I Heart Short Stories

This year the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award celebrates its tenth year as one of the world’s most significant prizes for short fiction.

Over the last decade, we’ve not only helped champion the form, but also, particularly because we read stories anonymously, discovered many fresh new writers who had not previously been given a platform – everyone from Roshi Fernando and Rebecca F John to Sally Rooney, who got her first shortlisting from the award.

Now we want to expand our commitment, with regular digital posts about everything to do with the short story under the banner of I Heart Short Stories. On our website over the next months you will find monthly news and views about short story writing and writers, interviews with authors, features on the short story landscape, and guest slots written by those with things to say about short story writing.

Already we have had news round ups, a long feature on short stories in the south west of England plus interviews with our prestigious winners such as Yiyun Li and C.K. Stead.

We have just announced our judges for the award – Sarah Churchwell, Kit de Waal, Carys Davies and Blake Morrison – and we’re hoping to have a piece from one of them to fill you in on the judging process. Also we would be delighted to hear about blogs from anyone with something to say about the short story. If you have any ideas please email shortstoryaward@sunday-times.co.uk or get in touch with us via Twitter.

This is all part of our determination, with the help of our sponsor Audible, to help make the short story a more central part of the literary landscape.

You’ll see everything we do under the “I Heart Short Stories” banner and #IHeartShortStories. And there’ll be more to see on Twitter at @shortstoryaward.

If, Then – Excerpt from The Open Pen Anthology

On March 10th, Open Pen magazine launches The Open Pen Anthology, a 300 page paperback with a whopping 26 short stories (13 from the archive, 13 completely new) by some of Open Pen’s favourite authors from their first five years in print.

Jo Gatford is one of those writers. First published in Open Pen Issue Eight back in April, 2013, with If Then, and as is the case with many of Open Pens authors, Gatford has since published her debut novel – White Lies (Legend Press). It’s only fitting then that Gatford appears in the anthology and is in blistering form with the new short story Take Off Your Shoes, a fitting bedfellow for If, Then, published here exclusively for Shortstops as an excerpt to The Open Pen Anthology.

jo gatford if, then cover flat
The road below looked more like an ejaculation of silly-string than ‘ribbons of light’ or whatever the guidebook said. The book called the cathedral towers ‘thrusting’ and the river ‘a meandering reflection of the hillside’. What he saw was black and grey and steep and dark. He left the book on a rock and the engine running, digging his hands into his pockets as though he were trying to burrow through to the other side of the world.
He began as long distance drivers do; pulling in at a dirt lay by, groaning at the aches in his lower back, taking two minutes to wander no further than it takes to find a good bush to pee behind. But after twenty steps the moist ground buoyed up his pedal-tired feet and told him to run. The hill dropped down past the gradient at which the highway agency had to stick up triangular signs to warn motorists. The hillside was punctured with rabbit warrens, clods to trip on, undiscovered burial mounds and overgrown fence posts. His ankles squealed in anticipation and dread as his jog-on-the-spot became a forward movement.
In the car, she leaned on the horn, flicked a cigarette butt onto the gravel and yelled something that ended in “-king hell!” but the momentum had taken him and he couldn’t stop. He heard other shouts but they were as indecipherable as most of what she said to him lately. He rarely understood what she wanted any more – everything carried some sort of clause or bargain – “If you would only do X then I would feel Y and when you say Z I just want to…” They skirted around each other in the hallway without acknowledgement. They synchronised their turning in bed so as to naturally avoid the drape of an arm or the nudge of a knee against a backside. On the drive back, if his hand brushed her thigh when he changed gear, he apologised rather than adapting it into a squeeze.
His arms stretched out either side of him and his legs moved simply to continue their own existence. He leaned back to try to stay vaguely vertical but the hill took him faster and further and the thuds of his heels resonated the little hammers in his inner ear, blasting his sinuses clear, filling his eyes with briney water until his left shin gave a shotgun rebound and he found himself lying still, face down, his eyelashes brushing blades of grass.
His lungs attempted only to breathe out for a few moments, perhaps with some innate knowledge that inhaling would be infinitely more painful. When he did finally take a breath in, he let it out again almost immediately with a cracked vowel somewhere between an A and an U. Maybe she heard – the horn sounded again. He looked down at his leg, which no longer had the straightness of a leg, and then back, upside down, up at the crest of the hill where she sat parked. She flashed the headlights twice but he had no way to reply aside from another howl.
He waited, trying not to move. The pulsing of his blood around his shin bone, forced through the skin, became the heartbeat of the world, turned the sky blue-pink, the grass into an ocean, the craggy rocks into ancient faces, the towers into jagged knives that sliced into the clouds and let through the glory of whatever lay above. He was unable to doubt anything as he lay there, not God, not her, not fate. The world was simplified into ifs and thens, and he understood her need for balance, for reason, for fairness. He listened for the next ‘if’. Either the death of the engine, her approaching feet, her sighing throat. Or the scraping of tyres on loose rock, the silence and the night. It was no longer up to him.
“Have another cigarette,” he told the hillside, “Think about it.”
   *     *     *

Pre-order The Open Pen Anthology

Look out for Open Pen’s launch nights in London:


The Open Pen Anthology Launch – Brick Lane Bookshop, London


The Open Pen Anthology @ Yurt Salon – Yurt Cafe, St. Katharine’s Precinct, London.


The Open Pen Anthology South London Launch – Clapham Books, London.


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


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

Writing Maps Launches 6 New Contests and a New Issue

The A3 Review, Issue 2It’s all happening! Spring has got us sprung. We’re launching 6 new Writing Maps Writing Contests all at once AND we’re launching Issue #2 of The A3 Review.

You can read more about The A3 Review here. It’s a lit mag that behaves like a map. All contributions are under 151 words and up until now have been written in less than a week. But things are changing – we’re giving you more time to write, more time to tweak, more time to procrastinate. The next six Writing Maps Writing Contests are being launched in one go. There’s a small entry fee, and bigger cash prizes.

The themes for the upcoming Writing Contests are:

  • March: SUPERSTITIONS, Deadline 28 March
  • April: PLAYGROUND GAMES, Deadline 25 April
  • May: TEA & COFFEE, Deadline 23 May
  • June: GREEN THINGS, Deadline 27 June
  • July: JOURNEYS, Deadline 25 July
  • August: HANDS, Deadline 22 August

Read the full details here.

The two winning entries from each month will appear in Issue #3 of The A3 Review and will constitute the shortlist. The three overall winners from the shortlist will receive prizes as follows: 1st = £150; 2nd = £75; 3rd = £50. All winning entries will receive contributor copies, Writing Maps and other goodies.

Five new contributors for Writing Short Fiction!

Well, how about that!  Two new writers in early February, and now an even bigger spring update for Writing Short Fiction at http://writingshortfiction.org   There are a total of six new pieces in the Champion Fiction section, all of them prize-winners, and contributed to the site by:

MAXINE ALTERIO, from New Zealand, who has sent

REGI CLAIRE from Edinburgh, contributing The Tasting

JO GATFORD, who has contributed Bing Bong

NINA KILLHAMfrom Melbourne, Australia, who has offered My Wife the Hyena

JONATHAN TAYLORLeicester writer and lecturercontributing  Ladies and Gentlemen, Tonight’s Performance will Commence in Fifteen Minutes

We also have a second, welcome contribution from JOHN HOLLAND called The Open Door.

Maxine, Nina and Jo have also made contributions to the Tips from the Top section, including Twelve Tips on Writing Short Stories, The Problem with Short Stories and Working with Procrastination respectively.

Lots of valuable additional material to add to the formidable collection of content already there! And all without fees, passwords, memberships, etc!  Go see!

The Things What We ‘Ave Been Doing

The last we spoke to you lovely folks at Short Stops, we were announcing the release of the latest issue of Bunbury Magazine, the Unexplained Special. The response to this issue has been phenomenal and we want to thank all you lovely Short-Stoppers for coming by and reading it along with all the regular Bunburyists.

We do know as well that Short Stops has new visitors every day. We would not want all you wonderful folks to miss out so once again, here is a link to the Unexplained Special.


We here at Bunbury do not rest on our laurels however! We have been working tirelessly to make the experience for our readers and followers as immersive as possible. Last year, we started a blog of our own; a place where we could have a rant and rave about this, that and the other. Since then, we have upgraded to a fully fledged site with as much detail about who we are and what we do. It is home to our blog (more on this in a moment) and details of upcoming issue and more (again, there will be more on this in a moment!) Come and have a look at our new shiny-dancing website here: www.bunburymagazine.com

Firstly, we would like to welcome a new member of our team. Rhea Seren Phillips who is joining us as Executive Editor. She has had many fantastic poems and stories printed in Bunbury in the past and it is a genuine pleasure to have her on board. You can click on her name just above for more details about her.

Our Editor and co-creator has also started a rather insane challenge. This year, for the entire year, allllllll year, he will be writing a poem a day, with no regard to his sanity whatsoever. In fact, so far, there have been days where he has written more than one. We think he’s a closet masochist to be honest. You can catch up on the entire thing at the #PoemADayForForAYear blog and come and get involved on our Twitter account, @MagazineBunbury with the #PoemADayForAYear hashtag.

While we are talking Twitter, we have started a new prompting challenge on Twitter. Every Monday, Thursday and Saturday we will be posting a prompt for all you lovely people to write some micro-poetry. Send your responses to the hashtag #bunburyezine.

What else, what else. Oh, the content for the magazine for the next issue! We really want to announce some very exciting plans for the next issue but unfortunately our hands are tied so all we can say is this:

Last night, we sat writing an interview and then making it all fanciful for one of our favourite *redacted*. *redacted*, who played *redacted*. *redacted* will be talking to us about *redacted* and just about anything really! I almost wet myself when we made contact and *redacted* agreed. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, we also have *redacted*, who played *redacted*, talking to us about *redacted*. Oh my, it was almost too much for us!

Speaking of the next issue, as always we are looking for submissions from you lovely folk. The theme for the next issue is ‘Power’, so whether you write short stories, flash fiction, poetry or do art, photography…you know what, you know the drill by now, come and send us what you got! The new email address is submissions@bunburymagazine.com

One very, very last thing! On 17th February we are holding the latest of the Do The Write Thing events at Bar Ten on Silver Street in Bury, just outside of Manchester. It’s a fun-filled extravaganza of spoken word, games and drinks! If you can, get over as it’s always a great night and it’s also the night of Editor Keri’s birthday! Double the reason to get along! You can find more information about it on the link just above or on our Facebook event here: Do The Write Thing Birthday Edition.

That’s it for now, dear Short Stoppers and Bunburyists. Come say hello some time. We miss you!

New February Faces at Writing Short Fiction

Today is a start of the month updating for Writing Short Fiction, with two experienced and successful writers joining the already formidable collection of writers on site.

Sue Moorcroft is a successful novelist, short story writer, competition judge and fiction editor, most recently of Writer’s Forum.   She has been kind enough to contribute a piece called ‘Hints and Tips for short story competition entries’ to the WSF Tips from the Top section, and in view of her long experience of judging various competitions, her advice is well worth having.

Jeanette Sheppard is a successful short story and flash fiction writer, and she has contributed not only a prize-winning story called ‘No Glitter or Sparkle Allowed’ to the Champion Fiction section, but also a piece on ‘Writing in a Child’s Voice’ to Tips from the Top. All good stuff, and well worth checking out, for anyone with an interest in writing or reading good short fiction.

As for me, a welcome and interesting challenge has come my way, and I’ve taken the offered opportunity to join the editorial staff of the literary magazine, Linnet’s Wings, which has published both my fiction and my poetry in the past. I have a particular brief to encourage new writers, which is a role I think I will enjoy. 2015 well up and running!