Tania Hershman is the author of two story collections: My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions (Tangent Books, 2012), and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008; commended, 2009 Orange Award for New Writers). Tania’s award-winning short stories and poetry have been widely published in print and online and broadcast on BBC Radio. Tania is founder and curator of ShortStops (www.shortstops.info), a Royal Literary Fund fellow in the Science Faculty at Bristol University, and studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University exploring the intersection of fiction and particle physics. She is co-writer of Writing Short Stories: A Writers & Artists Companion (Bloomsbury, Dec 2014)
Tania joins us to talk about the exciting new website she’s created for anyone interested in short stories: www.shortstops.info
Tell us a bit about ShortStops?
ShortStops was born out of the list of UK & Irish literary magazines that I started keeping on my personal blog in 2010, for my own reference. I had thought there were around a dozen, but there were so many more and the list kept growing! It became the most popular thing on my blog, and I started thinking about giving it its own dedicated site. That finally happened last November – and I expanded the concept, because I was seeing so much exciting activity in the short story world in the UK & Ireland, but still there was this myth that round here things are a little sad short-story-wise. It’s just not true!
I wanted to bring all of this great stuff together, to celebrate it and to create a feeling of community around the three strands: literary magazines, live lit events and short story authors. The main part of the site is listings of these three, with each lit mag and live event getting it’s own dedicated Page – designed by them – to showcase what it’s all about. Each editor or organiser has the option to sign up to be a contributor to the site and post to ShortStops‘ blog, with news of a new issue, call for submission, a new event, etc… The response has just been so gratifying! The blog, which I restrict to one post per day in order to give that post prominence, has been updated almost daily, we’ve nearly reached capacity already! The blog also features posts about short story contests, workshops and anything short-story-related in the UK and Ireland, including tips from lit mag editors, for example, about what they want to see.
What’s wonderful to see is that there are new magazines and events being set up all the time! It can get a little overwhelming – so there are different ways to keep updated with what’s going on – you can sign up to the blog to get notifications whenever there’s a new post, or to our fortnightly newsletter, which rounds up what’s been on the blog over the previous few weeks. Our Twitter feed is very active – I spend a lot of time retweeting tweets from lit mags, live events and all of the above, so if you want loads of tips for where to read short stories, send your stories or go and hear short stories, check it out! @ShortStopsUK
Why do you believe short stories are such an important form?
I don’t actually believe any one form is more important than any other. I read everything, watch all sorts of things, listen to the radio. I adore short stories, but started ShortStops not to proclaim that they are beleaguered and need more attention but to highlight what is already going on and help those who write, read and want to listen to short stories find more places to do that. I don’t like any talk of the Poor Short Story, second cousin to the More Successful Novel, or Not Quite Poetry – let’s celebrate all of it, great writing in every form! The short story is doing brilliantly, thank you very much!
As a successful writer in your own right, what advice do you have for writers looking to publish their short fiction?
Read. I don’t have any better advice than that. Almost everything I learn, all the permission and inspiration, has come from reading other people’s stories and from wonderful, open-minded and generous teachers. I would suggest, with my ShortStops hat on, that you read some of the fabulous literary magazines we have in this country – they need readers as much as writers. And with another hat on, I have just finished co-writing (with Courttia Newland) the Writers’ and Artists’ Companion to Short Story Writing, which will be published in December, and I tried to make my parts into the sort of thing I wished I’d read when I was starting out. No rules, no prescriptions, lots of ideas for finding your own way to do it.
Tell us about a recent short story that’s wowed you.
A recent favourite, which I take apart in the short story writing book to see how it works, is Janet Frame’s ‘Between My Father And the King’. 800 words, and it reduces me to tears every time. Every time. I am currently judging the Bridport flash fiction prize and I won’t accept anything less than a whole-body jolt from a story, that’s what I look for in great fiction.
What are you favourite short fiction magazines?
Well now, the entire list on ShortStops, of course! And, further afield, I do love the quirky online magazines like Cease, Cows, Metazen and Pank, which feature the weird and wonderful!
Thank you Tania!