Flashtag presents… The Short Short Story Slam

April 22nd. Writer vs Writer. Blood and ink will flow. The Flashtag Short Short Story Slam is back…

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Here’s how it’s all going to go down. Twelve psyched writers will be paired off into head-to-head skirmishes, and then take turns to read out a tiny story. The audience votes for story and/or writer they liked the best and that guy or gal goes through to round two. If they survive another round, they reach the final. If they win that, they win cash. It’s like Street Figther but real, with cash, and without Ryu’s hadouken. Although you never know what tricks these writers will pull out of their bags when cornered…

The first Short Short Story Slam was held in Didsbury in 2013 for the Didsbury Arts Festival and it went down a storm. Didsbury Life described it as “…perhaps the best of the Didsbury Arts Festival – something unique, home-grown and radical, a real stand-out event.” The winner that time was one Trisha Starbrook who took to the stage having never read her stories aloud before. She won the crowd, smackdowned the opposition and grabbed the coveted victor’s belt while shouting; ‘Are you not entertained?!?’ Trisha is back for the second slam and angrier than ever, apparently. Other fighters this time include writer and film-maker Simon Sylvester, poetry slam regular Mark Mace Smith and one half of Manchester’s Bad Language collective Joe Daly.

This is an event not to be missed. This Tuesday, April 22, Gullivers Pub, Oldham Street, Manchester. The fighting starts at 7:30, the entry fee is a measly £1. Not for the fainthearted.

www.shortshortstoryslam.co.uk / flashtagmcr.wordpress.com / twitter.com/flashtagmcr

Word Factory #21 & Masterclass – 29th March, London

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Word Factory continues an exciting new year! The 29th March is packed with short story wonder at Waterstones Piccadilly:

Instinct and Experiment – Masterclass with Joe Dunthorne – 2-5pm

Award-winning novelist and poet Joe Dunthorne will get you writing throughout this intensive 3 hour masterclass. You will leave with techniques that will help you break habits and introduce strangeness and surprise into your work. Maximum 20 writers.

Cost: £60 per person with free entrance to the evening reading included.
Buy your ticket here.

Short Story Club – 5-6pm

This month: Flannery O’Connor – A Good Man Is Hard To Find

Join us as we read a classic short tale – this month from an author who has inspired generations of writers and discuss themes, language and impact in the hour before the salon.

Simply email Sophie Haydock for more details and a copy of the story: sophie@thewordfactory.tv

The Word Factory #21 – the intimate short story salon – 6-8pm

An exclusive evening of brilliant stories and conversation in the company of one of Britain’s leading international authors, AS Byatt, and two rising stars: Will Cohu and Joe Dunthorne. Book early to secure your place and a free glass of wine at Waterstones’ flagship store in Piccadilly.

Online tickets – £12 | Concessions – £8 | On the door – £15
Buy your tickets here.

Happy National Short Story Day 2013!

The christening of a particular date as being ‘National [insert name here] Day’ is always a bit of a cheesy, cringe-worthy affair. After all, you don’t need a licence to declare a day National anything, and just recently, what might have been fun in the beginning is now getting quite tiresome – I mean, come on, National Hug Your Boss Day? Or even more ridiculous, National Vanilla Ice Cream Day? Not that ice cream isn’t awesome but there’s really no need for the entire British population to give a platform to a frozen dessert. Or hug their boss.

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That said, sometimes there is a precedence for these events, and in December 2010 Comma Press decided to start up a little project of our own which we called ‘National Short Story Day’. It was held on the 21st of the month to coincide with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Clever, eh?

So if the ‘National this’ and ‘National that’ business is all a bit redundant, why did we decide to do it? Well to start with, Comma is the most prolific hard copy publisher of short fiction in the UK, and aside from the odd poetry collection here and there we do nothing else but short stories. And secondly, there is actually a deep-rooted tradition in Britain of story-telling at winter time. Dickens himself edited a weekly magazine called Household Words during the 1850s, which as well as the serialisations of novels, also consisted of Christmas-themed stories which were published in the seasonal issues. This idea continued with MR James and his Christmas Eve ghost story ‘entertainments’ in the early twentieth century, where he would read his work aloud to friends in one of the rooms at King’s College, Cambridge, probably in front of a fireplace. This performative element – the delivery to a room full of listeners – carried forth Poe’s vision of the short story and what was so good about it – that it could be read in a ‘single sitting’. These performances eventually transcended to the BBC with TV adaptations and dramatised readings throughout the 70s, 80s, and a revival in the noughties which featured usual suspect Christopher Lee in a candle-lit room reading selected James stories.

But – the main reason behind the National Short Story Day project was simply to offer a non-commercial alternative to the pre-Christmas chaos; to persuade people to drop the stress of shopping and wrapping and decorating, (and the anxiety over what to buy that aunt you see once a year but who’s coming for dinner on the 25th so you best have a present ready) – just for a moment, and do something different. Something that doesn’t require your money; just your appreciation.

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Initially, it started small. 2010 saw three events held in Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. In 2011, we didn’t hold any events but we ran an all-day social media campaign on our SSD Facebook page and through the @ShortStoryDay Twitter account using the hashtag #nssd, promoting the new website at www.nationalshortstoryday.co.uk. The site, which has grown in terms of content since its launch, contained video footage of short story readings, recommendations (we now have over 200) from editors, publishers, authors, translators and others who work with literature, and a vast range of links to short story resources including organisations and groups, public domain audiobooks and podcasts, apps, publications etc… We also ran a ‘tweet a story in 10 words or less’ competition which proves to be increasingly popular every year (Timothy Spall and his wife Shane even tweeted at us from their barge!), and gave free Comma books as prizes to the top five entries.

In June 2012, we went global. Riding on the high of London 2012, and the BBC Short Story Award becoming the International Short Story Award that year for the first time ever to coincide with the Olympics, we decided to have two short story days – one in winter (shortest day) and the other in summer on the shortest night of the year, usually the 20th or 21st June. It was our most successful project to date. Reaching out to our already established contacts in the UK and in Europe (colleagues and friends of Jim Hinks, Translation Editor here at Comma and co-founder of the European Short Story Network) and sourcing out new ones, we managed to get so many people involved that 20 events took place all over the world on the 20th June, plus three more organised by us personally in Manchester, London and Glasgow.  There are too many collaborative partners to name here, but the response was truly touching, with friends and strangers alike running their own short story themed events in Leeds, Nottingham, Sheffield, Cardiff, Minneapolis, New York, Zadar, Belgrade, Cape Town, Botswana, and Johannesburg. We also received an influx of short story reading recommendations for the website from international writers, so the list expanded into something far more culturally diverse, championing our long-held belief that the short form is an international one. Our hashtag #issd even climbed to the top of the twitter trends, beating #justinbieber (we did it again in December 2012 with #nssd surpassing #mayans).

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This year, on 21st December, we’re returning to the national focus (the international celebrations now take place in the summer). As well as our usual 978-1905583485Twitter competition and book giveaways, Comma is marking the release of our first ever non-fiction title, Morphologies, a book of essays by contemporary short story authors on past masters of the form, plus the release of the brand new version of Gimbal, our free iPhone app which lets you escape the boredom of your daily commute by exploring foreign cities through short fiction. There are also events from Nottingham Writers’ Studio and Parthian Books, details of which are available here.  

We welcome everyone and anyone to get involved with National Short Story Day in any way you wish. Discover a new author, re-read an old favourite, recommend a story to a friend, or even create your own!

Just keep the short story love alive.