Hello Short Stops.
By now you’ve hopefully seen or heard of the London Short Story Festival, June 20 – 22nd in association with Waterstones Piccadilly that we’ve been putting together with the passion and specialist knowledge of our guest Festival Director, Paul McVeigh. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a bit about how the Festival came to be from Spread the Word’s perspective.
As London’s writer development organisation, we are always in touch with creative writers of all forms. In particular, our offer for short story writers that includes specialist workshops (for example in the past year with Katy Darby and Adam Marek) are always oversubscribed. Last year our short story prize, won by Clare Sita Fisher for her remarkable tale, Living it Edgeways enabled us to publish our first anthology Edgeways through our publishing imprint, Flight Press.
We were asked by our good friends at IdeasTap to provide feedback for short story writers six times a year. The first brief has just closed, and currently we’re loving reading through all the entries.
The short story momentum was really invigorating us as individuals and as a team. What we really wanted to do was to offer something even more invigorating for short story writers everywhere. And there we were, after murmuring about it for a number of months (or really, years), on a dark rainy day in our cosy offices in Deptford, deciding to go forth and make it happen.
Waterstones Piccadilly is a great venue for this, being the biggest bookshop in Europe, and we are delighted to bring the festival to the beating heart of the book industry.
We’re all writers and passionate readers in the Spread the Word team. For example – Paul Sherreard is a poet, Eva is a short story writer and I’m a playwright dabbling in short stories. Lucy reads, it seems to me by the rate she is sat in front of another title, by osmosis. We’ve worked with Paul McVeigh for a number of years – he’s been our Writer at Large, ran workshops for us and attended some of our specialist writing workshops. His role as Festival Director has enabled him to curate a programme of writers that uses his extensive networks and specialist knowledge of the short story world.
One of the first short story writers that came Paul’s mind for his wish list was Claire Keegan and by jove she’s brilliantly doing three events during the weekend. Add Jackie Kay, Helen Simpson, AL Kennedy, Adam Marek, Jacob Ross, Colin Barrett…and so many more. We hope there’s something for every short story newcomer or lover.
There’s a free ‘Writers’ Space’ too. Litro Magazine, Comma Press and English Pen will give mini-workshops and the wonderful Vanessa Gebbie and Lisa Blower will be on hand to run writing exercises with you. You can still catch the UK exclusive lecture and masterclass from Claire Keegan on ‘How Fiction Works’.
Speakers’ Corner sees a brilliant collection of short story writers reading a story for free at the entrance of Waterstones during the Saturday and Sunday. Speakers’ Corner will enable short stories to echo across the whole bookshop and showcase readings from brilliant British and Irish writers.
We’ll launch our London Short Story Prize to give writers something to aim for, judged this year by Jackie Kay and Word Factory’s Cathy Galvin. Salt Publishing will be there to launch their Best of British Short Stories anthology too with a reading from, among others, London Book Award winner, Stuart Evers.
People often ask who are the best short story writers in the world? Who are the best we’ve ever seen? So often the focus is on American authors. Being a London festival, we have been thinking throughout developing the festival programme, not only who may be considered to be the best British short story writers, but what could be the best British short story ever written? I’m really excited by the idea of people voting for something that isn’t political or covered in sequins and advertising. What would you vote for? Maybe take a look at this blog post on The Guardian by Paul McVeigh to see what stories people are nominating.
If you vote you could also win a Spread the Word Laureate Friend membership and see your favourite story read out by writer and actress Stella Duffy at the close of the Festival. Cast your vote here: www.lssf.co.uk
I hope Short Stoppers will be there to help us make it a huge success and light a new torch for Short Story readers and writers.
Laura Kenwright, Audience Development Manager, Spread the Word