The Manchester Review: Issue 11 is now live!

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We’re delighted to announce that the latest issue of The Manchester Review is now live. It’s our eleventh outing, and as always, it features a selection of new and exciting short fiction from writers based here in the UK as well as much further afield.  In previous editions, we have had the pleasure of publishing work by Martin Amis, John Banville, Jennifer Egan, Ali Smith, Kevin Barry and Colm Toibin; this winter, we’re proud to welcome Richard Lea, Richard Hirst, Torii Grabowski, Elvis Bego, Kathryn Kruse and Peter Frederick Matthews to our pages, accompanied by stunning artwork from Mary Griffiths. To whet your appetites, here’s a couple of teasers…

This is how it will start. You see him on stage, strumming a blue Stetson, his mouth tightened in concentration. You look at him through your viewfinder and capture him singing along with the chorus. He looks directly into your camera, and you let it hang loose around your neck. You hold his gaze, then look away. It will be a game, and you will win. That is how it will start.

Torii Grabowski

His question is this: Does the violence stop at a certain age? Will he, when he is 17, when he is 25, when he is 36, when he is living his real life and has finally become the person he is meant to be, will he still be eyeing up every other person he comes across, assessing whether or not they are about to attack him? And if so, will he really ever be his true self? Can he imagine living with this constant threat and suspicion and not remain a boy who makes bargains with himself, pretending nothing will happen so that nothing will happen, a person lurking at the fringes of their own life, endlessly compromising, waiting for some phoney future when they can finally take up residence at the centre of things, afraid for it ever to be now?

Peter Frederick Matthews

Intrigued? Click through to read more. We’re currently closed for submissions, but we’ll reopen in the New Year with an announcement about our Spring and Autumn issues for 2014. Stay tuned!

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Valerie O’Riordan, Ian McGuire, John McAuliffe (editors)

 

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.

Coming soon – On The Same Page App

Hi there short story fans. My name is Viccy Adams and I’m the UK half of an interdisciplinary collaboration called two.5 (with an USA-based photographic media artist, Samantha Silver). I write stories and Samantha takes pictures, and by working together we hope to share and extend our skills. Due to the different time-zone/geographic location, it also forces us to use digital studio techniques to co-create work, keeping us teetering outside of our comfort zones.

As part of that, we’ve designed an app to display our collaborative work with an equal visual weight being given to the images and the text. We’re launching a crowdfunding campaign for the final production costs in February 2014, so this blog post is a bit of pre-promotion for that but it’s mainly to start a conversation with other short story writers who use images as part of their creative practice or as part of a collaboration, and to find out how you’ve ended up sharing the final product.

So, here’s a little background on what we came up with:

On The Same Page mock-up of index page

An innovative way of displaying text/image digitally, On The Same Page is a custom-designed app template from the transatlantic, cross-platform creative collaboration, two.5, built by digital design studio ADQ.

On The Same Page mock-up for portrait view

The software acts as a template for creating an HTML-based web app for iPad/iPhone. The design keeps both the image and the text on the screen at all times. It’s a clean, stripped back way of creating a curated digital setting for displaying written & visual work together.

On The Same Page mock-up for landscape view

Samantha and I came up with the design when looking for a way to digitally exhibit our current project, Dirty Laundry. Dirty Laundry consists of twelve sets of photo triptychs and short stories. If you’d like to learn more about our process and our projects, check out the two.5 blog. And if you’re interested in using On The Same Page to publish your own work as an app, then you’re in luck: we’ll be gifting copies of the software files (& PDF guide on how to use them!) as part of the perks for our crowdfunding campaign, launching in early February 2014.

How do you display your text/image creative work- Print? Blog? E-zine? Are you picky about layout or happy to hand that over to a designer? Do you have any gorgeous examples of text being displayed as a readable visual image, like the posters from Spineless Classics?