London Short Story Festival 2015

by Jocelyn Watson

Thanks to Inscribe and the London Short Story Festival Free Ticket Scheme I was able to attend what was an inspiring and encouraging event with short story writers from all over the world, reading their work, sharing their ideas and skills and debating the role of the short story in literary fiction today.

On Friday June 19th I heard Nikesh Shukla, Salena Godden and Stuart Evers discuss what makes us laugh and how they use humour in their work. It made me wish it was part of my toolkit as I think humour is disarming and if it’s well crafted you’re drawn in This was followed by 10 years of the National BBC Short Story Award which explored how former winners, D W Wilson, Joe Dunthorpe and Krys Lee had had their careers launched winning these coveted prizes. Liz Allard, a BBC short story producer gave us insights as to how the BBC Radio uses the short stories, which anyone can submit. On Saturday June 20, I dashed to Waterstones Piccadilly after the Anti-Austerity Demonstration to catch Cooked Up: Food Fiction from Around the World with Ben Okri, Krys Lee, Charles Lambert and Elaine Chiew exploring the role food plays in communities and cultures as reflected in their stories. Modern Voices drew on the work of Laura van den Berg, May-Lan Tan and Jon McGregor all of whom have won prestigious prizes speaking about the lure of the short story for them. On the last day Marina Warner, Diriye Osman and Kirsty Logan unpacked the fairy tale tropes that remain a strong feature in writers whose work focuses on struggle, survival and success. The Word Factory hosted the next event I attended where Deborah Levy, SJ Naude and Marina Warner read and discussed their work. The final event I attended was the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. This is the richest prize for a single short story- £30,000 for the winner. Tahmima Anam and Toby Litt both shortlisted writers spoke of their creative processes and the 2012 winner Kevin Barry who had flown in from Ireland read his winning story. There were 27 events, each an hour, so no time to get tired, or bored or overwhelmed. The events included The Asian Writer that offered editing advice as well as writing exercises and Masterclasses with Ben Okri and others. The Festival embraced and threw the limelight on the Short Story, letting it take centre stage in a challenging, creative and engaging way.

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