Spending a large part of this week-end at the London Short Story Festival taking place at Waterstones, Piccadilly, London, and hosted by ‘Spread the Word’.

The event kicked off with the unveiling of the anthology ‘Best of British Short Stories 2015’, edited by Nicholas Royle and published by Salt. Readings by K J Orr, Alison Moore and Helen Simpson suggested that it’s a pretty damn strong collection this year. But oh, what an exercise in masochism! Bad enough for some of those whose work had been selected for inclusion: by what cruel criterion did some get to read their work to us while others languished in the audience? But when the chair, Nikesh Shukla, asked how many of us in the room were writers, all hands went up. We clapped like seals for the successful authors, but all of us were there sharpening our pencils and wishing fervently we were in the comfy chairs.

When questions were asked, we listened attentively for insights that would help us cross the bit of carpet that separated us. When nuggets of information were dropped, ‘I knew that,’ we chorused inwardly. ‘You should have come to me!’ And when people’s credentials were read out, we made avid notes, wondering why we hadn’t thought of this or that publisher before ourselves.

Yes, it’s a cruel business, and it feels like watching yourself undergoing surgery. Thank God, mine host, Paul McVeigh, managed to make us all laugh, but then he’s had a novel published recently, too, and can’t help grinning from ear to ear….

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