photo by Zofia Modzelewska
by Cathy Galvin
Stories change lives. They certainly changed mine. Anything or anyone you love will result in an inevitable, anarchic and unpredictable alchemy. Just over three months ago, I was watching as Kevin Barry received £30,000 for his story ‘Beer Trip to Llandudno’, as winner of The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award at a lavish dinner in Oxford. A beautiful Waterstones anthology of the six short-listed stories was clutched in my proud paw (the shortlist also included Emma Donoghue, Jean Kwok, Tom Lee, Robert Minhinnick and Linda Oatman High). The actors David Morrissey and Ian Hart were reading an extract from the winning work as the result of a partnership with WordTheatre. Three years into founding the award, I could see all was well with it and all was becoming significantly better for the writers. THRESHOLDS was there to record the event and report Joanna Trollope’s brilliant speech as she presented Kevin’s prize. That same day was also my last at The Sunday Times after more than fifteen years as a magazine editor.
Stories had, one way or another and for reasons I can’t go in to here, played their part in my own unexpected liberation. They continue to produce friendships, new ventures and surprises. As anyone who reads THRESHOLDS will know, this is an exciting time for short-story writing and writers, for fiction and poetry generally. It’s also at times frightening as all the accepted publishing expectations break down. Within that, there’s a quiet and important revolution. Good work always produces change: witness what is happening on this site; take a look at what Nicholas Royle has achieved with The Best British Short Stories series. Attend the Small Wonder Festival if you can. Watch as the small, free London short-story magazine Litro goes from strength to strength. (This month’s offering is themed around America with wonderful stories, including a lovely piece by Sunday Times EFG former prizewinner Anthony Doerr and poetry by renowned American poet Fred Voss, thanks to the arrival of Ian Parks as poetry editor). Take a peek at ByLiner.com. The bigger changes for the short story form are happening because something is being kept alive in small but significant ways based on relationships, intimacy and, well, love.
That intimacy, the breaking down of the reverential in fiction, is critical. I’m entranced when good stories are read well, love to hear authors who have mastered this form, to have a drink and socialise with people who love good work without all the usual literary trappings.
From next month, and with the support of literary agent and independent bookshop owner Carrie Kania, I’m launching a new monthly salon for short story writers and readers in Soho. It is part of a bigger project to continue supporting fine stories and great writers, called The Word Factory, but this is the important first step: real, alive and unpretentious. The Story Salon. I do hope you will come, and we will keep THRESHOLDS readers updated. Wish us luck and better still, become part of what we are doing.
THE STORY SALON: London’s most intimate literary venue. A night of readings, conversation and wine. Featuring award-winning writers Alison MacLeod, Will Cohu and Hazel Osmond, hosted by Cathy Galvin. Saturday August 25th 6-8pm The Society Club, 12 Ingestre Place, Soho, W1F OJF. £5 door. Contact: Carrie@thesocietyclub.com
You can reach Cathy via Twitter @cathygalvin1