The Open Pen Anthology – Out today

To celebrate five years of Open Pen, and in association with publisher Limehouse Books, Open Pen magazine has released The Open Pen Anthology today, a lovely paperback collection of 26 short stories (that’s 13 stories from the Open Pen archive, alongside 13 new stories from each of those authors). As per every issue of Open Pen, the collection offers a real eclectic mix of fiction that is only ever similar in its Open Pen Anthology covermenacing demeanour. Will Ashon, Peter Higgins, and Darren Lee, offer blackly comic tales that are in turns rich with flavour and anxiety inducing. Tasmania’s enfant terrible in Tadhg Muller returns with his maniacal prose. The foreword from How to Be a Public Author‘s Francis Plug (AKA Paul Ewen) describes the collection of stories as “like drinking absinthe over lager,” and that’s certainly true of Xanthi Barker’s stories old and new. They move at a nauseating pace, and do little to settle the stomach of the reader in their passing. That’s true too of the stories from Kate Ellis, Ben Byrne, Jo Gatford, and Max Sydney Smith. These young misfit writers care not for holding back, their stories are brutal, unflinching, honest, and absorbing. Open Pen is as known for the endemic humour of its published tales as much as anything else, so it’s great to see wit serve so prominently here. Mat Woolfenden writes with the earnest zeal of a tickle-obsessed uncle. His two pieces are an absolute riot, and should be heard live at an Open Pen launch if you get a chance to pop along. Ian Green is another such author with a grasp of the importance of humour to the short fiction form. Editor and founder of Open Pen Sean Preston once said that Green’s “Verve for humour is as apparent as any writer we’ve published, albeit understated and salted into narratives so poignant that you won’t believe how fresh-faced this Scotsman is.” Interestingly, you’ll also find Anna Harvey and James King in the pages of this anthology. Harvey and King are the first two cover authors of Open Pen. It’s testament to the affection Open Pen’s following carry for the magazine (that turns five years old this month) that Harvey and King are now permanent fixtures of the Open Pen team.

The paperback book, with its short stories segregated by microfiction from other Open Pen faces from the last five years, is more than just a collection of short fiction, it’s also a much larger story (a three-hundred plus page story): The story of Open Pen finding its feet, discovering itself, and growing in confidence as a purveyor of fiction that longtime contributor N Quentin Woolf called, “Unpretentious, edgy, and utterly readable.”

The Open Pen Anthology is available to buy for £9.99 at, or from an independent bookshop near you.

Don we now our gay apparel – or hats at any rate

bartle tyroleanWho knew that hats could be so important to a live literature event? The Story Sessions audience joined in with hats and 100 word flash stories for the festive session: Solstice tales.

The Story Sessions has been going for three months now, in the gorgeous community owned pub the Ivy House in Nunhead, South London, with previous events celebrating  Hallowe’en and Remembrance day, and last week’s line up of all local authors had both serious and frivolous points to make – about families, homelessness, the credit crunch, cruelty, kindness and generosity.

Joan Taylor-Rowan‘s evicted couple settle into John Lewis department store for Christmas and all is well until they realise they are not alone… (Never Knowingly)

Unwelcome guests were quite a theme, with Peter Higgins’ family preparing for their traditional Christmas eve supper with the old friend no one really wants to see (It Never Snows at Christmas), and Cherry Potts’ demanding midwinter visitor (The Midwinter Wife), while Bartle Sawbridge‘s disappointed date is haunted by men in hats (and kilts, and sandals) as she fights her way through  the Christmas shopping crowds on the underground (A Date for Maureen).

Our second ever testbed slot was taken by Paula Read with a story of carol singing and dementia, No Room. The audience was once more generous with their feedback.

job 1283012 Family talesA6Next month we are tackling the family. So probably no hats, but some poetry from
Esther Poyer, Anne Macauley and Matt Bryden,
some short stories from  Nicolas Ridley (and probably Cherry Potts)
and Mary Hamer is joining us with an extract from her novel, Rudyard & Trix,
and of course,there will be Flash from the Floor from our ever talented audience.

Want to get involved in a future Story Session as a reader? Contact us via the Arachne Press website.