by Katie Slade
Last year on December 22nd, the shortest day of 2011, Comma Press launched the National Short Story Day project, where we set up a website with short story recommendations from writers, editors and publishers, videos of live readings, and links to short story sources. We also launched our Twitter competition, where we asked people to tweet a story to @shortstoryday in ten words or less. This ran up until Christmas Day, where the top five were selected (among them Timothy Spall!) and were each given the prize of a collection of short stories published by Comma. The website received over 1,000 hits during the Christmas period, and we received tons of entries for the Twitter competition with people from all over the UK joining in on the fun.
The idea was to promote the short story across the UK and bring back enthusiasm for the often overlooked form. In recent years, the short story seems to have been growing in popularity, with the BBC National Short Story Award (which has become the ‘International’ Award this year for the Olympics), the ‘Picador Shots’ series, and with major publishers launching eBook singles, including Penguin, Bloomsbury, HarperCollins and Little Brown, using the eBook format as a great platform to showcase the short story. As one of the most prolific independent publishers of short fiction in the whole of the UK, we wanted to build on this renewed interest in short fiction, and help re-boost the nation’s passion for story-telling and for listening to great stories, which sometimes seems to get lost among the great tide of mainstream publishing and popular culture of celebrity-driven novels.
This year on June 20th, the shortest night of 2012, the festivities have gone global as Comma introduces International Short Story Day. From the UK, to Europe, to the USA, writing groups, literary organisations and bookshops have been planning fun, innovative and creative events for June 20th, as part of the world-wide Short Story Day celebrations. The literary groups, publishers and venues involved include Liar’s League London and Leeds, Nottingham Writers Studio, The Short Story Book Club (London), Manchester-based project CAKE, Blackwell’s Sheffield, Blackwell’s Manchester, The Special Relationship (London), Cargo Publishing (Glasgow), Glasgow Women’s Library, and Waterstones Cardiff, as well as international collaborators such as Literary Death Match Minneapolis, Lit Crawl NYC, WordTheatre LA, ZaPis (Zadar Writers Society in Croatia), and Short Story Day Africa.
Highlights on the bill include award-winning author MJ Hyland in conversation with one of Scotland’s most exciting new authors, Anneliese Mackintosh at Blackwell’s Manchester, appearances and readings from Adam Marek, Dilys Rose, and The Special Relationship at one of London’s best cultural venues, The Book Club, accompanied by screenings of short films, and a collaboration between Comma Press and Cargo in Glasgow featuring young Manchester writer Annie Clarkson, and three of Scotland’s most successful writers – Ewan Morrison, Alan Bissett and Allan Wilson. On the international side, there will be a story writing battle between a UK team representing Comma and a South African team from The Book Lounge, a happy hour ‘Tweet-up’ with Literary Death Match in Minneapolis, a book exchange and prize draw hosted by Lit Crawl NYC, and a short story reading in one of Zadar’s cosy café bars with ZaPis in Croatia. More info about the events here.
International Short Story Day aims to bring together fans of the short story from all corners of the world, and to share our love of the form, not just on one day but every moment we can. Come view our website here or follow us on Twitter @shortstoryday, and help to spread the short story love far and wide!
Katie Slade is the Rights, Marketing and Events Manager at Comma Press.