Well, that was different! Last night’s launch for the 2020 BSSA anthology ended with a ‘Goodbye from Newfoundland’, New Zealand, Ottawa, Iowa, Switzerland, Italy and various regions of the UK from Harrogate to Stroud. Such is Zoom. This made for a truly international and inclusive event – but we did miss the atmosphere of Mr B’s, where we’ve held our past six anthology launches. It’s such a cosy, enticing bookshop – the perfect place to share wine and nibbles while listening to the readings.
Fourteen of our authors beamed down at us from screens all over the world. Check out the pictures on the gallery at the end of this post. Guests included Nathan, a Canadian dad who joined us from a school run, writer friends as well as proud partners and family members. We were also thrilled that the shortlist judge, literary agent Kate Johnson from MacKenzie Wolf (pictured left), came along to say a few words of praise and encouragement to the readers. The extracts read were chosen to provide ‘tasters’ – to entice those listening to want to hear the whole story and what a feast of ‘amuse bouches’ we had: stories set in distant locations and times including war-torn Sri Lanka, the Philippines and a Greek island, where a lonely shepherd is tormented by his agonising toothache and his lot in life. Xenophobia and cultural identity hummed beneath the surface in a story where metaphor and a physical manifestation become one.
Some worlds were dystopian, such as the grim ‘God-fearing’ community overrun by rabbits or featured a contemporary twist on the legend of King Cnut. Songs created a leitmotif in a compelling narrative about a dying man. We were briefly drawn into the lives of characters ranging from pre-teens having a first fumble, the imaginings of a pair of bored shop workers, a young girl forced to visit an elderly aunt during Chinese New Year to a tour guide who wants to disappear into the lost civilisation she once knew. When there was humour, it was dark – that ‘flat share’ where everything is shared and the sleepover that left its indelible mark on the protagonist. And never forget the ‘siren call’ of ‘Ice CREEEAAAMMM’ which reveals the schism in a couple’s attitude to children and just about everything else.
Chat groups, refreshments (including cakes imprinted with pictures of the anthology) and a lucky draw rounded off the event but finally, there were the ‘goings and comings‘: a farewell and thank you to Anna Schlesinger to whom this anthology is dedicated. Anna, a founding member of BSSA, has decided to step down from the day-to-day running of the award, though she will stay involved in an ‘emeritus’ capacity. She gave a short, moving speech about the journey taken from friends meeting at a writing event to setting up an international short story competition. New to the team in 2020 was Alison Woodhouse, who is well-known in flash and short fiction circles and will be an exciting addition to the 2021 award.
Below are pictures of the event with the authors captured on a large screen. The authors are: Marissa Hoffmann, Sharon Telfer, Samanthi Munasing, Stephen Gibbin, Robin Booth, Justine Bothwick, Kate Coffey, Paul Dornan, Al Kratz, Hannah Lee, Sara Mang, Hilary Key, Harriet Nisbet, Shannon Savvas. Other pictures are of BSSA organisers Jude Higgins, Jane Riekemann, Anna Schlesinger and Kate Johnson.
Jane Riekemann, December 2020