Posted on 18th May 2011

Posted by Sophie

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A Journey of Discovery

A lot is written about how short stories are perfect for the twenty-first century because they are short and we’re all short of time, and some say, attention span. Indeed, Shortfire Press is a little guilty of expounding this view too. But the truth behind why I set up Shortfire Press is more to do with the fact that readers can download stories one by one; you are not committed to spending upwards of £7.99 on a collection, and so, I hope, will be more open to trying a new author you have never heard of before, or perhaps an author you have always meant to read and haven’t quite got round to.

Short stories have always played an important role for authors, particularly authors who have not yet made it to bestsellerdom. They can be a showcase, a moment to catch a reader’s attention, a way to be read alongside other authors in a collection or a literary magazine, a chance to be discovered. And for me as a reader, they give me a nugget from a writer, a self-contained parcel of what I might expect if I were to go on to read their other writing. I sometimes like to think of them as the advert in the Soulmates section of the newspaper: ‘Creator of worlds, short, GSOH, seeks open-minded adventurer to read between my lines.’

Shortfire Press launched in January 2011 and our mission is to bring the short story to everyone, to make it accessible and fun, and not stuffy in the slightest. And it’s a place to discover great writers – both new and more established. Each story is chosen because it’s a brilliant story, not necessarily because it was written by someone who you might have heard of. Of course, we have stories from fantastic award-winning writers (Nadifa Mohamed, Edward Hogan, and Richard Beard, to name just three). And we have stories from writers who are just at the beginning of their careers (Thabi di Moeketsi and David Whelan). And we have stories from you may have heard of, but may not have tried yet (Kitty Fitzgerald, Salena Godden, John Osborne perhaps). I hope that the site is a place of discovery, a place to find your next favourite writer, a soulmates section for your ereader…

Having said that, when Shortfire launched, I expected the most well-known authors to be the most downloaded. But my expectations have been confounded: ‘It Snows They Say on the Sea’, a wonderfully moving story about a couple whose lives pass quietly by each other during one snowy week, by debut author Elizabeth Jenner, is our bestselling story. Readers have downloaded it, reviewed it, tweeted about it, and recommended it to their friends – that magical word of mouth publishers talk about so much. Now there’s hope for writers, publishers and readers alike…

Clare Hey is the publisher of Shortfire Press.

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