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.

 

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 

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14TH BBC NATIONAL SHORT STORY AWARD SHORTLIST INSPIRED BY #METOO, TRUMP AND DISCRIMINATION

NSSA_Stacked_2019Award-winning writer Lucy Caldwell joined by former bookseller Lynda Clark, charity worker Jacqueline Crooks, and new voices Tamsin Grey and Jo Lloyd to complete shortlist of writers exploring sexual politics, intolerance, community and immigration.

Lucy Caldwell, multi-award-winning novelist, playwright and short story writer, has been shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University for the second time for ‘The Children’. Previously shortlisted in 2012 for ‘Escape Route’, one of her first ever short stories, Caldwell is joined on the 2019 shortlist by a wealth of emerging talent including University of Dundee Fellow and former bookseller Lynda Clark for ‘Ghillie’s Mum’; charity worker Jacqueline Crooks for ‘Silver Fish in the Midnight Sea’; civil servant Tamsin Grey for ‘My Beautiful Millennial’; and Welsh writer Jo Lloyd for ‘The Invisible’. The shortlist of five stories was announced on Friday 6 September 2019, during BBC Radio 4 Front Row.

The shortlist is:

  • The Children’ by Lucy Caldwell
  • Ghillie’s Mum’ by Lynda Clark
  • Silver Fish in the Midnight Sea’ by Jacqueline Crooks
  • My Beautiful Millennial’ by Tamsin Grey
  • ‘The Invisible’ by Jo Lloyd

Now celebrating its fourteenth year, the Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning writer receiving £15,000, and the four further shortlisted authors £600 each. Selected from over 900 entries (an increase of 15% on 2018), this year’s shortlist is the sixth all-female shortlist in the BBC National Short Story Award’s history.

Nikki Bedi, TV and radio broadcaster and Chair of Judges for the BBC National Short Story Award 2019, says: “One of the things I’ve discovered over a lifetime of meeting, interviewing and spending time with the most extraordinary creative minds in the world, is that they all have something in common: they seek to move us, to make us think and to transform us. I strongly believe all five of the shortlisted writers and stories we’ve chosen do all that and more. Judging them, however, has not been an easy process. To say it was a hard-fought contest is putting it mildly. We agonised over our decisions and disagreed vociferously at times, but on the whole, the discussion and debating was carried out in a civilised manner.” 

Nikki Bedi is joined on this year’s judging panel by novelist and writer of narrative non-fiction Richard Beard; short story writer, novelist and youngest author to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize Daisy Johnson; screenwriter, novelist and 2017 BBC National Short Story Award winner Cynan Jones; and returning judge Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio.

All five stories will be broadcast on Radio 4 on BBC Sounds in September and published in an anthology produced by Comma Press. The readers of this year’s stories include Line of Duty and Call the Midwife star Jessica Raine, who reads ‘The Children’, and Welsh actor Aimee-Ffion Edwards of Peaky Blinders and Skins fame, reading ‘The Invisible’. Tamara Lawrance, who read Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie for BBC Sounds, reads ‘Silver Fish in the Midnight Sea’, and Katherine Press, whose television credits include Foyle’s War and the Golden Globe-nominated BBC series Dancing on the Edge, reads ‘My Beautiful Millennial’. Stephen Campbell Moore, best known for his role in the stage production of The History Boys completes the line-up with ‘Ghillie’s Mum’.

The BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University was established to raise the profile of the short form and this year’s shortlist join distinguished alumni such as Zadie Smith, Lionel Shriver, Rose Tremain, William Trevor, Sarah Hall and Mark Haddon. As well as rewarding the most renowned short story writers, the Award has raised the profile of new writers including Ingrid Persaud, K J Orr, Julian Gough, Cynan Jones and Clare Wigfall.

The winner of the BBC National Short Story Award 2019 will be announced live on BBC Radio 4 Front Row on Tuesday 1 October. The anthology published by Comma Press is out now.NSSA shortlist announcement

Stroud Short Stories is open for submissions until 29 September 2019

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Stroud Short Stories is open until the end of Sunday 29 September for submissions from Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire writers.

It’s free to submit and we will select ten stories to be read by their authors at our 19th event on Sunday 10 November at the 150-seater Cotswold Playhouse. Our last 13 events have all sold out.

The event is part of the 2019 Stroud Book Festival.

It’s an open theme this time so any subject matter, any style so long as it’s a short story of no more than 1,500 words.

Information about our rules and how to submit is on the SSS website.

Tickets, priced at £8, go on sale on the Playhouse website on 11 October.

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 Hunters Grimm- a storyhunting show in the streets of London

Bernadette Russell of White Rabbit  joins the wonderful Teatro Vivo cast in “The Hunters Grimm” a promenade performance in the streets of Catford and Stratford, London,aiding Jacob and Wilhem Grimm along with their companion Dot Wilde, in their search for a story of hope with a happy ending. Such stories seem in short supply in our troubled times….

The Hunters Grimm on the streets

The Hunters Grimm on the streets

Come and join us on our search! Who knows who you might meet on the way: a beggar Prince, Rapunzel now working in sheltered housing as a single mum, a young jobseeker in pursuit of 12 dancing princesses, a hungry wolf reminiscing about his glory days as a restaurant critic,  a step mother who needs a Kardashian make over….and many more

Dates are:

Stratford- 30th May- 1st June- please go here for more details and tickets

 

Catford- 6th-16th June- please go here for more details and tickets

 

For a tantilising taster go here