On Tuesday evening we went out to a book event at Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham - it's not the first time I've been to the shop, but it is the first time I've attended an event there, and I was impressed with how many people they shoe-horned into the available space. Unlike the large Waterstones store round the corner, Five Leaves don't have a separate room to give over to events so chairs were lined up in and around the books (this is quite handy actually as in any free moments we could browse the books on sale, mainly to say Oh I keep meaning to read that ... and that... and ... there's never enough time for all the books, is there?)
The event was entitled Keeping It Short, and featured four authors for whom the short story holds a special place;
Alison Moore, author of Booker listed The Lighthouse, whose short stories have been collected in The Pre-War House;
Megan Taylor, a local writer with three published novels and a short story collection (The Woman Under The Ground) to her credit;
Nicholas Royle, editor, university lecturer, publisher (Nightjar Press), competition judge and, when he can find the time, author of seven novels and two short story collections;
and Giselle Leeb whose short stories have appeared in various publications including Salt's Best British Short Stories 2017.
Things kicked off with the authors each reading one of their short stories - three of them having a certain ghostly/supernatural twist to them; Alison Moore's exploring ideas which reappear in her latest novel, Death and The Seaside while Nicholas Royle's was only finished that day and so is, as yet, unpublished.
After a break for complementary refreshments, the event continued with 'question time' - the authors fielding queries about how to organise time, how long is a short story and when does it become a novella.
The question about organising time is pretty universal but was put by Mother's Milk publisher and writer Teika Bellamy to Nicholas Royle with his many hats so had a special relevance. While the other writers were also drawn into the conversation it, fascinatingly, risked completely diverging into a discussion on postage costs!
The question about the length of a short story and Nicholas Royle's dislike of the term 'flash fiction' was, in it's own way, also fascinating and the general consensus amongst the four was that it was the content and not the length of it that defines the short story. Giselle Leeb had written a 2,000 word story which she called a novel.
A question was put to Nicholas Royle about the Manchester Fiction Prize and how a panel of just 3 judges managed to judge the many thousands of entries there are each year - this reverted to the subject of time management and was why the word count for submissions had been lowered from 5,000.
A truly fascinating and intimate evening that overran but who was clock watching? (Until after, of course)