For too long, the short story has been considered the sickly sibling of the novel. But where a novel can take days to read and you don't really know until halfway through if it's going to be much cop, a short story takes, maybe, an hour to read and every single word has a purpose. (Unlike a novel; there's a lot more room for slack when you have 80,000 words to play with.) A short story has punch, it can pivot on a line, it can — as we witnessed at an AL Kennedy reading the other week — make an entire audience gasp with emotion at a suckerpunch we were not expecting.
All hail, then, to the London Short Story Festival, coming to Waterstones Piccadilly in June. Organised by Spread the Word, you can hear short stories read and talked about by the likes of Jackie Kay, Claire Keegan, Helen Simpson, Colin Barrett and the aforementioned AL Kennedy. If you're inspired to write your own tales you can add your name to a waiting list for workshops and masterclasses, and don't forget to vote for your favourite British short story which will be read by Stella Duffy at the festival's end.
In the meantime, if you'd like to explore short stories for yourself, we recommend dipping into publisher Scott Pack's blog where he's been reviewing collections for several years.
The London Short Story Festival runs 20-22 June at Waterstones Piccadilly. Tickets for events vary between £6-£10; if space opens up at the workshops and masterclasses, tickets are £25 / £18. A masterclass with Claire Keegan is available on 22 June for £45 / £32. For more information and to book see the festival website.