Tuesday 23 November 2010

National Short Story Week

I, perhaps, should have written about this last week in preparation - after all, you don't tell people it's Christmas at half past two on 25th December!

National Short Story Week celebrates this underrated form of fiction - underrated purely because people still see it as less good, less literary, less important than a novel. I, of course, don't think short stories are any of those less things - I think they are wonderful. I love to be immersed in the bizarre, extraordinary snippets of life that short fiction allows. I love the fact they fit so snugly into a bus/tube commute, and the fact that you can be thrown into different worlds with the turn of a page.

I am a reasonably busy person, in as much as I am a mother, have a job, try to keep on top of the hoovering and like to write a bit... but when I read a novel, I cannot put it down until either my eyes are shutting of their own accord, or the book is finished. Short stories, therefore, fit so much more conveniently into my life.

And I also love to write short stories. They are my thing. I have never mastered the art of taking a theme/plot/idea and making it last 90,000 words. I'm only just starting to experiment with 20,000 word fiction, which is impossible to publish. When I write short stories, I don't have to explain anything; I can have a woman wake up in a deserted town without wondering why, I can have a man simply walking through a revolving door, and I can get inside the head of a nuisance phone caller. Longer fiction, to me, seems to require an explanation, and when I attempt that my words become mundane and dull.

People - by which I mean people who have the power - are starting to recognise the importance of short stories. The BBC National Short Story Award has a prize of £15,000; other more accessible awards have prizes of £5000 or so. This is good; this puts the short story higher up in the general consciousness and will hopefully mean that one day it'll be easier for short story writers to publish collections without feeling obliged/required to publish a novel first.

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