Monday, 30 November 2015

Winter WordFest 2015

Peter Blair, Senior Lecturer in English and co-editor of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, will be a guest reader at Winter Wordfest 2015.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Flash, 8.1 (April 2015)

Issue 8.1 of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine is now available.

It features new stories from Botswana, Britain, Egypt, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, and the USA.

We are pleased to open with four pieces by David Swann, whose Stronger Faster Shorter: Flash Fictions launched our new venture, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Press. For more information about the collection and the Press, please visit Flash’s website. This issue also includes the 2015 winner of the UK’s National Flash Fiction Youth Competition, ‘Hide and Seek’ by Helen Gurr, a talented A-level student at Wirral Grammar School for Girls. The competition was organized by Flash and the Department of English, University of Chester; it was judged by the editors and leading flash author Vanessa Gebbie.

Flash Presents’ contains four pieces – ‘The Interview’, ‘The Goat Tetherer Attempts to Make History’, ‘The Shortage at the Petting Zoo’, and ‘Storage’ – from Nick Parker’s acclaimed debut collection The Exploding Boy and Other Tiny Tales (2011).

In the ‘Flash Essay’ section, Charlotte Rich connects ‘Kate Chopin’s Very Short Stories’ to the late-nineteenth-century American author’s longer work. Alongside the essay, ‘A Very Fine Fiddle’ is reprinted; in Flash, 7.1, you can read ‘A Harbinger’, ‘Doctor Chevalier’s Lie’, ‘Old Aunt Peggy’, and ‘Ripe Figs’.

Flash Reviews’ assesses a rich diversity of texts: three chapbooks (Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s Of Dublin and Other Fictions, William Todd Seabrook’s The Imagination of Lewis Carroll, and Shellie Zacharia’s Not Everything Lovely and Strange Is a Dream); three longer collections (Stuart Dybek’s Ecstatic Cahoots, James Robertson’s 365, and Avital Gad-Cykman’s Life In, Life Out); and a compendium of five novellas-in-flash with accompanying craft essays (My Very End of the Universe, by Tiff Holland, Meg Pokrass, Aaron Teel, Margaret Patton Chapman, and Chris Bower).

To order a copy of the issue, or to subscribe to the magazine, go to:

Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler (Editors), Department of English, University of Chester

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Launch of Pandora's Box

On 12 May, with the summer evening light streaming in through the high windows, students and tutors gathered in the Vicarage for the launch of Pandora’s Box, an annual magazine which offers a selection of the best creative writing by students and tutors from the last academic year. The final choice of work for 2014-15 was made by the two student editors, Jessica Hilton and Laura Taylor.

As well as readings from the magazine, comic scripts were performed, writing competitions were run, and a wonderful time was had by all!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Out Now: Stronger Faster Shorter: Flash Fictions

David Swann’s Stronger Faster Shorter: Flash Fictions is the inaugural chapbook of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Press.

Imagine you have returned from a war to find the soldiers you killed wandering the streets of your home town and sleeping with all the girls you fancy.

The poor old pigeons are not having it much easier. They have flown back from overseas to discover their coop bolted shut. Word is, the champion fancier has gone down with an allergy to his flock. Word is, the birds’ homing has brought them somewhere strange.

In this collection of twenty-five short-short stories, the characters are searching for the things we all crave: a place to be, a use for their time, and that special creature who will share the hours with them…

But love is hard to find when there is so much fighting. Ask the Iranian with the Frank Sinatra fixation who you have just dug up from a flowerbed. Or the fundraisers knocking each other’s lights out at the Annual Party for the Association of Parents of Children with Hand and Arm Deficiencies.

They are in the wars, for sure. But these people go on dreaming of peace. Take the lonely fruit-picker, living in a caravan far from home. If she opens her hand now, a man will drop a flower from the sky and it will fall into her grasp… Then he will fire hot air into his balloon and rise again. And he will look down and agree that it is strange to see your home town like this, that distance makes him fond of its wrecked old streets.

But whenever he lands, he looks at the sky again. And he loves the fruit-picker most when he cannot quite reach her.

For more information and to purchase a copy, go to:

Friday, 27 February 2015

Visit to Chester by Novelist George Green

On 24 February, Creative Writing students on the module Writing the Past spent a seminar and workshop with author of historical novels, George Green. George’s novels include Hawk (2006) and Hound (2003), which was described in the Guardian as ‘tightly written, oddly touching and with a strong sense of history as well as myth’. He is also co-author of Writing a Novel and Getting Published for Dummies (2007; 2014).

George read from his novel-in-progress, set the class a generative writing exercise based on old coins, discussed the best ways to structure a longer piece of fiction and keep the attention of the reader, and took questions from the class on issues such as the use of flashback and the best point at which to begin your story.

The visit was organised by Dr Ian Seed.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Flash, 7.2 (October 2014)

Issue 7.2 of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine is now available.

It features new stories from Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, and the USA. We are particularly pleased to open with pieces by two distinguished European writers, in luminous translations: two ‘zkv’s (‘zeer korte verhalen’ [very short stories]) by A. L. Snijders, who coined the term, translated from the Dutch by Man Booker International winner Lydia Davis; and three pieces from Austrian writer Josef Winkler’s When the Time Comes (2013), translated by Adrian West, originally published in German as Wenn es soweit ist – Erzählung (1998). Wonderful renderings by West of Winkler also appeared in Flash, 6.1. Davis’s impressive Collected Stories (2009) was featured in the ‘Flash Presents’ section of 6.2; her latest collection, Can’t and Won’t, is enthusiastically reviewed in this issue by Robert Shapard, editor of influential flash and sudden-fiction anthologies.

This issue’s ‘Flash Presents’ contains four stories by Virginia Woolf: ‘A Haunted House’, ‘Monday or Tuesday’, ‘Blue & Green’, and ‘In the Orchard’. These are followed by our fourth ‘Flash Essay’. In ‘“Splinters & mosaics”: Virginia Woolf’s Flash Fictions’, Kathryn Simpson argues that Woolf’s experimental flashes provide insight into her emergence as a major modernist novelist and her enduring preoccupations.

Flash Reviews’ examines two other single-author books and two anthologies. Laurie Champion is entertained by Lucy Corin’s One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses, a collection of short and short-short stories, while Christine Simon is intrigued by Will Eaves’s The Absent Therapist, a novel in flashes. Robert Scotellaro enjoys Tara Laskowski’s selection from ten years of the SmokeLong Quarterly, while Ian Seed embraces the longer perspective of Alan Ziegler’s Short, which ranges over five centuries of brief prose. Each review is accompanied by a sample story. Laskowski’s anthology is represented by Jeff Landon’s ‘Five Fat Men in a Hot Tub’, Ziegler’s by Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Artist’.

To order a copy of the issue, or to subscribe to the magazine, go to: 

Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler (Editors)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Prize for Ian Seed’s Poetry Collection

Creating Writing tutor Dr Ian Seed has been awarded the 2015 Monograph Prize by the Faculty of Humanities, University of Chester, for his prose-poetry collection Makers of Empty Dreams (Shearsman, 2014).

With a sparse, haunting, often playful lyricism, the makers of empty dreams emerge like figures in the reels of an old, almost abandoned film. Their stories, often set in different countries which we may or may not know, tell of loss and estrangement, of betrayal and reconciliation, and of a search for the possibilities of renewal along the way.

The poet Ian McMillan has said of the collection: ‘These are superb pieces that give us a glimpse into some kind of translated backlit European hinterland full of the music of menace and desire. I read them in my conservatory in Barnsley and I was instantly transported to a city that I half-knew, full of people I wanted to meet or avoid. Prose poetry at its very best.’

Monday, 2 February 2015

Visit by Francesca Haig, Author of The Fire Sermon

In January 2015, Francesca Haig shared her experience of the publishing world, with helpful details and advice about publishing, literary agents, and publicity.

Francesca’s The Fire Sermon, a post-apocalyptic novel with elements of fantasy and science fiction, will be published in February 2015 (by HarperVoyager in the UK; Simon & Schuster in Canada), with two sequels to follow. The film rights have been purchased by DreamWorks, and translation rights to the series have been sold in more than twenty-five countries. Francesca’s poetry is widely published in anthologies and literary journals in both Australia and the UK, and has won various prizes. Her first collection, Bodies of Water, was published in 2006 (Five Islands Press) and was Highly Commended in the Anne Elder Award for the best first book of poetry in Australia. In 2010, she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship.

At the talk, Francesca stressed that what counts above all is the writing itself, not becoming obsessed with the latest publishing trends or with dreaming of finding the perfect agent. Francesca gave out lots of useful tips, based on her own experience. Do your research so that you find the right agent, one whose vision of the novel is aligned with yours. Before you send your work out, make sure it is as polished as you can make it. Once you’ve done this, get on with something different. Don’t twitter-stalk your agent or go crazy. Don’t make unreasonable demands. In all dealings with the publishing world, be polite, patient and professional. Don’t expect to make a lot of money. Do it because you love doing it. Above all, make sure your write a really good book. Being a Creative Writing student at the University of Chester is useful because of the feedback you get on your coursework from your peers and tutors.

Francesca also talked about the advantages and disadvantages of the self‑publishing revolution – if you’re prepared to put in the work, then go for it! But remember that you will not have the input of an editorial team or the support of a big publishing house.

Francesca also ran a poetry workshop, helping students to turn a run-of-the mill draft poem into a striking, original one.