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On Thursday 3rd October 2002 a select group of writers and editors came together on Tyneside to discuss the future of an endangered species, the short story. Jackie Kay, Northern Arts Literary Fellow and herself an acclaimed short story writer, led an emergency summit convened by Northern Arts, New Writing North and Northumbria University.   

The summit was inspired by Margaret Wilkinson, a Tyneside-based short story writer and lecturer at Northumbria University, who feels that the time has come to push for a renaissance in the short story and restore it to its rightful place as a respected and well-published art form.  She warns that the discrimination currently faced by the short story, traditionally a fertile ground for experimentation as well as entertainment, may lead to its disappearance from our bookshelves.



(Thanks to Glenn Osborn for The Shorts!)

As a first step, the summit questioned how the current deplorable state of affairs came about and what can be done to rectify it. Despite the enthusiasm of writers for writing them and readers for reading them, short stories in the UK are not reaching their potential audience due to the dearth of publishing and sales outlets.

The campaign will culminate in a high-profile international conference in autumn 2003, and Val McDermid will edit an anthology of short stories intended to promote it. See below.

Cadenza will be supporting this campaign, and I'll post further news here as and when I get it.

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Save Our Short Story
Campaign update 4
Friday 13 June 2003

Welcome to the fourth Save Our Short Story update. Thank you all for your continued support for this campaign.

The first stage of short story research is complete. Book Marketing Limited's SHORT STORIES, Desk Research Report includes statistical information on publishers, general consumer purchasing, public libraries, periodicals and bestsellers.

Overall, the number of short fiction anthologies published over the past three years, by both mainstream and independent publishers, has risen. However, a couple of large initiatives account for the greater proportion of this increase. Single author short story collections have fared less well. The number of collections published by mainstream publishers has fallen from 215 in 2000 to 135 in 2002. By contrast, the number of collections published by independents - including self-publishing - has increased from 203 in 2000 to 287 in 2002.

This has implications for short story writers, who are likely to receive smaller advances, less exposure and less high street distribution. The most common reasons citing for buying short fiction were 'saw in shop' and 'discounted price'.

The bestselling short story book of 2002 was The Veteran, by Frederick Forsythe (116,310 copies), followed by The Simple Soul and Other Stories, by Catherine Cookson (48,555 copies). These two books were also the most frequently borrowed short story books from public libraries. The top mainstream periodical outlet for short stories is People's Friend. The most intriguing is The Teddy Bear Times.

The full report, including the top 100 short story bestsellers for 2002, will be available to download from the short story campaign website later in the year.

Book Marketing Limited www.bookmarketing.co.uk is also carrying out original consumer research into the short story as part of the wider 'Broadening the Market' project, undertaken on behalf of Arts Council England and a syndicate of book publishers and retailers.

Jenny Brown Associates has been commissioned to carry out the next phase of the short story research. This will include original research into writers, agents, publishers, event organisers and retailers to discover attitudes to writing, agenting, publishing, marketing and selling of short stories and short story collections. The research will look at how short story collections fare in the reviews sections of the literary and popular press and magazines over a fixed period of time. Jenny Brown will also be exploring what those interviewed would consider to be priorities in terms of possible new initiatives to support the short story.

The campaign website continues to be developed. We have an address - www.saveourshortstory.org.uk - and a holding page, which includes a form for people to sign up for updates and the online anthology. Over 200 writers submitted short stories for the anthology, which will be launched in August. We will be contacting writers about inclusion in the anthology later in the summer.

The campaign team is currently collating content for the website. If anyone has any information about short story initiatives that you'd like to be included, please send it to short.story@artscouncil.org.uk Thank you!

There will be two events celebrating the short story at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival. On Saturday 16 August at 8.30pm, Val McDermid will be joined by Denise Mina and Laura Hird to launch the online anthology. Jackie Kay, AL Kennedy and Nancy Lee will celebrate the virtues of the short story on Monday 18 August at 4.30pm at an event In Praise of the Short Story. For more details on this year's programme, check out www.edbookfest.co.uk

Bad news and good news for Scottish short story writers. The bad news is that The Macallan Single Malt Scotch Whisky has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Macallan Short Story Competition, run with the Scotland on Sunday newspaper. Macallan has also withdrawn sponsorship of the Crime Writers Association Daggers. The good news is that Orange and the Scotsman are joining forces to set up a new short story competition, to be launched in October 2003.

Events

The European Short Story Festival was held in Croatia and Slovenia in May. Participants included short story writers from Croatia, Spain, Slovenia, Netherlands, Serbia, Italy, Germany, the UK, Poland and Hungary. Kate Griffin of Arts Council North East represented the Save Our Short Story campaign, making presentations and giving interviews to Croatian radio and television. There was excellent press coverage of the festival, with lots of articles and interviews in the papers, and television cameras everywhere we went. The participants from Poland and Serbia/Spain were particularly interested in the idea of the Save Our Short Story campaign, and are thinking about replicating it in their own countries.

Press coverage

Arts Council Yorkshire's Literature News, issue 3
Yahoo Quotation of the day for May 18, 2003 (Chaz Brenchley on the short story)

Websites

Lit net (www.lit-net.org) carry information about the short story campaign, including an opinion piece entitled 'Save Our Short Stories - why?'

<http://www.lit-net.org//index.php?screen=reader&LinkID=1630&viewCat=17>

Laura Hird's website www.laurahird.com also has information about the campaign.

Call for submissions

Murder on ice...
Mslexia, the best-selling quarterly magazine for women who write, is looking for poetry and short stories on the themes of crime and ice for its autumn and winter issues. Submitting to Mslexia is one of the best ways to get onto the publishing ladder. The magazine is read by literary agents and BBC producers on the lookout for new talent and many careers have been launched from its pages.

The crime theme has been subtitled 'Hit and Run' because Mslexia is challenging crime aficionados to experiment with form. So fiction writers should submit no more than 500 words and poets no less than 40 lines. The idea is to produce a series of compelling three-minute reads. The closing date for 'Hit and Run' submissions is 30 June 2003.

Ice is the theme for the subsequent issue of the magazine, due out this winter. Mslexia is looking for wintry words about frozen worlds. Poets no more than 40 lines on this theme, please; prose-writers up to 3,000 words. The closing date for ice submissions is 30 September 2003.

For details on how to submit check the website: www.mslexia.co.uk

Anthologies and other short story publications

The Fix www.ttapress.com
In-depth reviews of just about every short story in just about every issue of just about every magazine publishing in the English language, plus interviews, comment columns and features. The world's only print magazine entirely dedicated to the critical coverage of short fiction, invaluable for both readers and writers.

Also by the same publisher - The Third Alternative and Crimewave magazines

Elastic Press www.elasticpress.com
A small publishing house dedicated to showcasing the talents of previously published independent press writers. They produce small print run, high quality, single author short story anthologies in a variety of genres with the intention of raising the profile of writers who are looking to consolidate their reputations within the independent press and beyond.

Black Mountain Review www.blackmountainreview.com
The magazine for new writing from Northern Ireland, regularly publishes short fiction. Black Mountain press also publishes short story collections.

Northwords www.northwords.co.uk
Published three times a year and regularly features three original short stories.

End word

'It is commonly acknowledged that outlets for short stories of all kinds, literary, middlebrow, and popular, have diminished over the last few years. Earlier this century many writers were able to earn a good living from short fiction alone, while novelists used it to supplement their income and to try out new ideas... But for various reasons, the periodicals that used to publish stories, such as Nash's Pall Mall, Windsor Magazine, Pearson Magazine, and the Strand, have disappeared, with the result that writers have been left without a forum, and readers have been deprived of what remains a popular form. Publishers are reluctant to publish short stories in book form, even when they are by highly successful authors, and it could well be argued that the best place for a story is in a periodical or a collection. It is hoped that the Arts Council anthology will fill a need, providing a market for the good, and encouragement for the new.'

From the introduction to New Stories 1, edited by Margaret Drabble and Charles Osborne (The Arts Council of Great Britain), 1976.

The aims of the short story campaign are to:

· Increase the number and visibility of high quality outlets for short fiction
· Give the short story form more prestige and a higher profile
· Enable writers to specialise in the short story form
· Encourage and promote exciting short fiction.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this update. The short story campaign team is: Claire Malcolm of New Writing North, Kate Griffin and Mark Robinson at Arts Council England, North East, and Penny Smith and Margaret Wilkinson at University of Northumbria. Thanks also to Nick McDowell at Arts Council England, London, Lucy Hutton and John Hampson at Arts Council England, national office, Suzy Joinson at the British Council, Jenny Attala and Sophy Dale at the Scottish Arts Council, Toby Litt and Val McDermid.

If you would like to comment on any of the issues raised by the short story campaign, share your ideas or receive further information, please contact Kate Griffin at short.story@artscouncil.org.uk

Please feel free to forward this update to anyone you think might be interested in the short story campaign.

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SUBMISSIONS

Submissions should be no longer than 5000 words. We will consider both unpublished stories and ones which have previously been published but are currently not available in print format in the UK. Stories should be sent electronically to:

kate.griffin@artscouncil.org.uk

formatted either as Word documents or as Rich Text Files. Please include your name and email address in the document.By submitting material authors grant us permission to publish the work in an online anthology only. No payment will be made for publication. Copyright will be retained by the author. Rights of the author will be asserted on each page.

Closing date for submissions is April 30th 2003.

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Save Our Short Story


Campaign update 3 - 11 April 2003

Welcome to the third Save Our Short Story campaign update.

As there are a number of new names on the mailing I thought it would be useful to reiterate the aims of the campaign. We want to:

· Increase the number and visibility of high quality outlets for short fiction
· Give the short story form more prestige and a higher profile
· Enable writers to specialise in the short story form
· Encourage and promote exciting short fiction.

We agreed that a good starting point would be a research project to establish the current state of the short story. This is moving ahead: Book Marketing Limited are investigating publishing, sales and lending figures for short stories, as well as publishing outlets. As part of a larger literature research project, BML are also looking into reading and buying patterns across the country.

The qualitative side of the research will commence in the early summer. The researchers will aim to garner a range of views from the industry, exploring attitudes to writing, agenting, publishing, marketing and selling of short stories. The research will also include short story prizes, review coverage and festival programming.

Over the next few months, the campaign steering group wants to focus on increasing the visibility of the short story - putting the short story on the agenda and making sure it stays there - as well as highlighting all the initiatives to support the art form. We want to look into ways of encouraging people to read more short stories.

We are also exploring options for the ongoing support of the short story past the timescale of the campaign.

Just a reminder that the deadline for submissions for Val McDermid's online anthology is 30 April 2003. So far, the response has been very enthusiastic. A dozen fantastic, well-known writers have offered their stories in support of the campaign, and on my desk the pile of hopefuls grows by the day.

Submissions should be no longer than 5000 words. We will consider both unpublished stories and ones that have previously been published but are currently not available in print format in the UK. Stories should be sent electronically to: kate.griffin@artscouncil.org.uk formatted either as Word documents or as Rich Text Files. Please include your name and email address in the document.

We want to encourage as many people as possible to sign up to receive the anthology, so please spread the word! I'll be sending details on how to subscribe in a future update, once the website is up and running. In the meantime, anyone interested should contact me to go on the mailing list.

Events

The Edinburgh International Book Festival will have plenty to offer the short story lover this year, according to festival director Catherine Lockerbie. Lots of short story writers - new and established, from the UK, Canada and the US - will appear throughout the festival. During the weekend of 16-18 August, there'll be a special focus on the short story, with two dedicated events, including the launch of the online anthology. More details when the festival programme is launched in June.

I've had news of a couple of festivals dedicated to the short story. The European Short Story Festival 2003 takes place from 19-23 May in Zagreb, Osijek and Ljubljana. The programme - a mix of readings, discussions, translation workshops and book launches - features short story writers from Croatia and across Europe, including Ingo Schultz (Germany), Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), and Ali Smith (UK), who'll be attending courtesy of the British Council.

In September 2003, the fourth International Frank O'Connor Festival of the Short Story in Cork will take place. This is the only annual short story festival in an English-speaking country. Short story writer James Lasdun will be joining the festival from America.

The festival has just inaugurated an annual prize for a single short story to be awarded each year at the festival. The Annual Sean O'Faolain Short Story Competition, dedicated to one of Ireland's most accomplished story writers and theorists, is sponsored by the Munster Literature Centre and Cork City Council. The judge is David Marcus (editor of the Pheonix Irish Short Story Anthologies, novelist and agent). First Prize: €1,500 and publication in the literary biannual Southword. Second Prize: €500 and publication in Southword. Closing date 31 July 2003. For further information contact: The Munster Literature Centre, 26 Sullivan's Quay, Cork. munsterlit@eircom.net

Patrick Cotter of the Munster Literature Centre (www.munsterlit.ie) writes: 'I must say that the survival of the Irish short story is inextricably linked to that of the British short story if only because London-based publishers are the only serious publishers of Irish fiction. Many of the short story writers I have spoken to here repeat the tale that their collection of stories was accepted for publication only on condition that a novel was in the pipeline.

It seems inconceivable that an Irish or British Raymond Carver or Alice Munro could emerge in the current bookselling/publishing environment. The animosity which publishers show to the short story genre is bred by the attitude originating from the likes of WH Smith and HMV-dominated Waterstones. Small independent bookshops cannot attract the discount levels of these large multiples and cannot afford to pick up the slack of unstocked titles, titles ignored by the chain stores.

Economics and the marketplace has a bearing on everything, that and the fact that books originating from anywhere other than the major London publishing houses are denied review space in the broadsheets and media generally. Maybe the answer is to have arts council sponsored specialist publishers of the short story, like we have poetry specialists such as Bloodaxe and Carcanet.'

Press coverage

The letters pages of the latest issue of Mslexia magazine (www.mslexia.co.uk) featured a number of responses to Debbie Taylor's article 'Endangered Species'.

Ian Jack, editor of Granta (www.granta.com) said 'We are always keen to publish good short fiction. As Debbie Taylor's piece makes clear there aren't enough places to publish it, and book publishers want novels. I don't know how this chicken-and-egg situation might be changed. A start might be the appreciation of the form by young writers themselves: what wonderful things short stories can be in the hands of, say, Chekhov, Pritchett, Munro, Ford and Carver.' Over half of Granta's Best of British Novelists 2003 are also short story writers.

Caroline Raphael, Commissioning Editor, Drama and Entertainment, BBC Radio 4, said that 'Radio 4 not only broadcasts a story every weekday afternoon but also repeats two a week in other slots. Last year, alongside broadcasts of classic and rediscovered stories, we commissioned more than 100 new pieces from established writers ... as well as new writers who send in unsolicited work. It could be argued that we are the short story's greatest supporter in this country, possibly the world, and Radio 4 will continue to nurture new talent.'

Emma Smith of Peepal Tree Press said that the article 'failed to acknowledge the commitment of independent presses to this cause.' She pointed out that half of the Peepal Tree's new fiction titles are short fiction collections. Peepal Tree specialises in Caribbean, South Asian and black British writing. Check out their website for an article on the Caribbean short story. 'Perhaps of all literary forms, Anglophone Caribbean writing has excelled in the short story,' writes managing editor Jeremy Poynting. www.peepaltreepress.com


Websites

Websites supporting the short story campaign include:

www.cadenza-magazine.co.uk
www.author.co.uk
www.ukauthors.com


Anthologies and other short story publications

Maia Press are publishing a collection of short stories by Sara Maitland (On becoming a Fairy Godmother, 19 June) as well as an anthology of new writing partly funded by Arts Council England, London in October 2003. Details at www.maiapress.com  Maggie Hamand writes: 'We are also interested in seeing collections of short stories by established writers who cannot get these considered by the big publishers.'

Manchester Stories 5 - Caesura (Comma Press) features first time stories by poets. The short story pamphlet is distributed via City Life magazine. Editor Ra Page writes that '2000 copies of Caesura are also being given away free to public transport users and 1000 free through Arts About Manchester's leaflet points.' www.commapress.co.uk

The first edition of Leeds Stories is set for June 18 (published free with Leeds Guide magazine), and will feature, among others, Martyn Bedford, Tony Harrison and David Peace. Edited by Isaac Shaffer. Comma also plans to launch a Newcastle Stories towards the end of the year, edited by Angela Readman, and a Liverpool Stories, edited by Tane Vayu. Comma is calling for stories for its end of year anthology, Hyphen. Contact comma@citylife.co.uk

The Art and Craft of Short Story Writing is a recently published booklet giving three different angles on the short story. Peter Mortimer of Iron Press gives the publisher's view and Kitty Fitzgerald that of an editor, while David Almond tackles the writer's perspective. Available for £2.50 (including p&p) from Durham County Council. Contact nick.foster@durham.gov.uk for details.

Keith Jeffrey is putting together Octane, a magazine of short stories in the style of rock'n'roll noir and is looking for some writers who might want to contribute a story or two. Details are at: <http://www.rocknrollnoir.com/>

In the 1890s, a period of great short story writing, Aubrey Beardsley wittily stated that Oscar Wilde's short play Salome wonderfully complimented his illustrations, even though Beardsley was commissioned to illustrate Wilde's play. So why not play with this wonderful paradox? artjunky are inviting writers to illustrate paintings, photography, sculptures and short films by some of London's leading young artists who all recently exhibited at the artjunky "England Our England" show. Let these works be the catalyst for a journey cloaked in the art of short story. Contact Anthony Waites on WaitesWorld@aol.com artjunky can arrange for writers to view jpegs of the works, which are truly stunning and beautiful. www.artjunky.co.uk has some examples on line now.


Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this update. The short story campaign team is: Claire Malcolm of New Writing North, Kate Griffin and Mark Robinson at Arts Council England, North East, and Penny Smith and Margaret Wilkinson at University of Northumbria. Thanks also to Nick McDowell at Arts Council England, London, Lucy Hutton and John Hampson at Arts Council England, national office, Suzy Joinson at the British Council, Jenny Attala and Sophy Dale at the Scottish Arts Council, Toby Litt and Val McDermid.

If you would like to comment on any of the issues raised by the short story campaign, share your ideas or receive further information, please contact kate.griffin@artscouncil.org.uk or 0191 255 8533.


 
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