Wednesday, December 16, 2009


A lovely lovely night yesterday reading in Soho, London for the new guide to writing short stories, Short Circuit.

(photo from my facebook page courtesy of Elizabeth Baines)

My chapter in the book is about how we use inspiration from other people - friends, family, newspaper stories, anecdotes - for our fiction. Not just repeating almost word for word what we've been told but searching for the seed in the story that engaged us in the first place, and working it out on the page in our own unique way. The more I think about it, the one word that sums up inspiration best in writing is desire. I know that sometimes when people tell me a story I'd like to write about, I feel a pang of something that could probably be expressed best as desire - both in terms of wanting something but also, and as importantly, feeling the loss of it.

Anyway, no losses last night. I got to spend time with some of my writing friends I normally meet on-line, including Elizabeth Baines, Tania Hershman, and Vanessa Gebbie, Also to meet Marian Garvey.

Star of the show was Vanessa with her reading - looking round the room I could see I wasn't the only one who was moved. Quite right, because she's the editor of the book, and the good news is that she announced last night that it was already on the required reading lists for a number of universities as well as getting good reviews already from individual writers.

Here is the info on the book:

Short Circuit is a unique and indispensable guide to writing the short story. A collection of 24 specially commissioned essays from well-published short story writers, many of them prize winners in some of the toughest short story competitions in the English language. The writers are also experienced and successful teachers of their craft.

Each essay picks up on one or more craft or process issues and explores them in context, within the creative practice of the writer. Each writer has given of themselves very generously, exploring what it is that helps them produce strong short fiction, looking at their sources of inspiration, revealing more than a little of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’. They share favourite writing exercises, and suggest lists of published stories they find inspirational. Much of the guidance can equally be applied to writing longer fiction.

Contributions include five essays from winners of The Bridport Prize. There are interviews with Clare Wigfall — winner of The National Short Story Award — and with Tobias Hill whose short story collection won the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award. Other prize-winning writers in this book include winners of The Asham Award for New Women Writers, The Fish Histories Prize, The Fish Short Story Prize, The BBC Short Story Prize, The Commonwealth Award, Writers Inc. Writer of the Year, The Willesden Herald Prize, NAWG Millennium Award for Radio Short Story and the Per Contra Prize.

You can buy it here or here.

Many thanks to Jen of Salt for a lovely evening, and happy pizza after!

1 comment:

Tania Hershman said...

It was a great night! And you are spot on about Vanessa's reading, it was mesmerising. Just for you and your readers, Short Circuit now has its own website: The Art of the Short Story, which will be bringing added value!