Writing Short Stories with Cynan Jones

Write and edit a complete short story and learn essential fiction-writing techniques on Curtis Brown Creative’s brand new six-week online course, Writing Short Stories led by award-winning short story writer Cynan Jones. Cynan won the Betty Trask award for his novel The Long Dry and he won BBC National Short Story Award in 2017, for which he was on the 2019 judging panel . His short stories have appeared in a variety of anthologies and in journals and magazines including Granta and the New Yorker.

We interviewed Cynan to find out more about his love of short fiction…

You won the BBC National Short Story Prize for your story The Edge of the Shoal in 2017 and now you’re on this year’s judging panel for the prize. How does it feel to come full circle? And what do you look for when reading short stories for competitions?

Judging the competition has certainly pointed out what an extraordinary thing it was to win. Ultimately, all a writer can do is write as strongly as he or she can, and work on a story until it’s the best possible piece they can produce. What happens to that story is a product of the work and attention put in. If nothing else, I know I’ve really worked hard to write strongly. In many ways then, it feels less of a circle and more of a starting point! What next? I’m always aiming to challenge myself.

The sense a writer has challenged him or herself is in the best stories too. You read great pieces and think, ‘How!? How did they write that?’ Such stories feel both totally impossible to write, but as if they couldn’t be written better.

When reading stories for competitions I look for that. Stories that take narrative risks and show the technical ability to make those risks pay off. That’s much rarer than you think.

What initially inspired you to start writing in short fiction?

I think several elements led me to shorter forms. Firstly, the thing of reading a story from start to finish in one sitting. I loved that as a reader and – as most of us are copyists when we first start writing – wanted to replicate that experience.

I also think that, even in my initial attempts at serious writing, the way my prose hit the page lent itself to shorter form. I aimed always to put a picture down as simply and powerfully as I could and relied on the reader to think and feel in response. That meant I didn’t write a great deal of explanation or back story, or direct a reader how to react. In itself, that makes for fewer words.

In retrospect, perhaps too there were constraints as to how long I could really dedicate to the process of writing when I first started. I usually had about three months for writing at the beginning of the year before the freelance work I did at the time really got going. Perhaps that made me feel I needed to write something I could start and finish in one block. (Which loops back to the first thing I mentioned here, about the immersive experience of starting and finishing something in one go.)

We’re thrilled to have you on board as the teacher of our brand-new Writing Short Stories course. What’s your favourite part of teaching?

Probably how teaching makes you dig into your own process and really work to understand it so you can pass what you know on.

Other than the help of the world-class authors I read, I taught myself to write. Because of that, it’s only since teaching that I’ve really dissected exactly what it is I do, and that’s helped me take things further.

Could you share your top three tips for writers who want to start writing short stories?

Read.

Work at the craft.

Don’t write to be published.

Read the full interview with Cynan over on the Curtis Brown Creative blog.

Curtis Brown Creative’s brand new Writing Short Stories course led by Cynan Jones is open now for enrolment. It starts on October 17th 2019.

Short Stops readers can get an exclusive 10% off by using code: SHORTSTOPSCBC

 

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Story Friday Chemistry – we want your stories!

After a lovely long summer and story walks in the sun, Story Fridays is back inside, at Burdall’s Yard in Bath.  Our next event in November has the theme Chemistry. Are you thinking of bunsen burners, or eyes meeting across a crowded room? Whatever you choose, chemistry is all about reactions, explosive or otherwise. We can’t wait to see where our latest theme takes you!

Story Friday Chemistry will be on 8th November, deadline for submissions is 28th October. We’re looking for stories that are 2,000 words or fewer.  (Full submission details are here).  Writers must be available to come to Bath for the event.  If you’d rather not read, we have wonderful actors who can read your story for you.

For more information about Story Friday, to listen to stories that we have recorded at our events over the years, and/or to submit your story please visit A Word In Your Ear.

 

Words That Go Bump in the Night – Warwick Live Lit!

Let us creep a little closer to Hallowe’en courtesy of Words That Go Bump in the Night – a spooky live lit event at the Warwick Arms Hotel, Jury Street, Warwick, on Thursday 10th of October.  Be part of our invited audience and enjoy some exceptional 5 minute stories, poems and plays all with a ghostly, other-wordly theme. Run by author Jenny Heap, her Words Of events have been playing both Spring and Autumn seasons to ever growing audiences and participants. If you’ve never attended a Words Of live lit event before come along to Words That Go Bump In The Night on the 10th of October to hear some great writing from local authors. 7.30pm and £3 on the door.  See you there!

Submissions open for Shooter #11: Supernatural

Shooter Literary Magazine has reopened to submissions for its upcoming winter issue, themed Supernatural, as well as the 2019 Poetry Competition.

Submissions for Issue #11 should revolve around anything to do with the occult. Psychological spookiness, eerie suspense, weird mysteries and unexplained phenomena are welcome elements, as well as the more obvious demons, angels, witches and ghosts. Religious themes are also relevant. Writing must be of a literary standard, not genre fare trading on shocks or gore. The deadline is November 17th. Please visit Shooter’s Submissions page for further guidelines.

The 2019 Poetry Competition is also open to entries, with no restriction on theme or style. Poems can be up to 100 lines long and multiple entries are allowed. The winning poet will receive £150 and publication both in the winter issue of Shooter and online, while the runner-up wins £50 and online publication. All entrants receive an e-copy of the winter magazine, featuring the winning poem. For guidelines on how to enter, please visit Shooter’s Competition page.

Writers who are familiar with the type of work that we publish are often more successful; past and current issues of Shooter are available to order via the Subscriptions page. We look forward to reading your work – good luck!

Liars’ League: INFINITY & BEYOND short stories, Tuesday 11th June

Infinity symbol or sign. Abstract night sky background

WE HAVE LIFT-OFF! Liars’ League‘s sci-fi-flavoured special to commemorate 50 years since the moon landings features five forward-looking stories exploring the ultimate theme. Teleport into The Phoenix, Cavendish Square on Tuesday 11th June to experience deep spacetime-travel tourismcryogenics gone wrongvanishing clones, astronautical ambitions and a terrifying game of Murder in the Dark …

INFINITY & BEYOND WINNING STORIES
London 2025 by Wan Shinfah NEW AUTHOR, read by Cliff Chapman
Proxima Centauri by Oliver Parkes NEW AUTHOR, read by Greg Page
How to be an Astronaut by Alice Franklin, read by Gloria Sanders
The Martlet by Abigail Lee, read by Lois Tucker
Frozen Futures by Rhys Timson, read by Tony Bell

Usual NASA rules apply: doors open at 7pm for a 7.30 start and tickets are £5 on the door (currently cash only, sorry, but there’s a cashpoint 2 minutes away). Entry includes a programme, participation in our infamous book quiz where fantastic science fiction can be won, and of course all the Flying Saucers you can eat. Drinks and food are available at the bar throughout. There’s no pre-booking, but tables for four or more can be reserved by calling 07808 939535.

The venue is the downstairs bar at: The Phoenix Pub, 37 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PP

Accessibility note: Access to the basement is via stairs: there’s no lift, sadly. The Phoenix is 5 minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus tube station, which is on the Victoria, Bakerloo and Central lines

The Child in Society

Weekend of Fiction Writing & Reading with Claire Keegan

Amber Springs Hotel, Gorey, Co Wexford

June 29 & 30, 2019children

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. Nelson Mandela

For two days, Claire Keegan, author of Foster (Faber & Faber) will explore fiction writing through the linked theme of The Child in Society. Discussion will include the rights of the child, having and not having children, fathering, mothering, fostering, adopting and neglecting children. Participants will be asked to imagine being a boy, a girl, a parent, a child minder – and undoubtedly there will be talk around housing, fathering, contraception, pregnancy, money, hunger, mothering, sleep and what it means to love and be loved, to mind and to be minded — from different points of view. The lecture will explore and display how time, tension, drama, dialogue and narrative structure are put to use in the following:

Jude the Obscure, a novel by Thomas Hardy

The River,” a story by Flannery O’Connor

Sleepyhead,” a story by Chekov, translated by Constance Garnett

The Widow’s Son,” by Mary Lavin.

Vera Drake, a film by Mike Leigh

Tuition 350 euro. Reservations can be made by emailing ckfictionclinic@yahoo.com

For more information, go to ckfictionclinic.com

Masterclasses and author talks for short fiction lovers

For five years Novel Nights has been at the forefront of live lit in Bristol & Bath, programming author talks with authors like Maggie Gee and Nathan Filer.

This year we’re launching masterclasses, taught by experienced academics and writers. Tom Vowler will teach our first class, From Spark to Flame: Forging The Short Story on 27th April.  Tom is short fiction editor at Unthank Books, has published two short story collections and his third novel is out soon. He teaches at Arvon Foundation and Plymouth University.

“A masterclass to unlock some of the mysteries of this dazzling literary form. Aimed at both emerging and published writers, the class will explore how stories are crafted, how you can bring them to life, give them voltage and vitality.” 

On September 8th, Vanessa Gebbie will lead a day-long flash-fiction masterclass in Bristol. Tickets in advance.

“An in-depth look at flash fiction, aimed at any writer who is interested to start or continue an exploration of this sparkling form. You will create  many fresh pieces thanks to tried and tested games and exercises –  your tutor never asks you to share your writing, so you are unencumbered as you play freely and focus on meeting your new characters, voices and forms within forms.” Vanessa Gebbie has won awards for both prose and poetry, including a Bridport Prize and the Troubadour. Author of ten books, including five collections of short fictions, two of poetry and a novel, she is also commissioning and contributing editor of Short Circuit: Guide to the Art of the Short Story (Salt).

Novella-in-flash author talk 

On May 11th we’ve invited Michael Loveday, judge of the 2019 Bath Novella-in-Flash Award, to discuss writing a Novella-in-Flash and to share insights into the judging process.

Tickets only £8.50 from Novel Nights. Square Club, Bristol. BS8 1HB. Flash writers are welcome to submit to read