Sundial Sunday Solstice Shorts Video


As it is Sunday what better story to share than The Largest Sundial in the World, by Anita Sethi, one of our judges for the Solstice Shorts Time themed writing competition?

This story deals with family, horoscopes and finding your own way in the world. Pairing with today’s song, The Pilgrimage from Shadrack Tye. which also deals with family and making your own way.

This story is one of 16 read at the Solstice Shorts Festival and featured in the book Solstice Shorts: Sixteen Stories about Time
Our BSL interpreters wish it to be known that this is not what they consider performance standard signing, they needed a chance to rehearse with the performers for that, but you will be able to follow the Story and the Song.


Solstice Shorts Judge Anita Sethi gives some last minute advice

With only 12 hours left before the Solstice Shorts Short Story Competition deadline,  our series of interviews closes with some final words of inspiration from the last of our judges, Anita Sethi.


How do you approach judging?

“You want to remember that while you’re judging the book, the book is also judging you”, wrote Stephen King in his short story collection Night Shift – and the same can be applied to judging short stories, too – by which I mean a certain open-minded approach and paradoxically a non-judgmentalism to what’s before me, so that I avoid pinning on pre-conceived thoughts.   A strong voice tends to grip the reader from the word go and hold the attention until the very end so often it’s a visceral emotional as well as cerebral experience that one’s taking into account in the reading and judging process.

What do you look for in a short story?

“The short story, which acts like the flare of a match struck in the dark, is the only real form for describing the briefness, the brokenness and the simultaneous wholeness of people’s lives”, wrote William Carlos Williams.  I look for that flare, those moment of startling insight, to be moved and transported into another’s world, another’s mind.

But as well as flare I also, of course, look for flair.

What would you hope for in terms of responding to the theme?

“Short stories are absolutely about the present moment”, insisted Nadine Gordimer. But in the present moment often whole lifetimes are compressed – the seething regrets of the past, or dreams of the future jostling for attention.  Short stories in their very brevity of form compress time but can paradoxically also expand it.  Time has always been a fascinating theme for literature; in their very nature, words and language are a time-bound medium, moving from then to now, so time is always an intrinsic theme – but bringing it to the very forefront is a great way of shining even more of a spotlight on it.  I’m looking forward to reading about that elusive present moment but also about the past and the future, too – and perhaps even those moments that are able to stand outside of time.

The ‘solstice’ is also a brilliant day to focus the attention on the transience of time through the festival.  I always remember a scene in The Great Gatsby which takes place on the longest day of the year and Fitzgerald powerfully grapples with the issue of temporality; the shortest day of the year could well prove an equally potent point in time for writers.

Solstice Shorts Festival – Who will be judging the competition?

With just under 7 days left of the crowd funding to go, it’s time to introduce you to our competition judges

Short-listing (to about 40 stories) will be done by Arachne Press owner, (award-winning) editor and writer, Cherry Potts, together with reviewer and book blogger Lizzy Baldwin.

The Final choice of 12 stories will be made by a stellar line-up, each of whom will also contribute a story for the festival and the anthology.

(You can help us get the festival to the starting line by donating to our crowd funding campaign. we have lots of interesting and quirk rewards on offer. The crowd fund closes on September 4th)

Imogen RobertsonImogen Robertson grew up in Darlington, studied Russian and German at Cambridge and now lives in London. She directed for film, TV and radio before becoming a full-time author and won the Telegraph’s ‘First thousand words of a novel’ competition in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness, her first novel. Her other novels also featuring the Georgian detective duo of Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are Anatomy of Murder, Island of Bones, Circle of Shadows and Theft of Life. In 2013 she published The Paris Winter, a story of betrayal and darkness set during the Belle Époque. She has been short-listed for the CWA Historical Dagger three times and once for the Dagger in the Library Award.

Robert Shearman has written four short story collections (Tiny Deaths, Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, Everyone’s Just So So Special, Remember Why You Fear Me), and between them they have won the World Fantasy Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Edge Hill Readers Prize and three British Fantasy Awards.His background is in the theatre, resident dramatist at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, and regular writer for Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough; his plays have won the Sunday Times Playwriting Award, the Sophie Winter Memorial Trust Award, the World Drama Trust Award, and the Guinness Award in association with the Royal National Theatre. He regularly writes plays and short stories for BBC Radio,  and he has won two Sony Awards for his interactive radio series, The Chain Gang. But he’s probably best known for reintroducing the Daleks to the BAFTA winning first season of the revived Doctor Who, in an episode that was a finalist for the Hugo Award. His latest collection of stories, They Do The Same Things Different There, is to released September 16th 2014.

Alison Moore is a novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, The Lighthouse, won the McKitterick Prize 2013 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012 and the National Book Awards 2012 (New Writer of the Year). Her second novel, He Wants, will be published on 15 August. Her debut collection, The Pre-War House and Other Stories, includes a prize-winning novella and stories published in Best British Short Stories anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra


Anita Sethi profile pictureAnita Sethi is an award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster who has written dispatches from around the world for the Guardian, Observer, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Independent, Independent on Sunday, New Statesman, Granta, Times Literary Supplement, Harpers Bazaar and BBC, among others. She has appeared as a guest panellist and commentator on BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC World Service, and ABC Australia.
Her short stories, reportage and poetry has been published in From There to Here, Roads Ahead, and The Book Club Bible and she is currently completing a novel. She is recipient of a Penguin/decibel prize, Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship,  Arts Council writing award, and Dialogue Festival blogging award.
She has appeared at many international Literature Festivals, and has been both an International Writer-in-Residence and Ambassador at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne, Australia.

Imogen, Anita and Rob will host on the day and read their own stories, Alison was double booked, so her story will be read by an actor, and Cherry will do a hosting stint, as well as running a writing workshop and generally making sure everything goes smoothly and everyone has a great time.

Solstice Shorts Festival – Update

sun half and halfPlans for the Solstice Shorts Festival are continuing apace.

A celebration of National Short Story Day, of the Winter Solstice and of the narrative power of folk music, bringing together story and song on the Greenwich Meridian – on the theme of Time.

The Festival has grown in scope a bit while we’ve been thinking about it and it is now a marvellous mix of live short stories, chosen by our exquisite line-up of judges and read by actors; and folk music from leading local professional and amateur musicians, backed up with writing and singing workshops, all of which will be BSL interpreted throughout, as we’d like to make the event as inclusive as possible. We also plan to live broadcast the performances, and podcasting them for future reference. We even plan to provide breakfast for the sunrise sessions!

We have confirmed venues at the beautiful West Greenwich Library from sunrise (8.04) til 11.30, and at The Royal Observatory Greenwich, in the Astronomy Centre,  from 11.00 til sunset (15.53)
We have confirmed judges for the short story competition: Alison Moore (award-winning short story writer and novelist), Imogen Robertson (writer of the acclaimed Crowther & Westerman historical crime series), Rob Shearman (Doctor Who and multiple short stories) and Anita Sethi (Journalist, reviewer and Broadcaster). Each of the judges is contributing a story to the day, and the book that will be published of the winning stories from the competition.
We have confirmed hosts: Cherry Potts, Imogen Robertson, Rob Shearman and Anita Sethi.
We have confirmed musicians: Pepper & Shepherd, Shadrack Tye, Rosemary Lippard, Summer All Year Long and Ian Kennedy & Sarah Lloyd.

The performances will all be free to attend, but we will charge a modest fee for the writing workshops, hosted by Paul Shearrard and Cherry Potts, one of which will be accompanied by live music from Ian Kennedy and Sarah Lloyd, and of course the competition is £5 to enter.

All we need is the MONEY!

To that end we have put in an application to the Arts Council, and to the Samuel Gardner Memorial Trust, and started a crowd funding campaign, which, if you like the sound of the festival and would like to support it, you can contribute to (PLEASE!). This expires on Thursday 4th September at 23:59, so don’t hang around if you would like some of our lovely rewards – some of the one-off rewards have already gone! Books, signed or otherwise, exclusively designed badges and t shirts, invitations to our next book launch, a hand lettered poem, a digital portrait, and bespoke flash fiction are all available. We will add new rewards as we think of them.