Thursday 14 May 2009

SHORT CIRCUIT A Salt Publishing Guide to the Art of the Short Story

Thanks to the generosity, hard work and passion of the writers and teachers below, the final manuscript of SHORT CIRCUIT finally went to Salt Publishing this week.

It’s taken six months of hard graft, during which it has been well nigh impossible to write much fiction myself… it was as though that side of my brain had closed down. But thankfully, due largely to the buzz of the Fiction Workhouse, I’ve managed to keep some level of creativity up, and hope to return to normal form very soon.

In these pages are generous chapters from some of the strongest writers of short fiction I could find.
In terms of major awards, this team have among others, won the folllowing:
The National Short Story Award, 6 Bridport Prizes, 3 Fish Prizes, 2 Commonwealth Awards, the Asham Award, Pen MacMillan Silver Pen Award, Writers’ inc Writer of the Year.

When you are asked to source the content, contribute yourself, and edit a book like this, it would be easy to close down under the weight of responsibility. Responsibility to Salt, who are just fantastic and dedicated and who are throwing themselves behind this book (born out of a conversation in Cork last year), responsibility to the aspiring writers who may pick up this book in the hope that it will help them on their way… but also a responsibility to myself… I was NOT prepared to fail on this one. Also, I decided not to source all the major chapters from Salt writers, over half had to be with other publishers.

It took a few days of thinking, in a mild state of panic, back in September, when Salt gave me this commission. And I came to the conclusion that the best way to approach the book was to create the book I would have loved to have myself, when I was a relative newbie writer.

I didn’t want to be talked down to. I didn’t want the very basic things you can learn anywhere, fast. I wanted in-depth discussion of the individual craft elements set in context – within a close look at the creative practices of successful writers of short fiction including many very successful teachers of writing.

I did not just want theory (although there is a place for that, and theory can be found in many many places.) I wanted to read chapters from writers prepared to analyse their own working practices, their own creative inspirations.

It is astounding how much generosity these writers have, their willingness to share with each other, their willingness to share with those starting out.

What I have created is the book I’d have loved back then, but also a book I will love now. Where I can find the companionship of other writers sharing their creative thoughts. I will find writing exercises for when I need to stretch myself and try different things. I will find list upon list of inspirational short stories, stories that have planted seeds in the spirits of all these superb writers.

Twenty four writers. In-depth chapters in the form of essays, two interviews with Tobias Hill and Clare Wigfall (that was fun to do - hours on the phone, talking writing with two great people, great writers. What an excuse!) And a buzzy 'epilogue' from six Salt writers.

I know Salt are busy creating the cover, and as soon as that is done, I will upload it here. Meanwhile, thank you to Jen Hamilton-Emery for giving me this project. It’s been exciting, amazing and exhausting!

Below are the contents, with links to the writers.

Graham Mort: Finding Form in Short Fiction
Clare Wigfall: “I Hear Voices”: Voice and building character
Alison MacLeod: Writing and Risk-Taking
Nuala Ni Chonchuir: Language and Style
Chika Unigwe: Settings. A Sense of Place.
Alex Keegan: Understanding Earthquakes. The Importance of Theme.
Lane Ashfeldt: Building a World
Adam Marek: What my gland wants. Originality in short fiction.
Catherine Smith: Myth and Imagination.
Tobias Hill: Character, dialogue, and much more.
Sarah Salway: Stealing Stories.
Elizabeth Baines: True Story, Real Story – Good Fiction?
Tania Hershman: Art Breathes from Containment
David Gaffney: Get Shorty. The micro-fiction of Etgar Keret.
Marian Garvey: On Intuition. Writing into the Void.
Elaine Chiew: Endings
Paul Magrs: Thoughts on Writing Fiction, at the End of Term
Vanessa Gebbie: i) Leaving the door ajar: Opening the short story
ii) Hard Work, Persistence, Luck and a Bowl of Fruit. The Short Story Competition game.

Epilogue: Some final thoughts:
Linda Cracknell,
Carys Davies,

David Grubb, Zoe King, Matthew Licht, Jay Merrill.


TOM VOWLER said...

Sounds brilliant. Destined to be a best-seller.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Thanks Tom, it should be! In terms of major awards won by this team:

The National Short Story Award, 6 Bridport Prizes, 3 Fish Prizes, 2 Commonwealth Awards, the Asham Award, Pen MacMillan Silver Pen Award, Writers’ inc Writer of the Year.

Sue Guiney said...

This is fantastic. Well done you! Can't wait to get it.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Thanks Sue. It's been a hard few months... organsing writers to do anything is like herding cats! But they are without exception, fabulous people, and so open about what they do and how.

They use examples of well known works, they also introduce the reader to new writers. All in all they have created a rich tapestry of inspiration that will sit very happily on any fiction writer's 'how to' shelf. Not just short story writers.

Nik Perring said...


Cathy said...

Sounds fantastic! I want it. Now.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hello Cathy... it comes out in the Summer. ist September is the scheduled date I think. In time for the academic year. Several universities are already interested in using it, which is terrific. It will be worth the wait!

Sarah Hilary said...

Terrific achievement, V! Congrats to you and the team for getting it done. I look forward to seeing it in print.

E.P. Chiew said...

This is a fantastic line-up V. You really deserve huge credit for getting all of us together, and I for one can hardly believe I'm among such an esteemed coterie (little moah!)
Thanks for all your hard work. I will have to send you my new address in July, and I can't wait to get my hands on me own copy.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Thanks Sarah. So do I, can't wait to see the cover!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Elaine, some little moah... Ms Bridport 2008!
I cant believe it is coming along so soon, the move to HK. Send me your address before you go, and of course, your copies (two of em) will be winging their way. Thank you thank you for your wonderful chapter.

adele said...

Have come here from Elizabeth Baines's blog...nice to hear about such a fascinating volume. Can't wait to read it.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hello Adele, lovely to welcome you to my blog! I await the cover with bated breath, and am at the stage where I can't quite believe the book will be real. Maybe those wondeful chapters are just my imagination...aaagh!