Wednesday, 10 March 2010


When I entered The dog in the Pram for the 2009 competition, I ordered a copy of the anthology of last year's winners and runners up, 20 in all.

The standard of writing was very high and I enjoyed all of stories bar one, which made me feel very uncomfortable. There are obviously a lot of very skilled writers in the UK, all vying for publication, which explains why there are so many rejections: a publication can only include so many stories.

The range of subject matter, mood and style was wide so there was a good balance and variety.

My favourites (none of which were in the first three) were:

'Facing Facts' by Susan Akass, a very funny story despite the seemingly somber setting of a widow faced with the problem of sorting out her recently deceased husband's possessions.

'Life Sucks' by Fran Landsman, again a funny story about a teenager who discovers an uncomfortable secret about her father.

*'Virtue in Danger' by Nick Law, a salutary tale set in a time of brothels and rogues and written entirely in verse.

'Killing Me Quietly' by Dominica McGowan', a far blacker take on the death of a husband.

'Intervention' by Charlotte Mabey, about the dilemma of a young man with first-aid knowledge.

'Burying The Presidents', yet another funny story and certainly not what I expected from the title.

'Going Down Brean' by Rebecca Watts - my very favourite. It's a gentle, nostalgic story of a small group of children taken on their annual day-trip to the sea-side, accompanied by the church vicar and the formidable Mrs Chubb, who won't stand for any nonsense. The descriptions of the small, pleasurable activities that the children indulge in, plus their meticulous choice of small gifts in the old gift shop, brought back very many happy memories and the ending is brilliant.

The short story is a difficult genre to write and to read because the writer is trying to say so much in a relatively few words. Full-length novels have the luxury of development of characters and plot, the continuity of the build up.

I personally enjoy reading and writing short stories that tell a story. It's been fashionable for some time with short story writing that language is often more important than plot and characters, that the more flowery the language then the more likely it is to be published (apart from national magazines like Women's Weekly and The People's Friend, where the feel-good factor is the most important criteria). Also, there seems to be a penchant for gloomy or fantastical tales. My kind of story writing doesn't really fit in with these criteria but it's just the way I prefer to write and I'm hoping that, one day, the good old-fashioned story will become fashionable again.

However, this anthology is a really good read and to purchase a copy log onto

No comments: