100 Days of 100neHundred: Behind the Scenes

Today we are celebrating 100 days of 100neHundred!  Laura Besley’s second collection of micro fiction, 100neHundred explores a kaleidoscope of emotions through 100 stories of exactly 100 words.

We spoke to author Laura Besley and Arachne Press Director and Editor, Cherry Potts to bring you a behind the scenes look at the commissioning and editing process of 100neHundred and the particular challenges and joys of creating a collection of flash fiction:

Laura, can you give us a brief introduction to your writing career and where your inspiration comes from?

Over the last 12 years I’ve been writing as much as time has allowed, around work and/or childcare. My writing journey started with literal journeys: travel writing about my time living and teaching in Germany and Hong Kong. Fiction writing soon followed.
I realised early on that I had plenty of ideas, but struggled to write more than a paragraph or two. Quite by chance I discovered Calum Kerr online (Director for National Flash Fiction Day at the time). He had set himself a challenge to write a piece of flash fiction (max. 500 words) every day for a year. I did the same. In that year I learned a lot about my writing, not least that I loved short fiction.

Cherry, when did you first come across Laura’s writing and how did the idea for 100neHundred come about?

Laura was one of the contributors to Story Cities, our 2019 flash fiction anthology which explores (almost) every corner of urban life in anonymous cities. Her story Slim Odds was about estranged sisters sitting opposite each other on a train. It was deliciously off-kilter, and now I’ve read more, a typical Laura story. For our eighth anniversary in 2020 I put out an invitation to people who we had already published, looking for collections and novels. Laura was one of those who responded, with her concept in place, and a lot of stories already written. My initial reaction was that it was a little gimmicky, but would make it easy to market, but once I read the stories it was an immediate and firm ‘yes’.

Laura, was the idea of a collection of a hundred stories daunting? How many did you need to write and how long did you have in which to do it?

I’d amassed the 100 stories originally submitted over many years, so in that way it didn’t feel daunting. It just occurred to me at one point that I had enough to put together a collection and 100 stories of 100 words seemed like the best format. I submitted the manuscript of 100neHundred to Cherry in March 2020 and was delighted when she said she wanted to publish it. Things were a little delayed by the pandemic, but in September 2020, after Arachne secured funding from The Arts Council, I got the go ahead. However, there were 25 stories Cherry didn’t like enough to include. Over the next three months I wrote another 35-40 stories, finally both agreeing on the final one hundred stories to include.

Cherry, were there any particular challenges (expected or unexpected!) in editing a collection of stories with such a precise word count?

The predictable one was that they weren’t all exactly 100 words to start off with! And it wasn’t as simple as adding or subtracting a word here or there. Laura had played with the grammar here and there to hit the target, so I edited as though we weren’t aiming at 100 words, and then gave them back and said, now fix the ‘100’ thing. Taking the titles into the header so it wasn’t counted in the file helped! There were some stories that ended up turned inside out in order to get there. And some that we decided to lose because the 100 limit just didn’t suit them, they needed more room to find themselves.
I was afraid that it would get tedious, every story being the same length, (and remember I read a great many more than 100 stories, and all of them multiple times!) but it wasn’t the case – a lot of stories felt a lot longer, and some seemed to whizz by so fast I could barely catch them – 100 words is actually quite a generous limit, it allows for a lot of variety.

Laura, the stories in 100neHundred are divided into four sections, each named for a season. Can you tell us a little bit more about that decision, and how you decided where each story fitted within the collection?

I decided to divide the collection up into sections to make it more appealing and manageable for the reader, thinking that being faced with a bulk of 100 stories, despite them being short, might feel a little daunting. The idea of seasons seemed, to me, the most natural step to take. Once that was decided I looked for obvious markers to place them within the different sections, like the weather, or people’s clothing, but also I looked at the mood of the pieces, as well as trying to strike a balance overall making sure that pieces, in style genre and content, were evenly distributed across the collection.

Were the any moments of disagreement during the edit, or stories that you each
felt strongly about in different ways?

Cherry:
Oh boy – not so much an individual story, but a thread of stories. With the initial 100 stories, I started a spreadsheet with a loose themes column. This was mainly because it helps me work out how to sell a collection if I can track the writer’s preoccupations, and also to check I wasn’t imagining a particular slant to the book.
There were an awful lot of deaths, dead mother/father/brother/sister/friend/child… children, one way or another. Maybe Laura as a young mum was working out her anxieties? I think I actually gave Laura a corpse limit. It was quite amicable!

Laura: Generally, there were no big disagreements (I don’t think!), but there is one story I can recall submitting in the new batch that Cherry said: “No, just no”. And I realised there was no point trying to persuade her otherwise. That’s fine – as readers, writers and editors we all have personal tastes and preferences.

The response to 100neHundred has been incredibly positive, from readers and reviewers alike. Why do you think these stories have resonated so much with people?

Cherry: I think the brevity and apparent simplicity of a 100 word story allows the reader to project a huge amount of their own interpretation onto the characters and situations, so that they relate to the story more than they would if there was extraneous description. The surburban houses are the houses in the suburbs you live in, or travel through, the men and women in the office are the ones you work with; particularly when you are given only a he or she to play with. I wouldn’t say the stories quite achieve universality, but there’s a huge stride towards it.

Laura: I’m absolutely thrilled with the positive response 100neHundred has received. It’s impossible, for me at least, to say with any certainty why these stories have resonated with people. I’m just extremely grateful that they have. Every kind word and positive response is so uplifting.

100neHundred by Laura Besley is available now. Buy a paperback copy from our webshop or get the audiobook.
 

100 Days of 100neHundred: Author Notes

As a part of our 100 days of 100neHundred celebrationsauthor Laura Besley has shared an exclusive glimpse of her writing process

Earlier this year Laura spoke to blogger Elizabeth M. Castillo about writing longhand – I always write first drafts on paper, so I have notebooks, pens and pencils all over the house, in bags, in coat pockets, etc.” – and we’re delighted to share a little glimpse of Laura’s notebook today, with a look at the first draft of her story,’Weekend Dad’:

Laura told us about the inspiration for this story:  “I saw (presumably) a dad and his young daughter in a cafe and the daughter was talking non-stop like little children do. The thought crossed my mind as to what would happen when she was a teenager and, like most teenagers, goes through a silent phase and a time of not liking her dad. I imagined how they might be able to bridge that gap if they only met for an hour or two in a cafe at the weekend.” 

 

Here’s the final story, as it appears in the finished copies of 100neHundred:

 

100neHundred by Laura Besley is available now. Buy a paperback copy from our webshop or why not get the audiobook?

You can find Laura Besley on twitter as @laurabesley and instagram as @besley_laura.

 

100 Days of 100neHundred: Our Favourite Reviews

This Friday 3 September it will be 100 days since publication of 100neHundred, Laura Besley‘s remarkable collection of 100 stories of exactly 100 words each. To celebrate we are sharing 100neHundred related content on our blog and social media all week.
 
 

It may be a little book of tiny tales but 100neHundred has had a big response from readers, reviewers and booksellers. We asked Laura Besley to share her 10 favourite reviews of 100neHundred with us:

 

  1. “The book gives the reader the feeling of voyeurism as if we are taking a glimpse behind the curtain of lives unraveling, of decisions being made behind closed doors, of peeking at the most intimate of moments. It’s melancholic, heartrending, hard hitting and joyous all in one!” Ross Storgy
     
  2. So much of life is packed into these stories; precious moments and sad ones, humour and grief, gorgeous nuggets of hope and stinging barbs of hurt.” Read Ellie Hawkes’ beautiful blog review of 100neHundred
     
  3. “Besley takes you through so many emotions in very few words. She also whipped the ground out from beneath me a few times, changing my expectations with the final line, which I enjoyed.” Goodreads, Reader Review
     
  4. “Laura has created beautiful snapshots, each one alive with precision and emotion. Each story excels in its originality, each one a complete tale, each carefully crafted without a word to spare.” Read an excellent review of 100neHundred – as well as an exclusive story extract- on Book Bound
     
  5. “Such a wonderful collection of human observation told in flash fiction.” Amazon Reader Review
     
  6. “If, like me, you worry that short fiction can sometimes be a little pretentious or isolating, fear not – this is wholly accessible and a joy to read rather than a puzzle to try to piece together.”  @tillylovesbooks reviews 100neHundred on instagram
  7. “I always think it’s remarkable when such short fiction can be so impactful.” Goodreads, Reader Review
     
  8. “Besley writes with sensitivity and an acute awareness of what to include in the frame and what to omit… Every story in 100neHundred is worthy of a re-read; the entire collection deserves many more.” Daniel Clark offers high praise in Briefly Zine
     
  9. “This well-crafted collection tantalizes very quickly and delivers potent moments, creative economies, and clever tours of humanity.” Goodreads, Reader Review
     
  10. “Turning the pages of Laura Besley’s 100neHundred flash fiction stories is as delightful as being inside a huge box of chocolates… bite-size stories meet with you for any and every occasion; they will delight every literary palate.” Read the full review by Elizabeth Chell on Everybody’s Reviewing
 

 If you already have a copy of 100neHundred but haven’t yet left a review on Goodreads or one of the online retailers, then please do! Reader reviews make a huge difference to both the publisher and the author:

“I recently told a friend, who was about to publish her first collection, that reviews will make you cry. Not just the bad ones, although they make you cry too, but the good ones. Especially the good ones. It’s nothing short of magical when you read someone else’s words about your words: sometimes they are kind, considerate and thoughtful, sometimes they are insightful, and sometimes they convey exactly what you were trying to achieve and it is this, all of this, that overwhelms you emotionally, because the hard work, the early mornings and late nights, the writing and rewriting, the editing and re-editing, is worth it for someone else’s enjoyment of your writing.” – Laura Besley 

If you don’t have a copy of 100neHundred, you can buy one from our webshop here.

 

Love Audio Week: Accidental Flowers

“A fascinating and imaginative vision of the future, built on the foundations of our current climate crisis. You get to follow the overall story from multiple view points which allows multiple other issues to be delicately explored through a variety of characters.

A really pleasant surprise from a book I hadn’t heard of! I would recommend it to anyone wanting an interesting, entertaining and thought provoking read.” Audible Review

Our #LoveAudio post today is an extract from the audiobook of Accidental Flowers, a novel in short stories by Lily Peters.

This title was another multi-voiced audiobook. The clip above is narrated by Beth Frieden and we also got to work with several other fantastic voice actors and narrators, including Tigger Blaize. Tigger said:

I loved playing Robin [in Accidental Flowers]! With each role like this, we get closer to having a trans cannon of stories and characters. It’s a brilliant book with a real mix of voices.”

#LoveAudio is the Publisher’s Association annual week-long digital celebration of audiobooks is designed to showcase the accessibility, innovation, and creativity of the format. Follow the hashtag on twitter.

Love Audio Week: 100neHundred

One of the most interesting things about publishing our titles as audio books is when we are working with anthologies and collections that need a multi-voice approach. This creates the challenge of finding authentic, representative voices for each story or poem within the collection – without having to recruit a cast of thousands! 

Today for #LoveAudio week we are sharing an audio excerpt from one of the most multifariously voiced books we have ever published: 100neHundred by Laura Besley is a collection of 100 stories, each of exactly 100 words. We’re delighted to share two stories from this brilliant book, one read by Cornelia Colman and one by Shubhita Chaturvedi:

The book gives the reader the feeling of voyeurism as if we are taking a glimpse behind the curtain of lives unraveling, of decisions being made behind closed doors, of peeking at the most intimate of moments. It’s melancholic, heartrending, hard hitting and joyous all in one!” Ross Jeffrey

#LoveAudio is the Publisher’s Association annual week-long digital celebration of audiobooks is designed to showcase the accessibility, innovation, and creativity of the format. Follow the hashtag on twitter.

Independent Bookshop Week: Lily Peters

To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, Arachne Press authors and editors are sharing their stories about the bookshops that are closest to their hearts. With Accidental Flowers publishing tomorrow, we caught up with author, Lily Peters: 

As part of my language studies at university, I worked in Asturias, as a foreign language assistant in a secondary school. Every Friday, I would spend an hour teaching English to interested colleagues in the café across the road. Over un café solo, they would question me about life in England:

‘Why do pubs allow dogs and not children?’
‘Does everyone live in a cottage?’
‘Does everyone drink beer by the pint?’

The head-teacher, who was well travelled and wanted us all to know it, would frequently answer for me. I will never forget her description of England: ‘In every town and village, you can always find two things. A pub, of course. And a bookshop.’

Now, as a language teacher, I worry often about the reputation of England in Europe and I clutch on to her description. I think about Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham, a stalwart of second-hand books when I was growing up. I remember my first date with my husband, at Barter Books in Alnwick. I transport myself to the award-winning Forum Books, in Corbridge.

Lily Peters

Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association. It seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating this week, and we enthusiastically encourage you to visit, celebrate with them and buy a book! Look at #IndieBookshopWeek to keep up with the campaign and follow @ArachnePress to see all our content throughout the week.

Independent Bookshop Week: Lisa Kelly

To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, Arachne Press authors and editors are sharing their stories about the bookshops that are closest to their hearts. We are delighted to welcome Lisa Kelly to the blog today. Lisa is currently co-editing a new Arachne anthology by Deaf and Hard of Hearing writers called What Meets the Eye.

What Meets the Eye’ is out in the autumn – an anthology of poems and short fiction by Deaf and Hard of Hearing writers based in the UK. Sophie Stone and I are busy working on editing the collection and it is incredibly exciting seeing it come together with inspiring work from established writers such as Raymond Antrobus and Sophie Woolley, as well as poems and fiction from writers we have been excited to discover on our journey.

A big thrill for me would be to see the anthology in the London Review Bookshop. It has a fabulous poetry section downstairs, and it also hosts memorable literary events. It was here that Ray and I launched the Deaf issue of Magma Poetry which we co-edited in 2017. 

The LRB was packed that November night – the audience excited to witness work by Deaf and Hard of Hearing poets, with live captioning and BSL interpreters for an accessible experience. Having ‘What Meets the Eye’ on LRB shelves would feel like completing a beautiful circle.

Lisa Kelly

Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association. It seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating this week, and we enthusiastically encourage you to visit, celebrate with them and buy a book! Look at #IndieBookshopWeek to keep up with the campaign and follow @ArachnePress to see all our content throughout the week.

Independent Bookshop Week: Laura Besley

To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, Arachne Press authors and editors are sharing their stories about the bookshops that are closest to their hearts. Today, Laura Besley, author of 100neHundred tells us about the best bookshop she’s never been to.

My favourite independent bookshop is Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, but I’ve never once been there. Why not and why is it my favourite? There are a few very good reasons.

Despite having lived in Leicester for four years, I still consider myself fairly new to the area. I have, over time, slowly become involved in the local writing community and have heard many people talk about Nottingham’s independent bookshop.

I’d wanted to visit for a long time, but unfortunately, it hadn’t happened yet, when Ross, the owner, made a dream come true and agreed to stock my first collection of flash fiction The Almost Mothers (Dahlia Press, 2020). I was definitely going. And then lockdown happened.

I’ve not yet seen my book on their shelves, but I have bought books from Five Leaves during lockdown.

Nearly 18 months later and Five Leaves Bookshop now has copies of not one but two of my books, the second being my collection of micro fiction published by Arachne Press: 100neHundred.

As soon as I can, I’ll be heading up the A46 or hopping on a train, not just to hopefully see copies of my books on a shelf, but to buy some other great ones too.

Laura Besley

Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association. It seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating this week, and we enthusiastically encourage you to visit, celebrate with them and buy a book! Look at #IndieBookshopWeek to keep up with the campaign and follow @ArachnePress to see all our content throughout the week.

100neHundred Blog Tour

We are delighted to launch the blog tour for 100neHundred by Laura Besley.

Out on 27 May, 100neHundred is a collection of 100 stories, each of 100 words. A man carries his girlfriend in the left-hand breast pocket of his shirt. During World War II, a young soldier searches the houses and barns of the families with whom he grew up. An astronaut wonders whether she can adapt to life back on earth. This is a moving, funny, powerful collection of microfiction.

Laura said “The more micro fiction I write, the more I love it: the challenge of piecing together what I want to convey in as few words as possible and the absolute joy when it works. I’m extremely excited about the launch of 100neHundred, hoping that people will enjoy reading my tiny tales as much as I enjoyed writing them.”

Follow the blog tour on the schedule above to read reviews of 100neHundred, plus guest posts from Laura Besley, an Author Q and A and some exclusive extracts of stories from the collection. 

Find all the content from the blog tour here too (updated daily):

  1. So much of life is packed into these stories, precious moments and sad ones, humour and grief, gorgeous nuggets of hope and stinging barbs of hurt.” Read Ellie Hawkes’ beautiful review of 100neHundred here.
  2. Read ‘Lowest Ebb’ – one of the stories from 100neHundred – in an exclusive feature on Idle Ink.
  3. One of the things I love most about short fiction is the invitation to experiment.” Read Laura Besley’s guest blog post for Popshot Magazine.
  4. “Laura has created beautiful snapshots, each one alive with precision and emotion. Each story excels in its originality, each one a complete tale, each carefully crafted without a word to spare.” Read an excellent review of 100neHundred – and an exclusive story extract- on Book Bound.
  5. Read @tillylovesbooks’ instagram review of 100neHundred
  6. “The main thing that went into 100neHundred was time.” Laura Besley talked to Elizabeth M. Castillo for an author Q and A.
  7. “…like savouring a perfect little tipple at the end of a stressful day.” Zoe’s Book Nook gives 100neHundred 5 stars.
  8. “With this collection I soon lost track of how many ‘wows’ I was uttering…” Laura Besley credits Morgen Bailey’s 100 word story competition with her interest in micro-fiction. Read Morgen’s review of 100neHundred here.
  9. “This collection of micro flash fiction is possibly the perfect read for the moment, as we all grapple with the changing pace of life.” For Book’s Sake reviewed 100neHundred on Instagram.

100neHundred Blog Tour Banner Image

Arachne recommends books for International Women’s Day

Authors and Editors of upcoming titles choose three books  each that they would recommend for International Women’s Day

(Links mainly to our Bookshop affiliate page, except where the book is out of print, where the link will take you to abebooks, or not yet available where the link will take you to the publishers site)

Clare Owen, author of Zed and the Cormorants (April 2021)

The Good Women of China – Xinran

True – often harrowing and heartbreaking – stories of women living during the Cultural Revolution, collected by the host of a Chinese radio call-in show.

Love Among the Butterflies: The Travels and Adventures of a Victorian Lady – Margaret Fountaine (out of print)

The private diaries of a vicar’s daughter who defied her family’s expectations to travel the world collecting butterflies and lovers along the way.

What I Loved – Siri Hustvedt

A beautifully written, intense and intelligent book about art, love and loss from a writer who invariably gets less attention than her husband (novelist Paul Auster)!

Cherry Potts, Arachne Editor in Chief (who gets to choose more than three)

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula le Guin

A powerful and wildly original Science Fiction novel that tackles gender fluidity decades before anyone else, in passionate and often witty observations of human, and alien frailty.

The White Darkness, Geraldine McCaughrean

I could have picked any of McCaughrean’s young adult novels, but this is the one I read first and adored. A tautly written adventure that doesn’t sidestep difficulties, and is truly shocking at times.

Persepolis Marjane Satrapi

A graphic novel/autobiography about growing up as a stroppy teenager in Iran. Funny, distressing and beautiful.

Second Class Citizen Buchi Emecheta

As a bright young thing in the 70’s and early 80’s, I sought out and read acres of books by black women, many of them American, and some no longer in print. This book bucked the trend, being both British and with sufficient enduring appeal to still be available. There are whole passages in this book I remember pretty much verbatim nearly 50 years later.

The Stone Age Jen Hadfield

Not actually out yet, (18th March) this is my first ‘choice’ selection from the Poetry Book Society. I’d been resisting signing up on the grounds that I like to choose my own books, and poverty, but I finally cracked and I’m really glad I did. This is one of those ‘I wish I’d published that’ books, and taps into all sorts of things that I love, in particular the standing stones of Shetland. Hadfield gives them voice in an entirely convincing way. A total delight that made me want to visit Shetland again.

Ness Owen, co-editor A470 (March 2022)

Inhale/Exile Abeer Ameer  (Seren). The poems I’ve heard so far are a fascinating mix of the personal and political, of language and place. Between Iraq and Britain, the poems move from tender family histories to shocking atrocities.

Flashbacks and Flowers Rufus Mufasa (Indigo Dreams forthcoming, can’t find any information though!) I really enjoyed the journey in this collection deeply rooted in time, place and lives lived with a wonderful interweaving of languages.

Aubade After a French Movie Zoe Brigley (Broken Sleep Books)  This pamphlet includes some of the wonderful Gwerful Mechain’s poetry, bringing it into the 21st century (including an interpretation of the infamous Ode to a C*** in a brave modern voice). The poems are a spoken celebration for what it is to be a women without shame.

Laura Besley, Author of 100nehundred (May 2021)

Mrs Narwhal’s Diary by S.J. Norbury (publisher Louise Walters Books). I heard the author read an exert of Mrs Narwhal’s Diary at an LWB event and completely fell in love with the style of the book and the main character’s unique voice.

The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing by Hannah Storm (Reflex Press). Hannah Storm’s flash fiction is searing in its honesty, attention to detail and emotional resonance. This collection will, without a doubt, be fantastic.

The Yet Unknowing World by Fiona J. Mackintosh (Adhoc Fiction). Fiona J. Mackintosh’s writing is a sublime combination of lyrical and startling. I’m very much looking forward to reading her full collection.

Lily Peters, author of Accidental Flowers

The Hazelnut Grove, by Paula Read: [Disclosure: Paula is Lily’s mum, and we’ve published her in the past.] I might be slightly biased, so don’t just take my reviews for it. If you want to escape for a while into the European dream and in turn, discover the harsh reality of how much work it takes to make such a dream come true, this is a satisfying and comforting read.

The Bass Rock, by Evie Wyld: This is the story of three women, in some way related, across three time periods. It is set by the wild North Sea in the Scottish borders and the landscape is a character in its own right. It is unsettlingly written, and it has everything you need: scandal, spooky empty houses and a hint of witchcraft.

Weather, by Jenny Offill: The way Offill writes is gripping and quick. It is the closest thing you can get to instant gratification in literature. This book is all about the relatively unknown under-world of ‘preppers’ – those who are preparing for a potential world-ending apocalypse. Right up my ever-darkening street!