I had a lovely morning today running a short story workshop, getting very excited by craft and also thinking about how stories, even when they seem quiet, slow burners nearly always intersect with the political. Tonight, thinking about this post, I remembered this, written by the inimitable George Saunders in his Story Club email, and I want to share part of it with you. If you’ve already seen it, I apologise, but I think it bears reading again (and again).
“In stories we might catch a glimpse of why people do the things they do, which should prepare us to think about things more incisively and boldly when people do something that is cruel, violent, or inexplicable. Whatever we are brought to feel, through literature, about love and understanding and sympathy must take this into account … Continue reading
This week is all about feasting and fasting. Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday when traditionally all the butter, milk and eggs in the house had to be used up before the Lenten period began on Ash Wednesday and then it was 40 days of fasting till Easter. In the UK, we might toss out a stack of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday while in New Orleans and other cities Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is the riotous culmination of a festival period starting on January 6th. Germany’s Karneval lasts even longer, beginning in November with the main parades on Rosenmontag, the day before Shrove Tuesday. The carnival floats are spectacular with massive, grotesque figures often lampooning politicians. Even British ones! A hugely controversial float a few years ago depicted Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister at the time, pointing a loaded gun marked Brexit in her mouth.
A time of excess: it’s not just the rich, buttery foods but the wild partying and conflicting passions which make ideal ingredients for a short story. As when preparing pancakes, your first attempt might need to be chucked but pare down the prose of subsequent drafts and you should have a story, any genre but no more than 2200 words, that is clean, lean and perfect for submission by Monday, April 24th.
Need further inspiration? Read ‘Shrove Tuesday’ by Anton Chekhov
Ten weeks to go until our 2023 Award ends on April 24th. We welcome stories of up to 2200 words on all subjects and themes by writers from around the world.
Our Judge, Farhana Shaikh, says this in our interview with her:
“Write what you love, and write with abandon for yourself first. Put it away in a drawer for some time so you can get some distance between you and the words. Then and only once you’ve done this, seek out people who can help you to refine what you’ve written, offer critical feedback so you can polish the work before sending it in. It’s amazing what happens when you re-work a piece with fresh eyes. Good luck!”
February 6th is the 125th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act ─ a piece of UK electoral reform that gave the vote to property-owning women over the age of 30 but it wasn’t until 1928 that all women in the UK, aged 21 and over, enjoyed the same voting rights as men. Less than a hundred years ago. Continue reading