Friday, 25 November 2011


...for short story fans (and lovers of fine fiction).

I’m not one for putting hours of thoughts into people’s presents, but folk who know me at least get some bloody good fiction hanging above their fireplace. And so, in case you’re stuck for ideas, here are a few of my literary delights from this year.

I’d say this is one of the best literary journals out there, but I am biased. Our new issue is our most visual yet, featuring a graphic novel by Tony Barnstone and Dorothy Tunnell as well as the fully-illustrated, first two sections of Joe Wenderoth's Agony. Writers’ work is beautifully presented within its own chapbook, complete with bespoke illustrations. Over the years we’ve published some of the finest short fiction out there, discovering new names, whilst remembering brilliant current ones. Postage is free and there are sample stories on the website, including interviews. There are back issues available too (Short FICTION 3, I think, is remarkable in its quality and is only £7.)

A fellow Scott Prize winner, Patrick’s stories are beautifully wrought, slow-burning masterpieces that linger long in the mind. This is a one of those collections I hate lending to friends, lest I never see it again.

This year’s Edge Hill prizewinner, Graham is a writer you become genuinely excited about discovering. We’re publishing a fantastic story of his in Short FICTION 6 next year, a piece I read, sprinted to the editor’s office and, breathless, slammed it on his desk with an emphatic: YES.

Zoe Lambert’s stories span global conflicts, teasing out human stories that non-fictional accounts often fail to tell. Wonderfully crafted, they’re a salutary reminder of the silent casualties of war.

Oh, and did I mention my book? Probably have. Anyway, tis available at usual outlets, but for a signed copy there’s a link in the sidebar.

Happy book shopping.

Monday, 21 November 2011


My editor is sending through final edits for the novel this week. It’s early on in our professional relationship, but already I’m delighted with the input she’s had. Her passion for the book (which she must now know almost as well as I do) has been both heartening and inspirational, and I’ve agreed with almost every editorial tweak suggested so far.

As artists, writers especially, we beaver away in solitude for such long periods, sculpting, we hope, something of worth, immersed utterly in the book’s demands, obsessed by the story and its composition, that it feels strange to then share the last part of the process with another person. We’re not talking about equal collaboration here, but even so a passage of negotiation must usually be entered, often with writer and editor owning disparate visions of the final book. I imagine writers’ creative sensibilities and egos are stretched, as opinions differ, compromises sought, feet stamped.

But so far, it’s been nothing but rewarding, watching the novel strengthened with a few deft and knowing strokes.

Monday, 14 November 2011


I know Plymouth is miles from anywhere, but I’m working hard to render it a literary outpost, a bastion of fine fiction here in the South West. Heck, we even have an international book festival here next year. A smaller but no less significant event occurs on December 1st if you happen to be in town or passing. 

Short FICTION 5 will be launched at 7pm in Lecture Theatre 1 of Roland Levinsky. Our latest issue is our most visual yet, featuring a graphic novel by Tony Barnstone and Dorothy Tunnell as well as the fully-illustrated, first two sections of Joe Wenderoth's Agony. This year's launch includes a reading from Carol Mavor. A free wine reception will follow. 

What more do you want?

Monday, 7 November 2011


William Rycroft (see below), who was pulled at random from a hat-like object just now. Well done William. A signed copy of The Method and Other Stories to you, sir. Drop me a note at tomvowler at hotmail dot com with your address and I'll pop it in the post.

Coming soonest: an interview with my literary agent, the brilliant Charlie Brotherstone at A.M. Heath (who I've just about forgiven for a recent terrible hangover).

Saturday, 5 November 2011


A couple of months ago I became an associate lecturer in creative writing at the University of Plymouth, teaching a module on their MA program. The job resurrected all kinds of issues for me – not least whether the production of fiction can be taught, something I blogged a little about here. Of course you can instruct on elements of fiction – character development, creating tension, the scope of various narrative techniques – but can you make someone a better writer? One of the most salient and vocal criticisms of such courses is that they produce structurally competent writers but ones with little originality, ones who take few risks, who don’t push their aesthetic, artistic boundaries, as if the creative aspect of their minds was somehow manipulated, driven to literary inanity. The pejorative term ‘creative writing fiction’ emerged, an industry term used for a brand of supposedly formulaic fiction churned out since the proliferation of such courses.

So is an MA in creative writing necessary to become published these days? Obviously not, and yet such programs remain remarkably popular. Personally, I have nothing but praise for these courses and those who undertake them – and it’s really not for the faint-hearted, composing fiction for strangers to rip to shreds in front of you the following week.

Another concern is that students occasionally have unrealistic expectations (particularly in the current climate) of publication – that graduation will bestow immediate book deals upon them. Or that a strict vocation is being pragmatically sought: Yeah, I think I’ll become a writer this month. Again, this doesn’t resonate with my own experience. Mostly students merely want to improve and better understand their art/craft, to gain insight and a critical awareness, to explore a burgeoning calling, a compelling urge to produce fiction that mimics the impact their favourite books have had on them.