There’s a lot of wonderful, exciting happenings in the world of poetry and short fiction, and straddling the South and the East Midlands the way we do lets me and Martin see the breadth of these things up close. (And it’s a decent vantage point to look to the north and the west as well!) But overarching all of this is the democracy of the internet – where we chatter and buzz and pass-it-on to everyone interested. So these are some of the tasty, nourishing things we’ve found…
Shortstops. If you write or read short fiction and you’ve not discovered shortstops yet, then shame on you! It is a fantastic site that celebrates all that is good and short and fiction-filled. The heartchild of short story writer Tania Hershman, shortstops gives a showcase to magazines, publishers, writers, editors, storytellers, and venues in the UK and Ireland. It offers information on workshops, writing skills, useful links, tells you about competitions (like ours!) and generally inspires you to get excited about short stories.
And there’s a lot to get excited about. I work for Writing East Midlands, who administrate the East Midlands Book Awards (EMBA), and I was delighted that a book of short stories, The Pre-War House by Alison Moore, and a book of poetry, Division Street by Helen Mort, made the shortlist. A strong heart beats for the short form!
I recently stumbled across the site of the Liars League – a live lit event originally from London, and now across the UK, and even the world! Actors read new short fiction pieces which are recorded and released as podcasts and videos. These recordings vary in theme and genre, the style of the actor and the length of the pieces, but they’re entertaining and have a good energy that honours the stories being told.
And I think honouring is key to the health of the short story and poetry – as readers and listeners we honour them more and more by the fact that we’re reading them more, listening to them, tuning in to online and community radio shows, and writing them. Short fiction and poetry prizes are healthy in the UK – and growing in attention too. And the fact that prestigious prizes that cover the gamut of genre (like the Costa and EMBA – and, of course the inaugural Folio Prize won by George Saunders) have poetry and short stories on their lists (in spite of the fact that booksellers find both tricky to sell) is also an act of honouring, a small act of faith. And that pleases me. That makes me smile. I hope it does you too.