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

 

Advertisements

Call for Submissions: Pixel Heart Literary Magazine – Issue Four: Joy

Screenshot 2019-10-01 19.35.27

Pixel Heart Literary Magazine is currently open for submissions for its fourth issue, which has the theme of Joy.

The magazine publishes flash fiction (under 750 words), poetry (of any length), and short stories (1,000 – 2,500 words) as long as they adhere to the issue’s theme.

There is no submission fee, and submissions are open to all – experienced and new writers alike.

Pixel Heart Literary Magazine is dedicated to publishing writers who are disabled, LGBT, and/or writers of colour, as well as writers from a working-class background. While all submissions will be considered with great care, if writers state in their submission email that they are any of the above, then their submission will be given a little extra attention.

For more specific submission guidelines and information on how to submit, please click here. Submissions for Issue Four: Joy are currently open until midnight BST on the 1st of November, 2019. ❤

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!

Short Story September to culminate in all-day festival

A month-long campaign celebrating short stories will culminate in an all-day festival.

Short Story September is a month-long initiative set up by independent press, Dahlia Publishing. Following their first short story festival, the aim of the project is to celebrate the short story form online as well as showcase newly published short story collections.

Writers can follow the campaign via a dedicated blog which will offer daily prompts and feature writing by authors with works published in 2019. Authors featured during the campaign include BBC National Short Story Prize Winner, Sarah Hall, and rising stars such as Jamel Brinkley.

Writers can sign up to Short Story September online http://shortstoryseptember.co.uk/. Follow us on Twitter @dahliabooks and use the hashtag #ShortStorySept to join the conversation.

The online initiative will be followed by an all-day festival which will feature a series of talks and workshops designed to help writers take their writing to the next level.

Crossroads Festival takes place on October 5 2019 at Curve Theatre in Leicester.

Short story writers Rebecca Burns and Debz Hobbs-Wyatt will lead workshops on perfecting the opening and ending of a short story, as well as introduce experimental techniques to write successful short stories.  Costa nominated Kerry Young and Women’s Prize shortlisted Meena Kandasamy will deliver inspiring keynotes and there will be sessions on writing rules and funding and finance. The event concludes with this year’s Leicester Writes Short Story Prize ceremony.

See the full programme for Crossroads Festival and and book your place on Eventbrite.

 

30 Days of Writing, An Online Course

30 days course30 Days of Writing is an interactive online course that encourages and supports writers in the process of writing a book in a month. For the thirty days of the course, the focus will be on your writing, on finding the right voice to tell your stories in, and on exploring ways to expand and layer a collection of short stories.

The course is led by the writer and tutor, Shaun Levin, editor of The A3 Review and author of Seven Sweet Things, A Year of Two Summers, and the writing guides, The Writing Notebooks.

30 Days of Writing is right for you if:

  • you want to create a substantial amount of writing in a short period of time
  • you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the collection you want to write and would appreciate some guidance and detailed feedback
  • you have an idea for a book but are not sure how to go about writing it
  • you like working in the company of others, but also enjoy the comfort of writing in your own space and at a time that suits you
  • you have notes and fragments towards a book, and would like some input on how to organise everything and keep going
  • you’d like to experiment with different ways of putting together a book, whether using text on its own, or combining text with photographs and illustrations

Tutor: Shaun Levin
Dates: 1-30 November 2019
Fee: £380

For just over £12 a day, you’ll receive:

  • detailed feedback
  • daily writing prompts
  • customised prompts and suggestions
  • 2 x one-to-one consultations
  • the company of other writers from around the world
  • 2 x the 12 Doable Writing Projects Writing Map
  • and the support to figure out what it takes to write your next book.

For more details about 30 Days of Writing, click here. Please email maps@writingmaps.com for any questions about the course.

Call for submissions – Let your creativity sparkle!

Call for submissions – 2019 Ouen Press Short Story Competition

Ouen Press are pleased to extend an invitation for writers to submit an original short story in line with this year’s theme – ‘The Gift’. Winning authors will receive cash prizes and be published in an anthology early in the New Year. This follows on from the success of the competition in previous years and subsequent publications .

Ouen Press 2019 Short Story Competition – The Gift – Call for Submissions!

The short story must be a work of fiction involving in its theme a ‘gift’ of any sort [e.g. a present, a capability ] at any time [past, present day, future] or in any place [this world or another]. For the purposes of this competition, the term ‘gift’ will be viewed by the judges in the widest possible sense related to both setting and context. They will focus on well-written compelling storylines, thoughtful plots and engaging characters.

Deadline for entries is 31st December 2019 – full information and rules of the competition, which is open to writers worldwide, can be found at www.ouenpress.com

 For updates on our activities – come follow us on Twitter @OuenP 

 We’d be thrilled if you Like our Facebook page