Within minutes of pressing ‘publish’ on my first unusual book, The Accidental Memoir by Eve Makis and Anthony Cropper, I was receiving messages from readers saying they’d ordered it for themselves or as a present. It’s a lovely thought that this will result in life stories which might never have been told. Today I’m pleased to unveil the second of my refreshingly different gift suggestions, although of course, all book gifts are a good thing!
The UK is teeming with talented short fiction writers but it’s still a challenge to be published in this genre. When it happens, it’s usually in the form of a collection (of stories by a single author) or anthology with many contributors. The Guillemot Factory is a collaboration between the independent Guillemot Press and Word Factory, established by Cathy Galvin to promote, celebrate and nurture short fiction. The result is a set of four single-story pamphlets, featuring surreal and intriguing illustrations by Cornwall artist Donya Todd. They would make great stocking fillers for lovers of literary fiction, or all four as a gift (they are available from the publisher individually or as a set, for which there is a discount).
Knowing the short fiction scene inside out it can’t have been easy for Cathy to select the four stories, all by writers who have already made their mark. Whilst they couldn’t be more different, there’s no doubt that each of them has earned the Guillemot Factory treatment as a unique and superb piece of writing. As a reader I came to them cold (having missed the launch at which they were performed) which I think is the best way with short stories. My comments are deliberately oblique, but hopefully enticing!
RESERVOIR by Jessie Greengrass has an extraordinary sense of place. It’s poignant and haunting on loneliness, belonging and the wrench of change. The writing is exquisite. DEFENDING THE PENCIL FACTORY by Adam Marek demonstrates incredible world-building: a vividly realised and terrifying dystopian vision on a human and relatable scale, riddled with tension. I was really moved by David Constantine’s WHAT WE ARE NOW in which a married woman revisits an unbroken bond with her past. It has elements of familiar stories, but more which sets it apart. THE TESTIMONIE OF ALYSS TEEG by Carys Davies was the most surprising for me; phonetically written in a child’s voice, a nuanced and accomplished tale of gender and personal identity which is both funny and sad, archaic and profoundly contemporary.
If you are an emerging UK short story writer you may be interested to know that the Word Factory Apprenticeship 2019 is open for applications until 9 February 2019. Successful applicants benefit from unmatchable opportunities including mentorship – and one of next year’s mentors is Carys Davies, featured here.
Come back later this week to find out about my final unusual gift idea. If you’re after anthologies of short stories, here are two in which I’ve been published in the company of many talented writers raising money for good causes. Click on the covers below to find out more.