Last week I immersed myself in short stories in preparation for workshops I would be conducting at a Short Story day hosted by the National Short Story Campaign. One of the things I did was revisit metropolitan, the short-story magazine I co-founded and co-edited with Ailsa Cox (and which the two of us co-published with John Ashbrook).
It was an experience both exhilarating and depressing, and a sober illustration of the problems which exist nowadays for unknown but talented writers of serious literature. I was newly stunned by the standard, originality and energy of the stories we published, and I have to say grabbed by them in a way I wasn't by the stories in many published collections. Several literary agents were too at the time, and picked up several of our writers. Yet what struck me last week was how few, even so, have yet made it as mainstream authors.
Some have made it into mainstream publication, although few are known for their short stories. Roger Morris is known for his critically-acclaimed Macmillan New Writing novel Taking Comfort and - perhaps better - for his Faber crime novels. Susan Davis and Paul Magrs publish fiction for young adults. [Edited-in correction: Paul has also published 10 mainstream novels for adults, two of which were already placed with mainstream publishers, along with a collection of stories, before we published his story, so doesn't in fact qualify for this list of 'unknowns'.]. Daniel Davies (if indeed it is the same Daniel Davies) has published a novel with Serpent's Tail. Art Corriveau's novels have been published by Penguin, but his short stories are published by an independent press. The agent of the brilliant Tamar Yellin failed to place her collection of stories or her novel The Genizah at the House of Shepher with any British publisher, but after they were published by the American Toby Press, the latter won the prestigious Sami Rohr Prize and the former was short-listed for the first Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story. The novels of Nigel Pickard, Robert Graham and Frank Downes have come from small presses.
And what about the others? One, Fi Francis, has sadly died - such a loss to literature - and I was recently astonished to be told that another, Penny Rendall, has given up writing. But even allowing for such tragedies and contingencies, it's a shameful fact that so few of the following names aren't better known as writers of fiction, although many have made names for themselves in other fields: Judith Amanthis, Marion Baraitser, Alex Barr, Kate Barry, Kirsty Brackenridge, Madeleine Cary, Dave Downes, Frank Downes, Michael Eaude, Molly Firth, Veronika Forster, Iain Grant, Vicky Grut, Atar Hadari, George Hawthorn, Hilaire, Graeme Hodgson, Rose Hughes, Robert Lawlor, Roderick Lowell Huntress, Mairead Irish, Simon King-Spooner, Kath Mackay, Camden McDonald, Menzies McKillop, Jim McLaughlin, Char March, Heather Leach, Georgina Lock, Paul Marshall, Mindy Meleyal, Rowan Metcalfe, S Morrisey, Graham Mort, Ravinder Randhawa, Karen Rosenberg, John Sitzia, Helen Smith, Amanda Szekely, Mandy Sutter, Kanta Walker, Cathy Wright.