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Review: Defending the Pencil Factory, by Adam Marek

Posted on October 21st, 2018 by Eloise Wales

By Farhana Khalique

“Daryl is taking too long with the pencil sharpener, and all down the line we are sweating…” So begins Adam Marek’s short story, Defending the Pencil Factory, and so far you might think that it’s about plucky assembly line workers threatening industrial action. Or a group of school children about to take a test, who may or may not have beef with a boy called Daryl. The reality is far more unsettling.

For it soon transpires that they are youngsters, holed up in said factory, besieged by a hoard of monsters. Fortunately, the kids are karate students and have a chance of survival. Unfortunately, their attackers are evil personified, and they just keep on coming… There is more…

Short Story Club, 22nd September: Sylvia Wears Pink in the Underworld

Posted on October 12th, 2018 by Eloise Wales

Review by Susan Hodgetts

This month’s short story was bound to provoke intense discussion and divisive feeling among the short story club attendees. In Sylvia Wears Pink in the Underworld, the Canadian born writer Alison MacLeod imagines a happy ending for the late poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963.

Taken from her short story collection All the Beloved Ghosts, MacLeod offers us a mythical and romantic “corrective” fantasy to Sylvia’s earthly life.

In the story, an anonymous narrator (who one might reasonably assume is MacLeod herself, from references to shared Americanisms) visits Plath’s grave in Heptonstall, Yorkshire. The narrator then conjures up a supernatural conversation by holding a wine glass to the poet’s headstone. There is more…

A Conversation With Ingrid Persaud

Posted on October 7th, 2018 by Eloise Wales

Last week, Trinidadian writer Ingrid Persaud won the 13th BBC National Short Story Award 2018 for her short story ‘The Sweet Sop’. We were delighted to attend the awards ceremony at the University of Cambridge to see Ingrid accept the award, a prize of £15,000, and chat to her afterwards – almost immediately after she came off stage.

The story, about a young Trinidadian man reunited with his absent father, is one you haven’t read before. Chocolate takes precedent, as does grief and humour and loss. It’s written in Trinidadian dialect, and the beat of the story surfaces in secret sweet wrappers, bathroom calls about Kit Kat bars, and quiet odes to choosing how to die.

KJ Orr, part of the award judging panel and a mentor to one of The Word Factory’s Apprentices this year, commented: ‘This moving story about a father-son relationship is truly memorable – at once tender and ebullient, heartbreaking and full of humour. Here’s a writer who understands the compressed, conflicted potential of the short story.’

Previously a lawyer, Ingrid is not new to writing. But she admits that this is her first short story, and says she has always been preoccupied with the power of words, There is more…

A Word Factory Interview with Jessie Greengrass

Posted on October 7th, 2018 by Eloise Wales

By Rupert Dastur

Hi Jessie, thanks for answering a few questions for us. Firstly, congratulations on your new novel, Sight, which has been widely acclaimed. I read that before setting out on the marathon task, you Googled the minimum length of a novel and then divided it by weekdays in a year, setting yourself a target of 192 words a day to finish the novel. Do you have a similarly methodical approach to short stories?
Ha! The word count thing was quite specific to writing a novel, because having never done it before, and being more used to writing short stories, I found the idea very daunting. Sitting down with nothing at all and thinking that somehow I had to write an entire book was so overwhelming that I couldn’t find a way to start, and I needed to break it down into something that felt more manageable- whereas writing a novel felt impossible, writing 192 words every day for a year seemed almost easy. There is more…

Review: What We Are Now

Posted on October 2nd, 2018 by Eloise Wales

Word Factory apprentice Georgina Aboud reviews David Constantine’s short story, What We Are Now – our exclusive pamphlet published by Guillemot Press

In a recent Word Factory interview, David Constantine said: “More important than a character’s typicalness in time and social circumstances is a sense – which a fiction must achieve or it fails – that what is at stake, the struggle, the success or failure, is recognisable as something recurrently or even universally human.” There is more…