Short, but not necessarily sweet

Ours is a busy world and sometimes it’s good to pick up something we can read in a spare fifteen minutes or so; on the train, in a waiting room, when we need a break or, if we wish to be lifted out of our humdrum day. I always have a book by my bedside, but for those interludes when there’s not much time, poems and short stories are on my menu.
Alison MacLeod, a local Bloomsbury author is one of my favourite short story artists. And It IS an art. Some say that this genre is easy; just a warm-up for the novel writer. But the two forms are different. In one of Alison’s brilliant talks, she quoted Jackie Kay: “It is a lovely hybrid form, a cross between a poem and a novel. It catches people at crucial moments of their lives and snaps them… Short stories …don’t waste any time. They swoop down and get you like a sea gull diving down to take the bread from your hand. They stay with you, the ones you love, forever.”
Tomorrow, I’ll be chatting to another local author here. Wendy Clarke has had over two hundred short stories published and I admire her achievement. This year, I’ve been happy to see three of my stories published in women’s magazines. One in Prima and two in The People’s Friend. Compared with Wendy, mine are little forget-me-nots in a garden brimming with dahlias. But it’s a  start…

Before I go, another quote used by Alison made me smile: “The short story-teller…must make tragedy out of a plate of peas and a bottle of ginger beer or the loss of a parcel of fruitcake intended for a Halloween party.” (Frank O’Connor). Now, there’s an idea…

Alison MacLeod’s prizewinning stories

Here are my little offerings, published last week.

See you tomorrow for coffee and chatter with Wendy – and maybe even a slice of fruitcake.


About Angela Petch

Bit of a story dreamer, written two novels - a third in progress. I love my little family and in no particular order afterwards: Italian culture, food, wine, walking everywhere I can and especially in the Apennines, East Africa, tennis when I can, reading, reading and more reading. So much to discover still before I die.
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4 Responses to Short, but not necessarily sweet

  1. Angela Petch says:

    Jessie, that is so kind – but I don’t for a minute believe I “have mastered the art”…there’s so much to learn. I ordered a book that I love to dip into: “Letters to a young writer: some practical and philosophical advice”, by Colum McCann. (Random House). I’ve underlined so many sentences. For example: “Never forget that a story begins long before you start it and ends long after you end it.” Make sure you read each magazine’s guidelines carefully, if you are thinking of submitting to womags. BUT – just write for yourself, in your own voice. Let rip and remember: “Don’t worry so much about your word count. Your word cut is more important.” It’s easier for me to quote others, because they have nailed the advice. Good luck, Jessie…I can see some of your characters in your book, “You can’t go it alone”, popping into a short story, in the Italian café. Go for it!


  2. Wendy Clarke says:

    Congratulations on your story Publications, Angel. Very pleased to be sharing the pages of The People’ Friend Special with you and look forward to our chat on your blog tomorrow 😀


  3. jessiecahalin says:

    Your post about short stories had inspired me to try it out. The quotations about short story writing are perfect! And you capture the tension and atmosphere in your stories beautifully – you have mastered the art.


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