ShortStoryVille and the Bristol Short Story Prize

Last Saturday was the inaugural (and, I’m sure, not the last) ShortStoryVille festival in Bristol, in which Joe Melia of the Bristol Short Story Prize had kindly asked me to participate. When I arrived in Bristol that morning, the weather was grey, miserable and damp—in other words, perfect weather for staying in and reading a book. But it was great to see how many people had instead made the trip to the Arnolfini arts centre to hear short stories being read and discussed.

In the day’s first panel, the writer and critic Bidisha interviewed Sarah Salway, Alison MacLeod, and Janice Galloway about the art of writing short fiction. The three authors also read from their work, which really brought home to me how much their work seemed intended to be spoken; with Galloway’s piece especially, it was a completely different experience hearing the rhythms of her prose read aloud. Following on from the writing panel, we flipped it around to discuss reading short stories, and this was where I joined Scott Pack and Clare Hey in conversation with Tania Hershman; I think (and hope!) that we managed to say something interesting and useful.

The second half of the day began with Joe Spurgeon of the local magazine Venue interviewing Helen Oyeyemi and Stuart Evers about their latest books; if you haven’t read them, do, as both are very good indeed. Then came a series of readings from local writers, compèred by Bristol Prize chair of judges, Bertel Martin; the authors involved were Sarah Hilary, Patricia Ferguson, Gareth Powell, Emma Newman, Tania Hershman, and Amy Mason. Between their readings and recommendations, I have yet more books I want to investigate.

And after ShortStoryVille came the presentation of this year’s Bristol Short Story Prize. Congratulations to Emily Bullock, who won for her story ‘My Girl’; I read it on the train home, and it is a worthy winner. My thanks to Joe Melia and everyone else involved in ShortStoryVille for superb day; I am pleased to have been a part of it, and hope that it will turn out to have been the first of many. At a time when the BBC has announced plans to reduce the volume of short fiction programming on Radio 4, it’s good to have an event like ShortStoryVille to reassert that the short story is a vital art form.

Elsewhere

Some more write-ups of ShortStoryVille…
Vanessa Gebbie
Clare Hey
Tania Hershman

In case you ever wanted to hear me speak about short fiction…

…you now have a chance to do so. On 16th July, the Bristol Short Story Prize will be hosting ShortStoryVille, its first festival of short stories. And, at 1.30, you will find this item on the programme:

1.30 – 2.30 Reading Short Stories - panel discussion chaired by acclaimed short story writer Tania Hershman. Is there an art to reading a short story? Is it very different from other forms of fiction? Does it depend on where a story is read: a collection, single story in a magazine, on an ereader? Tania is joined by three passionate short story readers- book reviewer and blogger David HebblethwaiteClare Hey, former editor at HarperCollins and founder of trailblazing, digital-only short story publisher Shortfire Press and Scott Pack, publisher at The Friday Project, influential blogger, commentator, reader, creator of the popular meandmyshortstories blog and all-round book-billy.

The rest of the schedule is here; it includes writers like Helen Oyeyemi, Stuart Evers and Sarah Salway — sounds a good line-up to me.

The ShortStoryVille festival will be held on Saturday 16th July from 12.00 to 6.00 at the Arnofini arts centre, Bristol. Expect to see more short fiction coverage on here during the run-up.