As friends here will know I am enjoying the new adventure of writing short stories.So I thought I would share here my introduction to the six story collection Writing Matters where I meander about thinking of the connection between long fiction the short story and the poem.
And then also here is work in progress - an extract from one of these stories. Hope you enjoy it.
I once said in a room full of dedicated short story and published writers that a short story was the waste of a good idea. Such blasphemy got the gasps it really does deserve. In the end I did protest that my tongue was firmly in my cheek.
In fact I admire the short story form. It sits neatly between the novel and the poem. It combines the broad narrative significance of the novel with the precision, the economy and illumination of the poem. Both the poem and the short story demand of the writer the precise and focused use of language and true involvement with the processing of unique human experience.
And the truth is that I have always written short stories. The very first publication for which I received hard cash was for a story in Annabel magazine about a little boy called Sam who stood on a rusty nail.
As the years went on, while publishing long fiction, I continued to write short stories, mopping up the ideas that teamed in my head. Some of these were published in Sunday supplements and other places. After a while I started to collect them together more systematically. So emerged the collection called Knives and Other Stories (first published by Iron Press). Then came Fear of Flight and Other Stories which is to be published soon with the re-issue of Knives by AudioGo.
It’s difficult these days for a writer to place very good short stories, despite substantial national campaigns to reinstate the value of this prose form in the public consciousness. I have been advising serious short story writers to build a collection around a theme.
In producing Painting Matters and Other Stories I have followed my own advice.
Often we don’t quite realise quite what we are influenced by or what may be threaded there in layers below our surface narrative. And recently, when re-evaluating my own long fiction, I realised how much painting, painters and teachers and inspirers thread themselves through quite diverse novels.
My first job (when barely out of my own teens) was teaching art to disaffected teenagers and when I moved on I continued to admire art history, contemporary painters and to paint a little myself. Also – very significantly as I re-read my work what also struck me was the degree to which I see painting as a liberating process.
Work in Progress: from the short story actually called Painting Matters:"… And the person knocking at the door could definitely not be Sheena’s sister Geraldine. She lived on a boat somewhere in the Midlands with her arty friend Roy and her musical so n Seth. Geraldine’s focus on Emma was a five minute telephone call every Sunday night.She often told her step-mother that she made phone calls standing up. Time, she would say, was to be spent, not wasted.
Emma was breathless when she finally reached the door. She put a hand to her throat, took a deep breath, undid the chain and opened the door. She blinked up at the boy who stood there. He was tall and rangy, his grey eyes were ringed with black; his black hair shot up from his brow was cut oddly short at the side and. He was clutching a big square parcel which he hoisted so she could see the label. ‘Emma Unthank?'