Thursday, 14 March 2019

Guest Post on Sandra Danby's blog - Talking All Things Short Story

I'm over on Sandra Danby's blog today, talking all things short story. Here's an excerpt:

A warm Yorkshire welcome today to my blog to short story writer Amanda Huggins, a 2018 Costa Short Story Award runner-up, who has clear ideas about writing the short form. Welcome Amanda! Amanda Huggins“There’s been talk in recent years of a short story renaissance. In January 2018 The Bookseller magazine reported that sales of short story collections were up 50%, reaching their highest level in seven years. However, this turned out to be largely due to a single book — Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks. This January the news was all about poetry — sales were up 12% in 2018, for the second year in a row.
“It’s great to see a renewed interest in both forms — certainly a couple of independent bookshops I’ve talked to this week have confirmed that short story sales are up — and more collections are being featured in review columns. There was also the buzz around Kristen Roupenian’s short story, ‘Cat Person’, published in the New Yorker at the end of 2017, which really resonated with a younger audience. Whatever you thought of that story, it was all good publicity for the short form.”
Amanda Huggins
Four books on Amanda’s ‘To Read’ pile
“As a writer, I know that crafting a two thousand word story requires a different set of skills to novel writing, and the former should never be seen as practice for the latter — a short story isn’t a miniature novel any more than a novel is a protracted short story. Although short fiction is suited to the pace and attention span of the modern world, some readers say they don’t read shorts because they can’t lose themselves in the story the way they can in a novel. It is true that they demand your fine-tuned focus, they seek to be read straight through, and every sentence weighs in heavy because it has to earn its place. Yet all these things bring their own rewards. A cracking story will repay your time and attention by leaving you with something to think about for days after you’ve read it.
“When I’ve finished reading a novel I often pass it on, however I usually keep short story collections and return to them over the years in the same way that I do with poetry. I have countless favourites, many by established authors, but also a growing number by emerging short story writers. The collections on my shelves include books by William Trevor, Tessa Hadley, Helen Simpson, Helen Dunmore, Raymond Carver, AL Kennedy, Wells Tower, Stuart Evers, Miranda July, Yoko Ogawa, KJ Orr, Ernest Hemingway, Taeko Kono, Haruki Murakami, Richard Ford, Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol, Annie Proulx, Isaac Babel, Angela Readman, and AM Homes.”
If you'd like to read the full post, you can find it HERE
Amanda Huggins

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

The Book Stewards Blog

I'm over on The Book Stewards blog today, talking to Teika Bellamy about writing and submitting short stories. Here's an excerpt:-

Q&A with short story writer Amanda Huggins

By Teika
As I was recently emailed a request for advice about the short story submission process and how to decide which path to take to publication, I thought it would be great to hear from some of the most talented short story writers I know. The multiple prize-winning writer Amanda Huggins was kind enough to take part in this Q&A and I am very grateful to her for sharing her knowledge. (You can read her powerful story ‘Red’ – which was a runner-up in the 2018 Costa Short Story Award here.)

1. What kind of short stories do you write and how long have you been writing in that genre and form?
I started writing short stories around 2011, mainly contemporary literary fiction, dealing with relationships and the human condition. Each story is as long as it needs to be, which means that most end up being between 1500-2500 words. However, I also write a lot of flash fiction under 500 words.

2. What’s your writing process (from idea to polished and ready-to-submit piece)? How long does this take on average?
Some stories tumble out of my head fully-formed, and some have to be dragged out! I’m not much of a planner, so as soon as an idea appears then I tend to throw it straight down. Having said that, I am a very slow writer. I’m never happy with what I’ve written, even after it’s been published, and despite editing as I go, I still revise and revise and revise. I can tweak for England, and I work on most of my longer stories for weeks. My collection, Separated From the Sea, was really the result of five years’ work. In my defence, I did have a lot of family commitments in that period, and I do have a full-time day job in engineering!

3. How do you go about finding the right publishing home for a story?
I’m glad you posed the question that way round, and didn’t ask how I go about writing a story to suit a publisher/competition. Because the truth is, I never do. I always write what I want to write and then look for the right competition or publication for the story. I’ve been entering competitions since I started writing, and I always read previous winning stories and check out the judges. However, as we all know, it’s a very subjective thing, and sometimes you just have to wing it. With literary journals you should always read a copy first to see if your work would be a good fit. Publishers advise this all the time, yet writers still don’t realise how important it is.
 If you'd lke to read the rest of the interview, you can find it HERE

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Fictions of Every Kind - Wharf Chambers Leeds 30th April 2019

Fictions of Every Kind is a non-profit writers' social, which aims to support and encourage anybody engaged in the lonely act of writing. Our April event is themed FIERCE.
Our invited speakers in April are:
CHERIE TAYLOR BATTISTE was born in London in 1976. After graduating from SOAS University of London, she worked as a TV researcher before moving on to acting, winning the Norman Beaton Fellowship, joining the BBC Radio Drama Company and gaining various parts on stage and screen. Alongside this, she facilitated workshops in prisons and schools, going on to project manage the embedding of creative learning in schools with CapeUK.
Finding herself a lone parent of two, as austerity hit, she returned to poetry, her first means of expression during her challenging childhood. She saw poetry as freedom, a rare opportunity to have an uncensored cultural voice, and a way of sharing her unique set of experiences. Her first collection, Lioness, will be published by Valley Press in spring 2019.
AMANDA HUGGINS is the author of the short story collection, Separated From the Sea, and the flash fiction collection, Brightly Coloured Horses. She was a runner-up in the 2018 Costa Short Story Award, and has been shortlisted and placed in numerous other competitions, including the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award and the Bath, Bridport and Fish flash fiction prizes. She is also a published poet and award-winning travel writer, and is currently shortlisted for this year’s Bradt Guides New Travel Writer of the Year Award, the results of which will be announced on February 28th at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards event in London.
Amanda grew up on the North Yorkshire coast, moved to London in the 1990s and now lives in West Yorkshire. She works full-time in engineering and is currently struggling with her debut novella.
As ever, there will be our House Band and a writers' open mic, at which flash fiction, short fiction, true stories, and exceprts of larger works are invited. Please keep your contributions at 5 minutes or under. Don't make us ring our bell at you! Please note: much as we love music and singing, our open mic is not the place for them. Our open mic is for words and stories only, and please, if you do read at our open mic, make the opportunity to listen to our contributors too.
Entry is £4. However, we also offer free entry for carers, and we won't turn anybody away who wants to come but can't afford £4. Please email us if you want to ask anything: northernshortstoryfestival at
Please note: Wharf Chambers is a members' club, and you must be a member, or guest of a member, to attend an event here. Joining costs £1 and takes a minimum of 48 hours to take effect. To join, see
TUE, 30 APR AT 19:30

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Free Author Memberships for low-income writers!

Free Author Membership for low-income writers

I was the first author signed to Retreat West Books back in early 2018, and I'm now really pleased to be able to sponsor two free Bronze Author Memberships for writers on low incomes.
Benefits enjoyed by bronze members include:
  • Weekly emails with a mix of writing prompts, exercises, readings, podcasts, videos and tips for writing short stories, flashes and novels
  • 1 entry to the quarterly themed flash comps (£400 in prizes available)
  • Ebook editions of all Retreat West Books titles as they are published
  • 5% discount on our online creative writing courses
You can find more about Author Membership here, including the other membership levels available and the general membership T&Cs.
To apply for a free membership, simply email me a short note. No need to say why you are applying - all applications will be accepted in good faith. The writers that receive the two memberships will be chosen at random after the application process closes at 23:59 GMT on Sunday, 17th February 2019.
My short story collection Separated From The Sea was published through Retreat West Books last June and I was recently awarded third place in the Costa Short Story Award for my story Red.  You can read and listen to my Costa Short Story here!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Dry January

Well I did Dry January - almost! The champagne at the Costa Books Awards was a temptation too far, and I confess that I made up for the other thirty days of abstention with several glasses, and then several more.

It was a fabulous evening at Quaglino's, and I was delighted to be awarded third prize in the Costa Short Story Award. It was wonderful to meet my fellow shortlistees as well as many other talented writers. 

L to R - The CSSA winner Caroline Ward Vine, CSSA judge, Kit de Waal, CSSA runner-up Sophie Wellstood, and myself

What with the all the publicity material in the room, and the huge picture of me up on the stage screen, I think I've had my fifteen minutes of fame now!

There was a respectful hush when the Costa Book of the Year was announced - a unanimous decision by the judges. The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es was a worthy winner, and the emotion in the room was palpable.

 Bart van Es, writer of The Cut Out Girl, with Lien de Jong, the subject of his book, at the Costa Awards on Tuesday evening

'The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es, professor of English at Oxford University, tells the story of Lien de Jong, who as a young Jewish girl was sheltered by the author’s grandparents in Nazi-occupied the Netherlands during the Second World War. Lien later became estranged from the van Es family, and the author set out to find out why.'

So that's January over already, and I have to admit it was much more interesting than the average drab January - even without alcohol (mostly!). February's not shaping up too shabby either, as my publisher, Retreat West Books, has nominated one of my short stories, 'Barefoot Girls & Corner Boys' for Sonder Press's Best Short Fictions. 

And today I was thrilled to see my short story collection, Separated From the Sea, displayed on the counter of The Book Corner in Halifax, a beautiful bookshop in the restored Piece Hall building.



Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson - Review

The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson by Helen Kitson 


Once upon a time Gabrielle Price wrote and published an extraordinary novel.

But twenty years on her literary star has dimmed, her "work of genius" is all but forgotten, and no further novels have materialized. She now lives an unremarkable life: middle-aged, living alone in the sleepy village she grew up in, and working as a housekeeper for the local vicar. Her lonely existence is dominated by memories of her best friend Madeleine, who died young, in tragic and mysterious circumstances.

Gabrielle’s quiet world is turned upside down when she meets and befriends Simon – young, attractive, a would-be writer, and enthusiastic fan of the astonishing novel that Gabrielle published all those years ago. Charmed and flattered, she recklessly invites him into her home and her heart. But Simon is mysterious and manipulative, and it’s not long before he forces Gabrielle to confront the demons in her past. Gabrielle’s obsession begins to destroy her carefully cultivated life, and she comes to feel increasingly threatened by Simon’s presence. Who is he? Why did he seek her out? And what does he really want?


This is a beautifully written novel - quiet, yet deceptively complex, and offering as many twists as a thriller. It is both dark and comic, and imbued with a sense of growing unease as the story unfolds. It is a literary novel, evocatively descriptive, yet pacy enough to hold the reader’s interest to the final denouement. As the story unfolds we are not always sure who is in control; the balance of power shifts at every turn. At the heart of the novel are themes of loneliness, mind games and the damaging effect of secrets.

It’s also a beautiful book - with a fabulous cover. A writer and a publisher to watch.

This is my unbiased review in return for an advance copy.

Costa Short Story Award

I've been sitting on this news for weeks and weeks, waiting (im)patiently for the anonymous public voting to close and the author names to be announced. But now I can finally reveal that my story 'Red' has been shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award!

When I first found out I was stunned. I sat at my desk, reading and re-reading the letter, muttering 'Oh my god, oh my god' at the computer screen with my hands over my face!

I still can't really believe it, in fact it probably won't sink in until I arrive at the Costa Book Awards ceremony on 29th January.

I hardly wrote any new stories last year, as I was busy editing/promoting my flash fiction collection, Brightly Coloured Horses (Chapeltown Books), and my short story collection, Separated From the Sea (Retreat West Books) - as well as concentrating on my poetry collection and the beginnings of a novella. So 'Red' was one of only two short stories that I wrote in 2018, alongside a handful of flash fiction pieces and a lone travel article.

The story had already been entered in a couple of competitions and subbed to two magazines with no success. However it was a story I believed in and I was a long way from giving up on it. And now it has done better than I could ever have hoped!

I'm really looking forward to the awards, and mingling with all the fabulous writers on this year's shortlists - though I know I'll be a little bit terrified on the night!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Bradt Travel Guides - New Travel Writer Award 2019

Travel Writing 2019 banner 
 I'm really pleased to announce that I've reached the Bradt Travel Writer of the Year shortlist. So thrilled, as it's a great competition! I'll be going to London to the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards in February, where the winner will be announced. 

I was shortlisted once before, a few years ago, and have been commended and highly commended since - so fingers crossed!

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Review: Wild Life by Kathy Fish

What can be said about Kathy Fish’s writing that hasn’t been said before? She is a deserved legend of the flash fiction world, and Wild Life is a glorious collection containing work that spans fifteen years.

Fish’s themes are panoramic, distilled to their essence in these perfectly formed miniatures. She understands the human predicament, she writes sparingly, lyrically, with precision, about loss and longing, love and dreams. The world she creates is slightly off-centre, yet totally familiar, so carefully built, word by word. She crams the tiniest of spaces with illuminating wisdom, humour, and pathos, and with characters who are so close that you can feel their breath on the back of your neck as you read. 

These stories - all 109 of them - need re-visiting again and again, they demand to be savoured, and this collection will stay by my bedside until it falls apart.

Available HERE from Matter Press.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Review: This Is (Not About) David Bowie by Freya Morris

I'm thrilled to bits to be stop number three on Freya Morris's blog tour for the launch of This Is (Not About) David Bowie

"Every day we dress up in other people's expectations.

We button on opinions of who we should be, we instagram impossible ideals, tweet to follow, and comment to judge.

But what if we could just let it all go? What if we took off our capes and halos, threw away our uniforms, let go of the future. What if we became who we were always supposed to be?


This is (not about) David Bowie. It's about you.

This Is (Not About) David Bowie is the debut flash fiction collection from F.J. Morris. Surreal, strange and beautiful it shines a light on the modern day from the view of the outsider.

From lost souls, to missing sisters, and dying lovers to superheroes, it shows what it really is to be human in a world that’s always expecting you to be something else."


I read This Is (Not About) David Bowie from start to finish in one sitting, and then promptly read it again the next day! 

Freya Morris has a unique voice that is strong and daring. This collection of stories, poetry and miniature dramas is bright with brilliance - exciting, poignant, surreal, simultaneously other-worldly and utterly grounded. You find yourself instantly immersed in the crazy, startling, off-centre, sci-fi-esque world of Morris's outsiders and lost souls; characters who, like Bowie himself, are striving to find their identity, and often trying to be superhuman. And although you can feel his presence in every corner, as Morris says, this collection is more about us than it will ever be about David Bowie.

Her words are the sweet and sour fizz of a bag of Haribo Tangfastics that you can't stop eating, the crackle and bang of fireworks going off in your head, and after you've taken them all in so fast, you have to pause, reflect, go back and read them again.

Each story holds a new surprise, and it's hard to pick favourites, but here are some of the lines that stayed with me:

"What’s the point of dancing in the rain if you can’t feel it?" says Tom to Hannah in Dancing in the Street.

Freya Morris

“There is a painting in my father’s house that we would step into. The painting became our window when we were too afraid to look out of ours.”  The Last Thing my Father Sang to me.

“You gave me permission to be that girl in my Dad’s old suits. No, it was way more than that – you made it feel extraordinary. Better than the rest. No norms. No lines.” Lifeline - an Eulogy.

This Is (Not About) David Bowie is published by Retreat West Books, and is out now.

Guest Post on Sandra Danby's blog - Talking All Things Short Story

I'm over on Sandra Danby's blog today, talking all things short story. Here's an excerpt: A warm Yorkshire welcome today to...