma Press, 2017), in which themes of loss, absence and isolation recur (not to mention death, violence, racism and depression). A cheery evening in prospect, then. The event will be chaired by local journalist and author Yvette Huddleston, the books editor of the Yorkshire Post, and there will be time for questions from the audience.

“Mad, Bad and Sad” is at 7.30pm on Wednesday June 13th, in the Wildman Theatre at Ilkley Playhouse. Tickets are £6 from the Playhouse box office and the venue advises advance booking, either online at www.ilkleyplayhouse.co.uk or on 01943 609539. Here’s a direct link to the event page on the Playhouse website.

Papertrail Q&A

My tour of the blogosphere continued with a recent guest spot on the Papertrail Podcast website to take part in a Q&A interview about the themes I explore in my short-story collection, Letters Home, and my writing more generally.

Here’s an extract to give you a flavour:

Q: A lot of these stories feel like they’re examining the absence of something. In some stories it’s literally about people searching for something, or trying to get a glimpse of it. In others it’s more abstract, and the absence is never directly addressed. What draws you too examine these moments?

A: I’m interested in the tension between life as it is (or seems to be) and as we might wish it to be, between what we have and we don’t or can’t have, or what we’ve lost. The boy whose mother has disappeared, the asylum seeker separated from his wife and son, the widower facing another lonely Christmas dinner, the sole survivor of triplets . . . each of these characters is trying to reconcile what is present in their lives with what’s absent from it. I’m exploring the notion that these empty spaces in our existence don’t signify something missing, as such, but are as much a part of who we are as the silences between the notes are integral to a piece of music.

To read the Q&A in full, and to check out other books-related interviews, articles and reviews on the Papertrail site, click here.

← Older posts