Hello and welcome back to Liars’ League! Oh, you’ve not been here before? Well, it’s simple enough. As the motto says, Liars’ League is where Writers Write, Actors Read, Audience Listens, Everybody Wins. Each month we select the very best stories submitted on a theme, match them up with our carefully-chosen stable of talented actors, and then read them aloud to you, the story-hungry audience, at a pub in central London. We’ve been doing it for six years, and we tell the “Lies” in London Lies and Lovers’ Lies – these being anthologies of stories previously read out at Liars’ League, and published by Arachne Press; hopefully there will be many more such collaborations to follow.
Let me introduce myself a little more fully. My name is Liam Hogan, and by sheer bloody-minded persistence, (I sent the Liars a story every month for about five years) I was inducted into the League as a Writer Liar six months ago. We also have Actor Liars, and Liars Almighty, (also known as “Katy”s), without whom none of this would be possible.
In a series of three blog posts, I’m going to give you an exclusive glimpse of what happens behind the scenes of our monthly event, from the “There can be only five! (or six)” story selection that is Part 1, through the tea and biscuit fuelled rehearsals process, and concluding with the event itself. This is a rare opportunity and privilege, as the Liars are naturally rather secretive creatures, and even I am not permitted to show you everything. The pit into which two deadlocked stories are cast to fight it out to the bitter death for instance, can only be alluded to in hushed tones and by secret signals …
This month’s Liars’ League, on the 14th May, is themed on Man & Machine. (Future themes are available on the Liars website) At the close of the deadline on 7th April we had 45 submissions. This number varies, some themes are more popular than others, but the trend is definitely upwards, which shows we are onto a good thing! One of the 45 – of course – was mine, (I am a Writer Liar, after all) but when the stories are sent on to the League members for selection, the names are removed so that no-one knows which story came from which author.
The basic method of voting is simple – each Liar selects their favourite five. Their favourite five, that aren’t written by them, alas … Then the total votes for each story are totted up, and through the miracle of the democratic process five winning stories – or sometimes six, if two are short – emerge.
And this is where having a League of comprised of Writer Liars and Actor Liars pays dividends, because when the votes are collated, the ones selected will not only be the best stories to read, but also (and for Liars’ League, more importantly), the best to perform. If you’re an author looking for advice on how to get the Liars to pick your work, remember that! Some very good stories don’t make it: either because they’re too difficult for a single actor to read (too many disparate voices perhaps) or simply because they’re not sufficiently on theme. Check out Niall Boyce’s advice, or browse and read the winning stories from past themes for a flavour of what we like.
Usually there will be one or two stories that have enough votes to secure their place outright, but there will also be a larger number on equal votes from which the other stories must be selected. Enter the pit of …
No, no, not quite yet. You see, while the Liars vote for their top five, they may also give as many “honourable mentions” as pleases them. These can and are used as deciding votes and will usually be enough to carry some stories through. But this is also a time for Liar Almighty discretion; some stories may perhaps be more suitable for another theme, or we might have two stories too similar to be included in the same bill of fare. While all stories are chosen on merit, we still have to have a balanced evening’s entertainment.
Only after these considerations is the pit employed. It’s an ugly spectacle, leaving a single victor, dripping black ichor and shredded sentences over the lifeless body of its adversary. Sometimes the victor will require patching up before it is fit for the event (in other words, we might send it back to the author for a light edit).
And then finally the deed is done.
White smoke emerges from the Liars’ lair, and we have five stories ready for the next gruelling stage – the rehearsals. The successful stories are reunited with their delighted authors and an announcement is made to the hushed, expectant crowds waiting patiently for news. Here then, are the winning stories for Man & Machine :
What I am Without by Richard Smyth (Arachne Press author – Lovers’ Lies and the forthcoming Weird Lies)
Duct Tape, Masking Tape, Whatever by Darren Lee (Arachne Press author – Lovers’ Lies)
The Love Song of the Predator Drone by Owen Booth
The Archive of Ivan Dragoyevich by Alan Graham (Arachne Press author – the forthcoming Weird Lies)
The Car Mover by Rosanna Boscawen
Only one other task remains, which is where my submission comes back into it. (You hadn’t forgotten I’d entered one, I hope?) All the stories that got at least one vote were thought by a highly qualified and extremely dedicated Liar to be a Top Five story, so even though it may not have made the final cut, it’s still a story we liked from an author we’d like to encourage. Stories with votes earn feedback from the Liars who voted for them, (which may seem odd, as we have to kind of work out why we think the other Liars did not vote for it, but at least we’re likely to say nice things!) and are passed back to the authors, including me.
The next blog, (Tentatively called “Part 2”…) will detail the black art of matching actor to story, and the tea and biscuit fuelled rehearsal process. Stay tuned.
And do please clear your calendars now, for the Event itself, Man & Machine, 14th May, The Phoenix, Cavendish Square , Doors at 7pm!