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The Power of the Short Story

March 31, 2016

Before I founded Holland Park Press, I didn’t read many short stories. Occasionally, I read and enjoyed one in a magazine, but short story collections just didn’t feature on my reading list. I’m afraid this isn’t so uncommon.

Right from the start, we decided to run a yearly competition, and make it free to enter, to encourage as many people as possible to send in their poems. After all, the aim of our competitions is to give people a chance to shine and to find new writers, not to make money.

In 2010, after running a poetry and translation competition, we decided it was time to run a short story competition. It went very well and we found an excellent winner, ‘Aziz Khan‘ by Emma Musty. You should read this story as it is written from the point of view of a migrant in Calais, unfortunately it’s now even more relevant. The runner-up was another excellent story ‘Ruth’ by David Ayres, about a terrorist attack, and I’m not making this up.

Shortly afterwards, David Ayres contacted me about a short story collection he had written about growing up in a 1960s West Midland’s town, an exciting time, when things were changing and there were great opportunities, yet teenagers were still so innocent (with the benefit of hindsight).

I liked it very much and decided to publish Top of the Sixties. It was the start of something of a love affair with short stories. Not only do many people practise this form, I should know, we accept unsolicited manuscripts and many of these are short story collections, but nowadays I also very much like reading them.

By training I’m a scientist (theoretical chemistry was my specialization, just in case you’re curious), and maybe that’s why I admire the precision with which you have to execute a short story. The writer cannot afford to waste a paragraph or even a sentence. A novel is a bit more forgiving.

So, that’s how I ended up publishing several more exciting short story collections. I’m very proud of our other catches so far:

Where is My Mask of an Honest Man?
An unsolicited manuscript solicited by its author Laura Del-Rivo when our bookstall happened to be next to hers on Portobello Market. Laura exquisitely captures Notting Hill by using the most extraordinary language.

In Away from the Dead, all layers of society in Karen Jennings’ country of birth, South Africa, are authentically displayed in these poignant stories.

This brings us to He Runs the Moon, Tales from the Cities. Like its author, Wendy Brandmark, I’m very excited by this wonderfully atmospheric collection of stories in the great American tradition of short story writing.

Why is it that the art of short story writing is often considered the Cinderella of writing? It’s so very well suited to our modern life: reading a short story fits in perfectly when going about your daily life, such as, for example, during your lunch break and when commuting. Take it from a recent convert: there is something quite magical about short stories. I think you should check them out.

For a start, if you’re in London, I very much hope that you can join us for the launch He Runs the Moon on 27 April at 7pm in the Artworkers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square London, WC1N 3AT