Saturday, 6 October 2018

Stroud Short Stories - new anthology

Cheltenham Literature Festival has described Stroud Short Stories as "possibly the best short story event in the south-west". And in this beautiful new anthology edited by John Holland, you can read almost sixty of the stories, all written by Gloucestershire authors. They have all been read aloud to the fantastically responsive audiences at the six most recent (always sold-out) Stroud Short Stories events. I'm really thrilled that two of my stories feature in this beautiful book.

Whether you are just starting out, or already have experience of short story writing, if you are a writer living in Gloucestershire, you have until Sunday 14th October to enter the current competition.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Ink Tears Short Story Competition

I'm so looking forward to judging the Ink Tears Short Story Competition, along with highly acclaimed writers, Melanie Whipman and Hannah Persaud. Last year the standard was greatly impressive, so I can't wait to see what 2018 will bring.

Click here for the judges' views on how to give your entry the best chance of success.

The closing date is 30th November 2018 and the first prize is a huge £1,000 - wishing everyone good luck!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

A Short Affair

It is a great thrill to see 'Brad's Rooster Food', my shortlisted story from last year's Royal Academy Pin Drop competition, in A Short Affair, this beautiful hardback book published by Scribner (Simon & Schuster).

A Short Affair features in Red magazine's 'This Month's Best Books' (September issue)

The full list of authors is: Elizabeth Day, Bethan Roberts, Nikesh Shukla, Claire Fuller, Ben Okri, Anne O’Brien, A. L. Kennedy, Anna Stewart, Craig Burnett, Douglas W. Milliken, Will Self, Jarred McGinnis, Barney Walsh, Rebecca F. John, Joanna Campbell, Emily Bullock, Cherise Saywell and Lionel Shriver.

We had a wonderful time at the launch in the gorgeous life drawing room at the Royal Academy:

Here I am with Simon Oldfield, founder and artistic director of Pin Drop and Jessy Jetpacks, who created the stunning artwork which accompanied my story.

Lovely to browse in Hatchards before the event and spot A Short Affair on the shelves

I would highly recommend short story writers to enter the RA Pin Drop annual competition - I have had a wonderful experience since the shortlisting, both at the results announcement when Dame Penelope Wilton read Cherise Saywell's winning story, and then at the launch of A Short Affair. Huge thanks to everyone at Pin Drop Studio, The Royal Academy and Scribner. The book is available to buy from all usual outlets, including Amazon, priced £11.52.

Friday, 15 June 2018


Ripening is the 2018 anthology for National Flash Fiction Day (June 16th) and for the fifth time, I have been fortunate enough to have my flash fiction entry included. The theme this year was food and my dark and creepy story is called Gingerbread.

Flashflood Journal is currently open to submissions and all the selected stories (500 words maximum) will be flooding the internet throughout June 16th. This journal has been widely viewed and hopes this time to hit the half a million mark. My story will be live at 4pm and is called Friday Night at the Gaumont, a piece I began ten years ago and have been sculpting ever since.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Stroud Short Stories May 2018

On May 20th, I was lucky enough to read again at the brilliant Stroud Short Stories event for Gloucestershire writers. Videos of the readers are on the website here.

There is a video of me reading my story, The Journey To Everywhere. on Stroud Community TV

It was fantastic to meet up with writer friends again and listen to such an entertaining variety of stories. As always, tickets quickly sold out and the audience gave the readers a warm and enthusiastic response. There is something special about reading your work aloud, particularly when the listeners laugh in all the right places!

Thank you so much to the magnificent John Holland and Ali Bacon, for reading and judging the stories, and also for working so hard to make the event such a success.

Later this year there will be a Stroud Short Stories anthology which includes the stories in every event from November 2015.

The next Stroud Short Stories event, on November 11th, will be part of the Stroud Book Festival.

Monday, 21 May 2018

24 Stories of Hope for Survivors of the Grenfell Tower Fire

All the proceeds from this beautiful anthology will help survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.

24 Stories of Hope for Survivors of the Grenfell Tower Fire will be published by Unbound on June 14th, the anniversary of the tragedy.

After losing their homes, friends and loved ones, survivors of the fire continue to be in great need of support, not only with the obvious practicalities, but also with the devastating and long-term effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

24 Stories is available from Amazon, edited by actress Kathy Burke, and many of the authors are very well-known. The theme is community and hope for the future. (I am honoured to have my story, 'Nearly There', included.)

If you can, please give your support to this deserving cause.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Pain of Rejection - for judges as well as writers

I took a temporary break from writing to help judge two short story competitions and hope this post is useful for writers who suffer the disappointment of not seeing their story reach a long-list, or move from long to short-list. As a writer well-acquainted with the pain of rejection, I'm acutely aware of the hopes being dashed when a story doesn't make it.

As a judge, I have read scores of truly excellent stories. Plenty of strong voices, original premises and stunning conclusions. It has been such a privilege. I gave so many stories a YES, or a very strong MAYBE, and meanwhile my fellow-judges were choosing their favourites too.

Ultimately, this meant incredibly tough choices had to be made, especially during the re-reads when a MAYBE might change to a YES because several delicately nuanced stories were even more impressive at the second reading. It was exciting to discover these, but had the effect of adding more contenders to the next stage - and therefore even more anguish to the decision-making.

It is horribly hard to part company with these stories. Many miss the final selection by a hair's breadth. In the end, the fate of an otherwise beautiful piece of writing can rest on one awkward sentence, or a touch too much distracting backstory in the opening paragraph.

Other reasons for not making the final cut? Perhaps the narrative holds the tension brilliantly until the denouement, then slightly peters out in the vital last few paragraphs. Or the pace of a slower starter eventually picks up well and builds to a spectacular ending, but the story has taken one too many detours along the way. And sometimes it's a case of the theme not being fully explored, or it might have become a little lost or obscured within the plot.

It may seem nit-picking, but locating these kinds of distractions from the narrative is the only means of separation.

Some of the stories which came so close to winning through will stay with me for a long time. These 'rejected' favourites don't stop being favourites. They don't stop being well-executed, compelling stories. They may have missed the lists this time, but only because of the other strong contenders - not because they didn't deserve to be there.