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Thursday, 22 July 2010

Tindal Street Press, publishers of Beauty, and their advice on short story writing

The other day, I was looking at the webpage for Beauty, Raphael Selbourne's first novel (and also the winner of Costa's first novel award). This book is yet another example of the fine writing that comes out of the independent publishing houses, in this case Tindal Street Press.

Beauty is the story of a twenty-year-old woman of Bangladeshi ethnic origins who returns to the UK, having fled an abusive arranged marriage. The encounters she makes with life and work outside her own commmunity (in particular with a friendly, Staffordshire Bull Terrier-breeding ex-offender and a middle-class underachiever) bring her to examine her life and her family responsibilities. The quality of the writing and the depiction of contemporary Britain has won the book praise from Maggie Gee and newspaper reviewers.

The book is also interesting in that it appears to go against the recent convention that novelists should not attempt to write about main characters outside of their own culture. That has always seemed a debilitating and silly bit of self-censorship to me. Surely it would depend on what is written in each case, rather than some bossy general principle. And in any case, is the quality of a genuinely multi-cultural society that no one ever says anything about anyone else in case they tread on someone's toes, or is such a society one where people (including writers) genuinely try to understand and interact with the people living around them? Nor, of course, do we place the same restriction on foreign correspondents, film makers or soup opera writers.

While I was on the Tindal Street site, I came across their series, the Short Story Challenge Master Class. The ten essays, originally published in the Birmingham Post, offer the advice of some Tindal Street authors on short stories and how to write them. If you haven't come across them before, why not check them out? The page also has links to the Tindal Street Press's submissions procedures.

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