“I wrote this a few years ago, when we were asked to write a story with the theme of Christmas for my writing group. Of course, Christmas is a crappy theme so you have to go the full ‘Carrie’ with it. Happy Christmas!“
Lynsey Rose is the author of the novel First Aid Kit Girl, described as “girl meets razorblade meets boy…”
I dedicate the last of our 2020 lockdown series, and our last publication for the time being, to all those who have lost their lives and those bereaved in the Covid-19 pandemic. Follow the guidelines and stay well till all this is over. See you on the other side. (Ed.)
“For Mireille, grief seems like an impossible dream.”
Sue Haigh is a writer and Creative Writing tutor. She lives in North East Fife when she isn’t living in her cave house in France. Her work has been published in a number of journals and anthologies, including Northwords Now, New Writing Dundee, Mslexia, The Scottish Arts Trust anthology, Cadenza, Sunpenny Anthology, Dundee University Review of the Arts, The Short review and a number of academic journals.
As Long as it Takes was originally published in the Scottish Arts Trust Story Awards anthology (Scottish Arts Trust, 2019)
For the fourth in our summer lockdown series, a story of desperation. What could be more appropriate? And you know that light at the end of the tunnel? It's an oncoming train. Yes, it's being so cheerful that keeps us going. Ed.
“April. A figure is loitering in the vicinity of the bus station of a provincial town. He’s not the only stranger in the bus yard. There are strangers with almost every arrival and departure. There’s nothing about this man to suggest he’s a foreigner. But all the same, something in his aspect attracts suspicious looks.”
David Butler’s third novel, City of Dis (New Island), was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year, 2015. His second short story collection, Fugitive, is forthcoming from Arlen House.
Unless He Is Born Again was originally published in ‘No Greater Love’ by David Butler (Ward Wood, 2013)
For the next in our 2020 lockdown series, we revisit the joint-winner of our inaugural short story competition. Some of you may be running around without face or leg coverings for the allowed daily exercise but it's not compulsory, you know. Happily, we can still stay home and read short stories. (Ed)
“Later, in The Tinners, they sit together in Dodie’s corner on sagging burgundy plush cushions. He has bought her a cider, he drinks beer from the bottle. They talk. Dodie is half listening, looking at the scratches through the varnish on the table…”
Novelist, short story writer, poet, Vanessa Gebbie has won awards for both poetry and prose, including the Troubadour International Poetry Prize, a Bridport short story prize and a much-coveted Willesden Herald short story prize. Author of ten various books, her novel The Coward’s Tale (Bloomsbury) was a Financial Times novel of the year, and her debut poetry pamphlet was selected by the TLS as one of the best of its year. She is commissioning and contributing editor of Short Circuit, Guide to the Art of the Short Story, editions 1 and 2 (Salt). She teaches widely. www.vanessagebbie.com
The author of “Dodie’s Gift” cares about character. It is a beautiful piece about two people circling each other, wondering whether to make contact.
Zadie Smith (Judge’s report – Willesden short story prize 2006)
In the second of our 2020 lockdown series, you are the writer. Have you ever missed a step on the stairs or turned back in fear? Have you ever given someone a piece of your mind? Are you an object of desire or the subject? Stay home. Ed.
“As Richard tends the first patient of the evening – a young woman with black eye make-up and an arm wound – he thinks of the pills, safe in their bottle, doubly safe in his jacket, safer still in his locker. The arm wound is self-inflicted. It is too precise.”
Nick Holdstock is the author of The Casualties, a novel, and several books about China.
“They all fell silent for a moment. I could see them trying to look into the future, to imagine themselves as adults, married maybe, perhaps with families of their own, working away in jobs like Uncle Tommy in the Post Office, or Auntie Lizzie in the nursing before she was married, or gone to England, like my mother and father, or even further afield.”
John O’Donoghue is the author of Letter To Lord Rochester (Waterloo Press, 2004), The Beach Generation (Pighog Press, 2007), Brunch Poems (Waterloo Press, 2009), Sectioned: A Life Interrupted (John Murray, 2009), Fools & Mad (Waterloo Press, 2014), and The King From Over the Water (The Wild Geese Press, 2019). Sectioned was awarded Mind Book of the Year in 2010. His journalism, essays, and reviews have been published in The Observer, The Guardian, The Times Educational Supplement, The London Magazine, PN Review, Acumen, and Orbis. He lives in Brighton and teaches Creative Writing at the Brighton Writers’ Centre.
“It is still dark when you finally arrive. A few streetlights set about the expanse of the cliff-top car park are dead, their bulbs ghostly and pale as blind eyes. All the parking bays are empty. The dim glow of the dashboard clock displays just after four, but like the speedometer, like the fuel gauge, like everything about the Astra, the hands are old and tired and worn and not to be trusted. It’s a miracle the car got this far.”
Dan Powell’s prize-winning short fiction has appeared in the pages of Being Dad, The Lonely Voice, Unthology, The London Magazine and Best British Short Stories. His debut collection, Looking Out of Broken Windows, was shortlisted for the Scott Prize and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the Edge Hill Prize. He is currently working on a second story collection and a debut novel, is a First Story writer-in-residence, and a Doctoral Researcher in Creative Writing at University of Leicester. He procrastinates at danpowellfiction.com and on Twitter as @danpowfiction.
Continuing our retrospective series, “Rip Rap” is included in Willesden Herald: New Short Stories 8, together with stories by Jo Barker Scott, Joan Brennan, Gina Challen, Nick Holdstock, CG Menon, Angela Sherlock, Megan Taylor, Medina Tenour Whiteman and Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson.
“I slip into the water. I didn’t plan to swim, but there’s still static fizzing in my veins from last night’s concert and as the river laps me up I’m cooling down, the static disappearing into a string of bubbles streaming out all around me and rising up from the deep channel, like there’s a diver down there somewhere.“
Roberta Dewa has always written fiction, and in her twenties published three historical novels with Robert Hale. While studying for various degrees she published poetry and short fiction, including a first short story collection, Holding Stones (Pewter Rose Press, 2009). In 2013 she published a memoir, The Memory of Bridges, and a contemporary novel followed: The Esplanade (Weathervane Press, 2014). Since retiring from university teaching, she has been writing poetry and short stories again, and in November 2017 won the Willesden Herald prize with her story Dark Song. She is currently coming to the end of the first draft of a new novel.
“When Helen gets back from the hospital the house is empty. She leaves her weekend bag by the door and wanders from room to room, the kitchen, the hall, the living room, and then upstairs, pausing for breath on the halfway landing, her hands folded over her stomach. She rests her hand on the door to David’s study…”
Charles Lambert was born in the United Kingdom but has lived in Italy for most of his adult life. His most recent novel is Prodigal, recently longlisted for the Polari Prize 2019. His previous novel, The Children’s Home, was praised by Kirkus Reviews as ‘a one-of-a-kind literary horror story’, while Two Dark Tales, published in October 2017, was described by Owen King as the work of a ‘terrific devious story teller’. Earlier books include three novels, a collection of prize-winning short stories and a memoir, With a Zero at its Heart, selected by the Guardian as one of its top ten books from 2014.
Continuing our retrospective series, “Curtains” is included in Willesden Herald: New Short Stories 6 together with stories by Eliza Robertson, Virginia Gilbert, Nick Holdstock, Geraldine Mills and others.
“Suddenly, very precisely placing the oddity of individual lives in the perspective of a bigger, slower rural pattern where everything can be accepted…Angela Sherlock’s Set Dance, a very unusual story, a very interesting story.” (Maggie Gee)
Angela Sherlock has worked in engineering and in education, but now lives in Devon where she writes full time. She has published reviews and articles but now concentrates on fiction. ‘Set Dance’ comes from her collection, To know they dreamed, which explores the Irish diaspora. She is currently working on a collection that takes its themes from elements of the periodic table. Her stories have appeared in literary journals and anthologies, the most recent online in Virtual Zine. (www.angelasherlock.com)