-
RSS Follow Become a Fan

Recent Posts

I AM A TERRORIST
NIGHTS IN PUBS, NIGHTS OF MUSIC
I Will Not Need God Again
Daughter of Dido, the Tunisian Girl Blogger
DEMENTIA NOIR

Categories

#findherandkillher
17th century
18th century
a.c.clarke
alan bissett
amnesty international
amsterdam
andrea dworkin
anna burnside
anthony cartwright
anti-war
Arab Spring
asda
banshees
ben myers
Big Lit festival
big pink porks
billy connolly
black nail polish
bob dylan
bodyguards
borscht
brendan mclaughlin
butterfly effect
cake
can can
carol gorner
casablanca
chaos theory
charlie hebdo
chrys salt
claire malcolm
class
clutha vaults
courgette cake
darien scheme
david cameron
death threats
decapitation
dementia noir
dennis o'donnell
domestic noir
donald adamson
donald smith
drew campbell
duncan hamilton
durham book festival
durham castle
durham town hall
edinburgh international book festival
eeva kilpi
elspeth brown
essex
existence of god
faber & faber
fatwa
feminism
freedom of expression
french university of egypt
gatehouse of fleet
george square
ghazi hussein
Glasgow
golan heights
gordon burn
Helen Fitzgerald
helicopter crash
humanrights
iain allan
ian brady
ICORN
I'm Coming With You
independence
internet abuse
IS
jeremy corbyn
john lennon
john mcgarrigle
john savage
joni mitchell
josephine baker
journalism
julie felix
kardashians
kirsty wark
labour party
lebanon
leonard cohen
lesley riddoch
lina ben mhenni
linda mclaughlin
literary
literary salons
liu xia
liu xiaobo
liz niven
longformacus
lydia cacho
maggie anderson
Maggie Lennon
mali
margaret thatcher
mary, queen of scots
miley cyrus
mo blake
morocco
motherhood
music
muslim
myra hindley
new writing north
nhs
nicola sturgeon
on wings of waste
onesie
paddy hughes
palestine
pamphlets
panama canal
pen international
pornography
President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
ragip zarakolu
rainbow tribe
ray evans
Ria Fitzgerald
richard holloway
richard lloyd parry
richard macfarlane
robin thicke
rod glenn
saltire society
sara hunt
saraband books
scotia bar
scotia writers' group
scotland
scottish independence
scottish pen
scottish storytelling centre
Sedition
serial killers
short story
sinead o'connor
sixties
slovenia
sousse massacre
stephane charb charbonnier
supermarkets
syria
The Cry
The Exit
torture
trident
tunisia
tunisian girl blogger
universal suffrage
virago
wild wolf
women's suffrage
Writers in Prison Committee
zineb el rhazoui
powered by

My Blog

The Scotia Short Story Final

                         SHOWDOWN AT THE SCOTIA
 
 
It's a notoriously hard nut to crack, the short story. How do you corral life into a couple of thousand words, ensuring that you have a recognisable structure and real characters? Somehow it's easier with shorter forms like flash fiction, where everything's compressed, or longer forms like the novel, which gives you room to breathe.
 
So as I took my place with my fellow judges at the final of the Scotia short story competition last night, I knew they might not have high expectations of the standard of stories we were to hear. Drew Campbell, president of Scottish PEN, is a novelist (Dead Letter House) and writer with extensive experience of analysing other people's work through his various stints as writer in residence and now, reader in residence for East Renfrewshire libraries. Dave Manderson is a novelist (Lost Bodies) and short story writer who teaches creative writing at the University of the West of Scotland. 'The marking,' he sighed, 'takes forever.' Between them they've read hundreds of thousands of words by hopeful writers.
 
But I could see their faces relaxing as the first reader began. Ray Evans, the Scotia's current poet laureate, launched into a misanthropic, subtly written tale of a megalomaniac artist who may be about to change the political climate forever.
 
'Well, that's set the benchmark really high,' Dave said.
The Scotia, of course, is one of the iconic literary pubs. James Kelman and Billy Connolly set up a writers' group which ran short story competitions and even published a couple of collections. The tradition was carried on by Brendan McLaughlin, but had dwindled away when Mary Rafferty took over as manager. She has restored the group, which meets on the second Monday of the month, and it now features some of the finest new writing in Scotland. Recently Kelman himself was in with some friends when the group was on. He dispatched a pal to see what it was like.
 
'Same sort of shite as when you were running it,' reported his mate.
 
We took that as a compliment.
 
Even as exacting a writer as Scotland's lone Booker winner would not have been disappointed last night. We heard stories of children whose lives were buffeted around by adults, a foray into the darker side of the property market, and a delicious confection on competitive duck feeding by Linda McLaughlin, whose writing is always beautifully crafted and pitch perfect.
 
'Charming,' pronounced Drew.
 
There were, though, three outstanding stories. Paddy Hughes is a newcomer to the Scotia, a young Liverpudlian whose work crackles with energy and invention. His story, Steady Hands, encapsulated the life of a hitman into the moments before he pulls the trigger. John Savage's Meeting Danny Boy was a darkly humorous story of Christmas Eve in the high rise home of two alcoholics. John is a previous Scotia poet laureate so it was no surprise that his first attempt at the short story was so powerful. The evening's finale was One Hot Day by another Scotia stalwart, Mo Blake of the Read Raw collective. A vivacious young woman, a stuffed-shirt young man who wants to become a priest, a walk in the country, in her hands became high-spirited, subversive comedy with a serious edge.
 
 
 
 
From left, John Savage, Mo Blake and
Paddy Hughes
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We had our prizewinners and it was only left to decide the order. The structural sophistication of Paddy Hughes's story, which took a complicated back story and wove it together with the drama of watching a hitman about to commit a murder,
was technically superb and we were unanimous in selecting it as the winner, unusual in my experience of judging competitions, when people's personal tastes often clash. How, though, do you separate two brilliant stories, John's hugely powerful with a playful edge, Mo's hugely playful with a powerful edge? In the end we decided to award two equal second prizes, which sent Mary, the manager, scurrying off to get new envelopes and divvy up the cash equally.
 
 
 
 
Paddy's story featured a murderous father, who had stabbed his mother and was now dead. But Paddy's dad was very much live and proud! 'And Mum's fine too,' he said.
  
 
 
 
Pictures by Mary Rafferty
 
Interestingly, Paddy had tightened up his work since the heats, when he'd gone over his time limit and been halted by the rattling spoons of Ray Evans, our timekeeper. The previous ending had lessened the impact of the story and we discussed how useful it is to read your work aloud and to sense fluctuations in the energy of those in the room.
                                             
 
'Sometimes it's when you sense that, that you realise what your story's really about,' commented Drew.
 
Modern writers have to be prepared to read their work aloud, something which is excruciatingly difficult the first time you do it. The Scotia competitions and the open mic policy at its monthly meetings offer writers the chance to practise this necessary skill in a safe environment, where people understand how terrifying an experience it can be to expose yourself in that way. So come along, all you writers aspiring to be Scotland's second Booker winner or simply to get published. Find out if you're hard enough.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

10 Comments to The Scotia Short Story Final:

Comments RSS
Alyson Dunlop on 05 June 2013 07:05
Nominated you for a Beautiful Blogger Award! http://alysondunlop.com/2013/06/05/beautiful-blogger-awards/ x
Reply to comment
 
jm florance on 28 October 2013 05:32
Hey I simply love your lovely item thank you and thank you in advance


Sinita Scotland on 14 November 2013 16:26
Really enjoyed reading this post. Thankyou


Rachael on 10 June 2013 17:45
Hi Jean, Just felt I'd like to comment on the passing of fellow scribe and fallen soldier of the literary world Iain (M) Banks - two of our finest writers-! So very sad to hear this. Not unexpected, but it came all too soon. I cut my teeth on The Wasp Factory - (about the same time that I discovered The New York Dolls and Warninks Advocaat!). Remarkable that he was able to complete his last novel - even more remarkable the subject matter, conceived before his diagnosis! I wish I were raising a dram on Calton Hill... I'll be there in spirit! It is a shame I'm in Manchester, otherwise I'd jump at the chance of joining your soiree... perhaps I can draw inspiration from you gals and set something up myself... in the wilds of leafy Cheshire. Hmmm, are they ready for it?!? Lest I forget to mention it Jean - really enjoying your blogs!
Reply to comment
 
nirala greenshire on 04 October 2013 05:02
This is one of the best works I've read on the Internet. Your points are unique, valid and very well thought out and written. Thank you for your efforts and thank you for writing it !


jm florance on 28 October 2013 05:28
The amount of high quality content on the site has totally made me recognize the massive authority your site contains. Incredible posts and articles seemingly everywhere. Keep up the good work.
Reply to comment


Help me write on 19 November 2013 07:00
What a commendable work you have done, with simplest of language. I can’t resist myself to leave a comment and trust me it’s hard to impress me.....
Reply to comment


Alex on 18 December 2014 09:22
Congratulation
Reply to comment


Kevin Ambleside on 24 December 2014 19:02
Awesome blog post, you have some useful material for your web visitors to relish. I was sitting here in my garden in Ambleside relishing your blog on the laptop. Good luck with the site, thank you so much, from Mr and Mrs Ambleside.
Reply to comment


Julie Davis on 17 February 2016 19:16
This is awesome stories so far. I appreciate this type of story. Do you know, I was waiting to read stories like this. Thank and hope people also give same opinion about this story like mine.
Reply to comment

Add a Comment

Your Name:
Email Address: (Required)
Website:
Comment:
Make your text bigger, bold, italic and more with HTML tags. We'll show you how.
Post Comment
Website Builder provided by  Vistaprint