Happy New Year to all!
It's been a funny time-lapse sort of year for me, writing-wise. All last winter I holed in and worked intensively on something long and then got stalled on it for various reasons not to do with writing, so there's nothing to show for it yet and may not be for a while. In the meantime, however, although as far as the actual writing went my focus was away from short stories, stories I'd written previously were published in several anthologies. In January I was in York at a signing for Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontes, ed. A J Ashworth (Unthank Books), for which my story 'That Turbulent Stillness' was commissioned - an amusing day I wrote about here. Spring and summer brought three more anthologies. Best British Short Stories 2014, ed. Nicholas Royle (Salt) was launched in June at the first-ever London Short Story Festival and included my story 'Tides, Or How Stories Do or Don't Get Told', first published online by Fiction Editor Kate Brown at The View From Here. This was followed the very next week by Unthology 5, ed. Ashley Stokes & Robin Jones (Unthank), where my story 'Clarrie and You' appeared, which involved me in a truly enjoyable first-time trip to Norwich for the launch. In July I attended the 13th Conference on the Short Story in English in Vienna, and my story 'Where the Starlings Fly' was one in an anthology of stories by writers invited to read at the conference, Unbraiding the Short Story, ed. Maurice A Lee. Finally, in the autumn, my inverted ghost story 'A Matter of Light' saw publication in an anthology of creepy stories from Honno, The Wish Dog, ed. Penny Thomas and Stephanie Tillotson. In fact, I ended up with a clash: I was really sorry to have to miss the Cardiff launch of this book as I was already committed to read at an event at Edge Hill University for Best British Short Stories 2014, organised by fellow contributor and lecturer Ailsa Cox. Meanwhile, during the summer, my story 'Looking for the Castle' was runner-up in the Short Fiction competition, and in the week before Christmas I heard that it is to be published in Unthology 7 by Unthank Books in the coming summer.
After my winter of seclusion, I became suddenly a writer once more in touch with the wider literary world. A long time ago now I gave up teaching writing to concentrate more on my own work. I was lucky to be able financially to do that, I know, but the fact is that I was becoming decidedly itchy for the creative and intellectual stimulation I always found in teaching. So when in March I was invited to read at the Vienna conference, I jumped at the chance, and have to say that I revelled in the conference, in the to-and-fro with academics and other writers. An upshot was that I was invited to join a narrative research group, and I have to say that although peace and isolation are essential ingredients in the life of the writer, there's little more stimulating than sharing ideas about writing with your peers and to be able to feel a sense of your own place as a writer within the wider world of literary ideas. By the same token, I accepted a generous invitation to join the writers' group to which three of my writing colleagues already belonged, and I'm once again experiencing that mutual support between writers who trust and respect each other - there's really nothing like it.
I'm entering 2015 with a lot lined up writing-wise: two longer pieces to redraft and, before Easter, a commission to write a short story and linked essay, but I'm thrilled to be able to say I'm doing it all with a sense of backup, and with a greater sense of context in which to do it.
I wish you all similar happiness in your projects for the coming year.