Reading Short Stories

Every year Dahlia Publishing hosts two students from the University of Leicester for a 10 week placement. The scheme run by the university provides students with an opportunity to gain work experience in a small press to enhance their learning. Students often work remotely and are supported by editor Farhana Shaikh to pursue a personal project – something where they can channel their interests and make a difference. During the 2018/19 academic year we were joined by Amira Richards who had an interest in editing. Following our Short Story September project we were inviting short stories to read and Amira was keen to work on this. Our meetings were joyous – filled with passionate response for the work we’d pondered over, and often found ourselves battling with the question: what makes a short story?  Here’s Amira on what she learnt during the process… 

Writing short stories can be hard and surprisingly reading them can require the same kind of effort. From a personal perspective, knowing what to look for, what works about a story and what doesn’t is a process that one must discover for themselves. Everyone reads differently.

For my placement I have had the opportunity to read many submissions for Short Story September. I have really enjoyed learning what people like to write about and what urges them to produce a piece of work that will be read by other people. I have learnt that people like to write about the mundane but also the extraordinary and the little things in between. There are stories that captured my attention straight away, and others that left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

However, the most important thing I have learnt is that stories – especially short ones – need a purpose. They need to illustrate a clear message to the reader, which doesn’t have to be personal but nevertheless allows the reader to understand why the story was written. I found that the stories with a clear aim and purpose were the ones that were the most pleasant to read. I understood why the writer decided to send the story in and what they were trying to convey through each carefully formulated sentence.

“The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something that feels important to the reader.” ~ John Steinbeck

So when you write a short story, think about what you want to convey. I would love to see stories that not only show me something but also make me question myself as a reader. And while short stories can lack the detail and intricate backstories of longer works, in my opinion, a good ending makes a short story. Think about how you want to end your story and how it relates to the content as a whole. After all, they are short for a reason. But short doesn’t mean lesser just as long doesn’t guarantee better. I look forward to reading more short stories in the future and urge writers to never stop practising.

Amira Richards is currently reading English at University of Leicester. 

Dahlia Publishing is currently inviting submissions to the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize 2019 until 15th April 2019.

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Recommended Reads: Table Manners and other stories

Every year at Dahlia Publishing we provide a placement for two students from University of Leicester to undertake a 70 hour project. The placement forms part of a publishing module and offers students the opportunity to gain some valuable hands-on experience at a small press. 

This year, Ella March spent ten weeks with us. She was particularly keen to work with short stories and has written a short blog about her favourite short story from  Susmita Bhattacharya’s debut collection, Table Manners and the connections she found to her other favourite books.

It’s not exactly an uncommon experience to wake up to the sound of someone you love calling your name. It’s a little bit more so if that someone is dead. That is what happens to Mouli, the main character of ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’.

It takes her a little while to work out what’s happening- and if you don’t know, then you should read the story! But if you have read it, then you’ll know that hearing her husband’s voice helps Mouli come to terms with his sudden death, and her isolation from her family in its wake. Here are a few more books which deal with similar themes.

The obvious connection between ‘Good Golly’ and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is the isolation experienced by both of the main characters. They are perfect examples of how grief can make you feel trapped, but they also eventually find a way to let other people help them. Neither of them can be said to have truly happy endings, either- you come away feeling that you understand the characters, and wishing them well beyond their stories.

‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ is in many ways similar to PS I Love You, by Cecilia Ahern. If you enjoyed reading about how Holly came to find a way forward in her life without Gerry, you’ll also enjoy reading about Mouli’s journey. There are a lot of parallels between their stories, not least the peace it brings them both to feel like their husbands are still a part of their lives and the way they renegotiate their relationships with their friends and family. However, there’s a more humorous edge to ‘Good Golly’ that’s bound to make you smile.

The suddenness and brutality of death, which Mouli cannot really cope with, is also a struggle for the family of Maddy in I Liked My Life, by Abby Fabiaschi. Just as Maddy’s daughter Eve and husband Brady wonder how their beloved mother could disappear so abruptly, so there is an air of shock in the way Mouli reflects on her husband’s death. There is also an element in both stories of loved ones never fully leaving, and the knowledge that the only way of honouring a life loved is to move forward.

Finally, another story about accepting death is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. This is a book which can be equally enjoyed by children and adults, and features a main character who feels just as isolated in his grief as Mouli does. Both characters also choose to find refuge in memories of their loved ones in happier times. They are both heartbreaking tales, but ultimately rewarding to watch the characters accept the magnitude of their loss.

Like many of the other short stories in Susmita Bhattacharya’s anthology Table Manners, ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ is not a happy story, but it is a hopeful one. It reflects on human life and love and pokes into the corners of how we deal with loss.

‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ is a short story in Table Mannersavailable from Dahlia Publishing.

Ella March is a final year student at the University of Leicester. She studies English and Creative Writing and is hoping to go on to a career in publishing.

SHORT FICTION COMPETITION CLOSING FOR ENTRIES SOON

There is just one week left to get your entries in for the Short FICTION 2015 Short Story Prize.

FIRST PRIZE: £500 + PUBLICATION    SECOND PRIZE: £100

Open for entries until March 31st  2015

Enter up to 2 stories and get a free copy of our next issue.

JUDGES: Alison MacLeod    Anthony Caleshu

Full details of how to enter can be found by following the link HERE. GOOD LUCK!

SF Competition 2015

December Round-Up II

Hello short story lovers,
In our final pre-holiday dispatch, here’s what’s been going on on our blog over the past 2 weeks.

Lit Mags
Another new publication’s just joined our list – welcome to Taylz: “a free website for short story writers to test and develop their work”.

There’s loads to read and many places to send your stories: The Manchester Review has just published Issue 13 and is calling for your submissions. Short Story Sunday gives us a round-up and a festive special.

Firewords Three is here, Jotters United has a new issue out and is calling for submissions, and the second issue of Confingo is now on sale. The Emma Press is calling for prose pamphlet submissions.  Issue 4 of Holdfast Magazine is live and they are calling for submissions, as is Bunbury magazine, while giving us a peek at what’s been going on over there. Short Fiction journal also wants your short stories.

Anthologies

Queen’s Ferry Press is calling for submissions – from lit mag editors – for the first Best Small Fictions anthology.  Freight Books wants short story submissons for an anthology inspired by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. To celebrate National Short Story Week, 32 young writers have been published in an anthology, on sale now.

Competitions & Festivals
The Solstice Shorts Festival is approaching. Felixtstowe Book Festival has launched its 2015 short story competition, deadline May 16th.

Live Lit
White Rabbit has a new family story-telling show at Knole in December. Story Fridays is calling for submissions on the theme of The 1980s for its January event in Bath.

If you are eager for even more short-story-related news, do follow ShortStops on Twitter where, when we should be writing, we spend (far too) much time passing on news from lit mags, live lit events, short story workshops and festivals! If you’d like to review an event or a publication, drop me a line.

Happy reading, writing, listening and performing!
Tania x

December Fortnightly Round-Up I

Hello short story lovers,
The final month of 2014 has arrived, happy December! A good time for short stories… (isn’t it always?) Here’s what’s been going on on our blog over the past 2 weeks.

Tania x

Lit Mags
We’re delighted to welcome a new lit mag, Hotel, to our lit mags list which “seeks to accommodate fiction, poetry and contemporary thought”. Go and visit!

There’s loads to read and many places to send your stories: Firewords Three is here, Jotters United has a new issue out and is calling for submissions, and the second issue of Confingo is now on sale.

The Emma Press is calling for prose pamphlet submissions Holdfast Magazinelaunched Issue 4, Diverse Reflections and is also calling for submissions. Bunbury magazine is also calling for submissions and giving us a peek at what’s been going on over there. Short Story Sunday, which has just launched its first issue, is calling for submissions and Short Fiction journal also wants your short stories.

Anthologies

Queen’s Ferry Press is calling for nominations for the first Best Small Fictions anthology.  Freight Books wants short story submissons for an anthology inspired by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. To celebrate National Short Story Week, 32 young writers have been published in an anthology, on sale now.

Competitions
Felixtstowe Book Festival has launched its 2015 short story competition, deadline May 16th.

Live Lit
Fictions Of Every Kind is holding its next event, Help Yourself, tomorrow Dec 2nd in Leeds, including an open mic. Word Factory is having its free Christmas Party Dec 13th, in London.

If you are eager for even more short-story-related news, do follow ShortStops on Twitter where, when we should be writing, we spend (far too) much time passing on news from lit mags, live lit events, short story workshops and festivals! If you’d like to review an event or a publication, drop me a line.

Happy reading, writing, listening and performing!
Tania x

November Round-Up II

Hello short story lovers,
Happy National Short Story Week! Here’s what’s been going on on our blog over the past 2 weeks!

Cheers!
Tania

National Short Story Week
To celebrate National Short Story Week, 32 young writers have been published in an anthology, on sale now. Find out more about NSSW activities on their website.

Lit Mags
We welcome the Wales Arts Review to our lit mags list, “the critical writing hub for Wales”. Check them out!

The Emma Press has launched a call for prose pamphlet submissions Holdfast Magazine has launched Issue 4, Diverse Reflections and is also calling for submissions. Bunbury magazine is also calling for submissions and giving us a peek at what’s been going on over there. Freight Books is calling for short story submissons for an anthology inspired by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Short Story Sunday, which has just launched its first issue, is calling for submissions and Short Fiction journal also wants your short stories.

Competitions
Writing Maps has launched its Survival Kit for Writers and its November contest is now open.

Live Lit
Word Factory #28 is this Sat night, November 22, in London, featuring a masterclass, short story reading group and live lit event. Fictions Of Every Kind is holding its next event, Help Yourself, on Dec 2nd in Leeds, including an open mic.

Radio
Ian McMillan, host of BBC Radio 3’s show, The Verb: Cabaret of the Word, dropped by to talk about his favourite short stories.

Last Minutes and Gentle Reminders
Magic Oxygen’s  short story and poetry contest closes on 30th November.

If you are eager for even more short-story-related news, do follow ShortStops on Twitter where, when we should be writing, we spend (far too) much time passing on news from lit mags, live lit events, short story workshops and festivals! If you’d like to review an event or a publication, drop me a line.

Our Last Few Weeks and Call for Submissions

It has been a busy few weeks here at Bunbury Magazine HQ. Where to begin?!

Last month saw the Manchester Literary Festival. We headed into town and had the pleasure of catching Faber New Poets 10 at the Manchester Central Library. Each year, Faber pick a handful of promising poets and give them tutelage from established writers to help hone their craft. They each put together a collection and then tour the country presenting their stuff. The highlight for us this year was a man called Will Burns. His poetry had a touching reality to it that really drew us in. You can catch up with him here – http://www.willburns.co.uk/.

We also caught The Other Room at The Castle Hotel in Manchester. The Other Room is an event which presents experimental poetry from around the world. Our highlight at this event on the 18th October was a German poet call Ulli Freer. When he first walked onto stage he reached into a rucksack and turned on a small tape-player which filled the room with tribal chanting. He started his first poem to this chanting. Once this had finished, he wrapped his arms in bandages and launched into an epic, 15 minute poem, from memory, which was relentless, deep assault on the sense, and so wonderful. His voice carried through from the stage and beyond. If you ever get the chance to see this man – and he says he only performs about 4 times a year, we urge you to get there!

The week ended with a huge opportunity for us – a guest spot on Fab International Radio‘s literary show, ‘Page Turner‘, hosted by the wonderful Anna Percy and fantastically assisted by Pete Ford. On the show, we talked about censorship in publishing, in special relation to the book being released by MLA about his abuse as a child. With this light-hearted start, we moved on to each present a short story of our own and some pieces that have inspired us. We had plenty of good conversation and laughs about Douglas Adams, George Orwell and ended with the tale of The Giraffe in the Flat who couldn’t claim benefits. The show will be up on-line soon for you all to catch up at www.fabradiointernational.com.

A couple of weeks later, we hosted our latest event for the writing group we run, Do The Write Thing. And it was a Hallowe’en special. A true fright fest it was! Our regulars all spooked us with their offerings and we were incredibly fortunate to have the fantastic Gemma Lees as our head-liner. Gemma Also runs her own night called Once More With Meaning at the Met Bar in Bury. Check here for details.

So that’s about it. Busy busy busy but no rest for the wicked. We’re now looking forward to the next issue of Bunbury Magazine. The theme for this issue is The Unexplained. Here are our T&C‘s for submission. If you want to get involved or even just drop us a line, our email address is bunburymagazine@gmail.com

Take care, dear Bunburyists!