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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Short Story Week: Collections and Anthologies


To further celebrate National Short Story Week LitPig has rooted out some favourite short short collections and anthologies. If you regularly read short stories then why not try an author you haven't read before. If you usually prefer a long read then why not dip your trotters in a short story collection ... you could be surprised by what you find. If you don't have time to read then listen to a short story. Radio 4/Radio 4 Extra and Radio 3 have regular slots for short stories. You can also listen to some stories here.

There are far too many excellent collections/anthologies out there to list in full, so these are a sample recently discovered by LitPig.

Literary:
Several of these collections are by well known novelists who also write short stories. These stories stretch across so many genres that it's easier to list them under literary. Your emotions will be pulled in so many directions - that's the beauty of the short story.

Evangelista's Fan - Rose Tremain
England and Other Stories - Graham Swift
Saltwater - Lane Ashfeldt
The War Tour - Zoe Lambert
The Love Object - Edna O'Brien
A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String - Joanne Harris

Quirky / Unusual:
All of these will surprise you in many ways. They include comedy, pathos, push the boundaries of short fiction and sometimes make you think.

Instruction Manual For Swallowing - Adam Marek
The Stone Thrower - Adam Marek
Tiny Deaths - Robert Shearman
Fugue - anthology from The Siren Press (includes 'White Sheets' by Tracy Fells)

Romance:
Well it says what it does on the spine...

Room in Your Heart - Wendy Clarke


Please share your favourite short story collections or anthologies ...

Monday, 17 November 2014

Short Story Week: Competitions and opportunities


If you're a lover of short stories, either a reader or writer or both, then LitPig salutes you! Today marks the start of National Short Story WeeK - hear all about it from the horse's mouth or follow the week on Twitter @shortstoryweek. If you regularly write short stories then here are a selection of the best websites/blogs/Twitter feeds to follow. All of them are lovers of short fiction and many regularly list details of competitions, submission windows and other opportunities.


Thresholds – home of the international short story forum (run by University of Chichester)
Competitions and Submissions deadlines / Events / Articles
@shortstoryforum

Nudge nudge - they have a great article available to read online talking about ghostly short stories, read 'Possession, Obsession and Unfriendly Ghosts' by Tracy Fells.

@paul_mc_veigh
Competitions and outlets/opportunities and interviews on his blog. Paul is a terrific supporter of the short story and writers. He's also involved in WordFactory, organiser of London Short Story Festival and is a jolly nice guy.

Setup and run by Tania Hershman (@taniahersman). Promotes short story opportunities and openings. Sign up for the e-newsletter.
@shortstopsuk

Monthly short story salon (Waterstones Piccadilly, usually last Saturday of the month) and masterclasses. Also a short story club meets to discuss a single story before each monthly salon.
@wordfactoryuk


The following bloggers all regularly post about FREE short story competitions:
Patsy Collins @PatsyCollins
Helen Yendall @HelenYendall

Sally Jenkins often shares competition news and her guides to self-publishing on Kindle (Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners) comes highly recommended by Wendy Clarke (@WendyClarke99). Wendy recently guested here to talk about her new short story collection 'Room in Your Heart', read the post here.

If you use other websites/blogs/twitter feeds which share opportunities for Short Stories then please let me know!

 LitPig is always rooting about in short story collections, he'll share some recent favourites later in the week...



Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Room in Your Heart by Wendy Clarke

I'm afraid LitPig hasn't yet recovered from Wendy's launch party, read here for the full story ... but we
couldn't resist telling you all about Wendy Clarke's first collection of short stories Room in Your Heart. Why don't we let her introduce herself ...

Wendy Clarke is a full time writer of women's fiction. Since starting writing three years ago, she has sold nearly a hundred short stories and her work regularly appears in national women's magazines such as The People's Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman's Weekly. Wendy has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles. Room in Your Heart is Wendy's first collection of short stories.

LitPig says:
When you read a Wendy Clarke story you instantly know you’re in safe hands. She knows how to weave a story, how to twist your emotions and is an expert in tweaking those heart strings. I love how she writes likeable characters and is able to get inside the heads of both her male and female leads. Some of my favourite stories are written from the male point-of-view, and particularly loved Robert in ‘Those things you never told me’.  I also wanted to thump Kevin in ‘Let’s start again’, but then ending up blinking away a few tears on that one. Loved the clever plot technique in ‘Every time you say goodbye', not seen that done before. Wendy also beautifully presents the angst of teenage life in ‘For your eyes only’ (an excellent homage to the Bond movies). This is a heart-warming collection that you can dip into or immerse yourself and read in one sitting, go on treat yourself.


Before the eventful launch party LitPig did manage to chat with Wendy ... see above photo
LitPig – How did you select the stories out of your huge number of published pieces?
Wendy - It was difficult! I knew I was going to be using published stories but I wanted to know whether people would prefer a collection of stories with one theme/genre or a mixed selection. The majority of people I asked said they would prefer the former. I grouped my stories into genre and found that I had more romances than anything else so that was the obvious choice. Most of them were stories that had previously been published by The People's Friend so I decided to use these. In the collection, I've tried to use a mix of stories: male and female viewpoints, past and present tenses and first and third person.
LitPig – When a story idea comes to you do you immediately know the best pov or does this come through the writing? I ask because you write both male and female pov so believably, a rare talent for romantic writer.
Wendy - The simple answer is yes. I always know straight away who is going to be telling the story. Strangely, I prefer writing in the male pov.
LitPig– How much of ‘real life’ do you put into your stories? Do any of these include genuine experiences or characters/places?
Wendy - It varies from story to story. Some have nothing from 'real life' while others will have quite a lot. The first story in the collection, Read These When I've Gone has the two characters reminiscing about a holiday on the Isle de Re - the conversation in the French bistro was based on a real one I had in my twenties!
LitPig – Are you planning more in the series? Will there be another collection and can you share the theme?
Wendy - If Room in Your Heart is well received, I am planning to publish at least one more romance collection. I would also like to put together a Christmas collection for next year.
LitPig– In the short time you’ve been writing, your success has been inspiring. Go on, don’t be shy, how many short stories have you now sold to national magazines?
Wendy - At the time of asking, I have sold ninety two stories - I'm hoping this might be more by the time this post goes live!
(LitPig - Blimey! 92!! I think the Indoor Writer will expect a pile of teacakes when she next gets together with Wendy.)
LitPig - A little piggy tells me I can read more about how you put the collection together ... can you tell us more?
Wendy - Yes, I have written an article on my own personal experience of putting  together the short story collection as an e-book using Kindle Direct Publishing. It is in this month's Writing Magazine and hopefully will be useful for anyone wanting to do the same.

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.

LitPig - It was a pleasure to chat with you, Wendy. And thank you for keeping Bonnie the dog at trotter's length.

 Now for the important bit - where to buy your copy of
& do leave a review for Wendy too.

You can learn more about Wendy's writing at:
Twitter: @WendyClarke99

Paperback copies of Wendy's collection will soon be available, follow her on Twitter or FB for more information.




Monday, 20 October 2014

Invitation to the launch of The Siren Journal's debut anthology FUGUE

The Indoor Writer is pretty excited to have a short story in The Siren's debut anthology FUGUE. If you live in or near London then why not come along to the launch party at the London Review Bookshop, 24 October, starting 7pm (details below). There will be wine, nibbles and author readings. If you can make it then please RSVP to contact@thesiren.co.uk and let them have your name ... and don't forget to come and say hello!

You can buy the Fugue anthology from the following:
The Siren
Waterstones


Venue location: 14 Bury Place, 
London, WC1A 2JL 
London, WC1A 2JL 
(near Holborn London Underground Station)



The Fuguists are: 
Adrian Slatcher, Adam Steiner, Stephen 
Totterdell, Brandon Robshaw, Avgi meleti, 
Stuart Snelson, Gary Budgen, Neill Ran- 
dall, Gary Budden, Tracy Fells, Stephen 
Scott, Róisín O’Donnell, Darren Lee and 
Charles Yu 
Edited by: Lucy Carroll 



Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Lie of You by Jane Lythell

I'm delighted to welcome Jane Lythell to the blog today to chat about her novel 'The Lie of You'. I recently met Jane over the summer at a workshop on writing radio drama in Brighton. She's a local writer and I was intrigued to learn she'd just published her debut novel ...

I'll let Jane introduce herself:
I live in Brighton and I'm a sea-lover, star-gazer, film and football fan. My background is journalistic writing and television production. I was a Producer at TV-am and then Commissioning Editor of Features at Westcountry Television. I left to become Deputy Director of the British Film Institute and later Chief Executive of BAFTA before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for seven years.I now write full time. My debut novel THE LIE OF YOU is published by Head of Zeus and my second novel AFTER THE STORM will be published in January 2015.
I am on Twitter: @janelythell



One woman's fear is another woman's weapon ...
The Daily Mail describes 'The Lie of You' as a 'clever psychological thriller ... the author's real skill is her ability to invent memorable original characters. A thrilling read.'

I took 'The Lie of You' on holiday (Lake District) and very quickly became absorbed in the dual narrative of Kathy and Helga, two very different women both working on the same architectural magazine. Kathy is Helga's editor and boss - and it soon becomes clear that their relationship is strained. For a couple of days this book stayed in my rucksack as I needed to keep reading at pub lunch stops between bouts of hill-walking. This is a page turner and I loved the different voices of the two women. Sympathising with Kathy's growing paranoia and also empathising (eventually) with the obssessive Helga. It's easy to label Helga as the 'baddie', but as the story develops we learn the reasons behind her, at time, very odd behaviour. 

The prose is tightly written carrying you along at a cracking pace, but also the characters and settings are beautifully drawn as Jane is a very visual writer. With the first person narratives of the two women you really are inside their heads, experiencing all of Kathy's insecurities and Helga's jealously. The readers clearly see how strained Kathy and Marcus' relationship is becoming, but poor Kathy ploughs on trying to balance all the conflicts of a full time working mum with a young child. At first small things start to go wrong at work, but the mistakes start to build and Kathy doubts her own abilities when in reality her life is being manipulated by a malevolent individual. I found this aspect of the novel quite chilling, as it felt all too believable. It also brought back some painful memories of the early days of balancing life as a new mum with a full-time management role, I did feel for Kathy.

This novel explores every woman's fear of being watched/stalked and the disruption and dangers that such obsession can eventually reap in someone's life. What I enjoyed was that we often overlook the obsession of women with other women and this is fully explored in Jane's enthralling novel. I enjoyed this immensely and highly recommend 'The Lie of You'.


Q: With a successful career working in TV production (amongst other things) how did you come to write The Lie Of You?
I wanted to write all my life but I had a small daughter and a big mortgage so for years I worked in full-on occupations which left very little thinking and writing time.  I would go on Arvon weekend courses to keep the writing flame alive. That is a great organisation. It wasn’t until I got into a financial position where I could give myself two years writing time that it really started to happen. That was in May 2011 and how joyful that felt – to have time to write.

Q: Why did you choose to write a psychological thriller with these particular themes?
The novel explores jealousy that deepens into full blown obsession. I’m interested in what makes people do extreme things.  I think all of us have a dark side which we strive to tame and control. Then something can happen which tips an apparently sane person into obsessive and destructive behaviour. I wanted it to be credible though, not so extreme that the reader would say I don’t believe that. By writing alternating chapters from the point of view of the two women I hoped to reveal their motivations and create sympathy too.

Q: I found some sections quite unnerving, perhaps because they dwell closely on deep-seated fears such as being watched when sleeping. How much research did you undertake and can you tell us about your particular process?
The voice of Heja came to me very clearly. I saw her as a woman who had a deep malevolence towards another woman who is unaware of it. I then had to work out why she felt like this. From what deep seated disturbance did her hatred of Kathy arise? As for research I was fascinated by psychoanalysis in my thirties and read a lot of Freud. Actually Freud is a master storyteller and I found his writings both illuminating and enthralling. Psychological thrillers allow you to explore the interior landscape of your characters.

Q: This is an incredibly visual book. As I read I could clearly see the characters and their surroundings. What do you see when you’re writing? Has a background of working in TV production stimulated or influenced your writing and…
Do you have any plans to convert The Lie Of You into a screenplay? It would make a terrific film or TV drama.
Thank you. Quite a few readers have said that. I studied cinema as a postgraduate and worked in television for fifteen years so I’m sure I’ve been formed by this. And I’m a huge fan of Hitchcock. I do see the scenes in my novel unspooling as film sequences as I’m writing them. For example I had to see in my head the two flats that Heja and Kathy live in right down to the layout of the rooms and even the sounds they may hear from the street below.
I would love The Lie Of You to have a second life as a TV or film production. And it certainly has enough cliff-hangers to make a good drama over two or three nights! The way that works though is that you have to get a TV station or producer interested in doing the adaptation and they make it happen. Fingers crossed.

Q: With your first book doing well can you share what your next writing project is? I believe you’ve now finshed book 2? Anything you can share with us?
I completed my second novel this summer and Head of Zeus are publishing it in January 2015, with availability on Kindle from December. It’s called After The Storm and has a very different setting and characters. However there is still a psychological disturbance at its heart which drives the story forward.

Q: There are many writers out there keen to get their work published. Hw did The Lie Of You make it to print?
For me the turning point was finding a literary agent. I’m represented by Gaia Banks of Sheil Land and I couldn’t have a better champion. I sent Gaia the first forty pages of The Lie Of You and she loved it but said the novel was too short. It was under 60,000 words at the time. So we worked together on the manuscript for six months. You only get one chance with a publisher so you need to get your book into as perfect a form as possible. Never submit too early. Take the time to edit again and again and show your drafts to people you respect. Gaia’s comments were invaluable and my partner also gave me masterly feedback. The final version of The Lie Of You is 87,500 words and I learned a lot in the process of revising and editing.  

Here are some links to where you can buy 'The Lie of You':

If the above whetted your appetite then here is an overview of Jane's next novel: After The Storm
A man who had no voice. A woman who helped him find it.
Rob and Anna have only just met Owen and Kim. Now they've chartered their handsome old boat to take them to a far off island in the Caribbean.
With just the four of them on board, Rob dreams of lazy afternoons snorkelling. Anna looks forward to the silence and solitude of the sea.
But why does Owen suffer acute insomnia and seem so secretive about his past? Why does Kim keep a knife zipped into her money-belt? Anna, a speech therapist, can usually get people to tell her the truth... but does she want to this time?


Jane is also appearing at the SHOREHAM WORDFEST - details below if you live close enough to attend:

Saturday 11 October 11.00 – 12.30 Sussex Yacht Club Tickets: £6.00
Jane Lythell and Lucy Atkins
Laura Lockington, organiser of Brighton’s Bookish Suppers, will interview two authors working in this genre today.
Jane Lythell, TV producer and former BFI Deputy Director, wrote The Lie of You, a chilling psychological thriller about jealousy, manipulation, and obsession between two women.
Lucy Atkins, award-winning journalist and book critic, is the author of The Missing One.



Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Small Wonder Short Story Festival

Every September Charleston hosts the Small Wonder Short Festival and if you write, read or love short fiction then it's definitely worth a visit. The events are housed in a flint stone barn, which is surprisingly cosy (but can get chilly in the evenings). As this is a rural setting then many of the authors have to
contend with background heckling from cows, crows and the occasional tractor. Sweet fermenting hay (not dung as many assumed) provides a fruity sensual overtone.

The single track road leading up to the farmhouse and events has to be traffic controlled, so the Indoor Writer took the easy option the free bus service from Lewes train station. The free bus ticket also gets you a free bottle of Small Wonder beer brewed locally by Harveys of Lewes. Surprisingly few visitors took advantage of this terrific service - there were only 5 people on the Sunday morning bus!

A highlight was Graham Swift (Friday 26th Sep) talking about his latest collection 'England and other stories'. He also read 'Saving Grace' from the same collection. His reading was a masterclass in how to read your work. He took his time, read slowly and carefully savouring every word. It was mesmerising.

Swift shared that he believes a short story begins when "a sudden moment tips up a life". He's "never felt fear of any subject" and will often go into very dark places. He feels that's the deal as a writer. On the question of the differences between novels and short stories he said he felt the differences were exaggerated and the novel is "really just a long story". And that in reality the novel is the oddity because everyone is a short story writer, telling stories in the pub, waiting for a bus etc.

The annual Small Wonder short story slam followed and yes the Indoor Writer got to read! She didn't win (£100 cash prize), but it was terrific fun. Each year there's a different theme with a 3 min max limit. 'Red Letter Day' was the theme and prompted a surprising range of stories.

The Indoor Writer was back at the festival for Sunday afternoon and what a treat was in store ... Edna O'Brien followed by Rose Tremain. Both talking about their most recent short story collections and the art of writing short stories.

Edna O'Brien read extracts of her story 'A scandalous woman' (from 'Saints and Sinners' and 'The Love Object'). She confessed that "writing gets harder" as you get older and lack the energy of youth, but she still believes "literature is everything". A top tip for any writer was how she begins her writing day by first reading a page or paragraph of something remarkable such as James Joyce or Virginia Woolf - it's like training yourself with good language rather like an athlete warming up. Alice Munro is another favoured short story writer she loves to read.

The old favourite 'why do you write' prompted her to think carefully before answering. Looking back on her life she would still become a writer all over again, despite the lonely existence and how writing is not lucrative. "You might as well ask why do I breathe?" she declared. "Words have befriended and beleagured me, but the urge to write is far greater than ambition or vanity - it keeps me from drowning."
What more can you say ... An inspirational woman.

Rose Tremain, wearing rock star dark glasses (she had to swap them for her reading glasses at the lectern) was equally inspiring. She read a delightful story 'Extra Geography' from her latest collection 'The American Lover' (The title story is currently shortlisted for the 2014 BBC Short Story Award). Invoking a very believable New Zealand accent. In the interview she described the short story as "a little thing, standing periously on the edge". Interestingly, she has to have the whole story complete in her head before she starts writing (the Indoor Writer was pleased to hear this as this is exactly how she writes short fiction). Short stories sometimes come like dreams or out of historical reading/research or simply from a commission. She confessed to not being precious and sometimes a commission means she has to lock herself away like Rapunzel and just "get on with it". Her own favourite short story authors are mostly American writers (she taught Creative Writing modules in Nashville for some years where she got the taste) including Annie Proulx.

You can buy books at the event and then get them signed by your favourite authors. Unfortunately, the queue for Edna O'Brien moved slowly and the Indoor Writer had to rush off for the next talk, but she did get to chat with Rose Tremain (one of her all time favourite writers) - who is lovely. She also met some new writers either in the audience or on the bus, everyone is very friendly, which is good to know when you're not in a group.

There are still more events, including Margaret Atwood, continuing up to the end of Wednesday, but many sold out. Look out for this Small Wonder in 2015 and book your tickets early!

Sorry there are no photos of the speakers ... really need to sort out a better phone ...





Monday, 29 September 2014

BBC Short Story Award 2014

Ho hum the Indoor Writer didn't make the final five shortlisted short stories for the BBC award. With a top prize of £15,000 this competition attracts the big names in writing short fiction so it wasn't too much of a surprise when this year's names were released to include: Tessa Hadley, Rose Tremain, Francessca Rhydderch, Zadie Smith and Lionel Shriver. Several of these have recently released short story collections so I'm guessing their agents were keen to get extra publicity. Hilary Mantel has only recently brought out a new short story collection (with the eye-catching title of 'The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher'), so perhaps we can expect to see her name on the shortlist in 2015 ...

If you want to listen to the shortlisted stories you can still get them on iplayer or download the podcasts here

We've listened to all of them. They are well written stories, but to be honest nothing beyond the skill of many writers working in the short story form. Disappointingly none had any fantasy/magic/wonder element that the winning 'Mrs Fox' by Sarah Hall had in bucket loads from last year's award. If I had to vote for my favourites then I'd plump for:
Bad Dreams by Tessa Hadley - I even stopped dusting to listen to this as the atmosphere and language captured me from the beginning
Kilifi Creek by Lionel Shriver - a seemingly lightly written story with dark undertones. This is Shriver's second consecutive year of making the shortlist so hoping she gets in the top 2 this year.

The other 3 stories are:
The American Lover by Rose Tremain
The Taxidermist's Daughter by Francessca Rhydderch
Miss Adele amidst the corsets by Zadie Smith

If you were judging which story would you pick?