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University's Man Booker-nominated lecturer celebrates short story

THE University of Chichester’s Man Booker Prize-nominated lecturer Professor Alison MacLeod is to launch her latest book with a star-studded celebration of the short story.

The Professor of Contemporary Fiction will take to the stage at the institution on Tuesday 28 March to mark the publication of her new short fiction collection All the Beloved Ghosts. The collection, released by Bloomsbury this month, has been acclaimed as “a marvellous and unerringly poignant piece of work” by author Michèle Forbes.

Joining Professor MacLeod on stage at the event will be fellow writers Dr Katherine Orr, Melanie Whipman, and Zoe Gilbert – all postgraduates of the University – and winners of a range of prestigious literary prizes. The celebration, which is free for the public as well as University students and staff, is to be chaired by Senior Lecturer Karen Stevens of the Department of English and Creative Writing where all the writers have either worked or studied.

Professor MacLeod has designed the event, which runs from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, to celebrate the groundbreaking work that is being produced in the Department which has become an international hub for the short story.

She said: “My aim is to create an event which throws a spotlight on the short story and on the amazing writing that is pouring from staff and students at Chichester. For me, short fiction is a voice in our ear. It’s intimate. A private world. It’s also a world on a cusp.

All The Beloved Ghosts“Something’s about to happen, perhaps something small, but the effects will be profound, life-changing.  Stories might be grim or poignant, lyrical or hilarious, but the good ones always leave me changed.

“I love that. And I love, perhaps above all, that the short story can continually break and re-make its own ‘rules’ and boundaries. When I’m writing a short story, I never feel I’m not allowed to do something. That’s thrilling. It’s also a gamble.

“My stories often fuse biography, history, science, report, script, transcripts. Taken together, they’re wet clay on a potter’s wheel, and at the best of times, I have the sense of something genuinely new taking shape, something I can feel at my fingertips.

“The making of a short story is incredibly intimate, frustrating and, at times, joyful. You can look at your story, test every seam of its world, and see that you’ve made a beautiful thing.”

The book is Prof MacLeod’s second short story collection and follows hard on the heels of the novel Unexploded, by Hamish Hamilton, which was long-listed for the 2013 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. The University of Chichester lecturer, who is working on a new novel, was the recipient of the Olive Cook/Society of Author's Short Story Award and has been nominated for the BBC National Short Story Award and The Sunday Times EFG International Short Story Award.

In 2016 she was joint recipient of The Eccles British Library Writer’s Award.

Listen to a short story masterclass podcast with Professor Macleod here.

Also on the panel: K J Orr

K J Orr (credit Lottie Davies)K J Orr is the author of short story collection Light Box which won the 2016 BBC National Short Story Award. She gained a PhD for her work on liminality and the short story at the University of Chichester, and her work has appeared in publications including the Guardian, the Irish Times, the Dublin Review, the White Review and Best British Short Stories, and been broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Light Box is shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize and was praised by the author Laura van den Burg for “shining a masterful light on the quiet, often unseen moments that have the power to remake a life.”


Zoe Gilbert

Zoe Gilbert

Zoe Gilbert’s stories have been published in anthologies and journals world-wide, and won prizes including the Costa Short Story Award 2014. Her first book, Folk, is forthcoming with Bloomsbury Publishing in early 2018. She lives in London where she teaches and mentors creative writers at London Lit Lab and The Word Factory, as well as working on her Creative Writing PhD – on folk tales in new fiction – at the University of Chichester.

She said that the PhD in Creative Writing allowed her to delve into research on a range of fascinating topics. “Despite all the writing ‘rules’, you basically begin afresh with each story,” she added. “There is no blueprint for your first draft. Stories written to a tight plan rarely sing. A principle I apply to a lot of things: be bold, be bold, but not too bold.”

Melanie Whipman

Melanie Whipman is an Associate Lecturer and PhD student at the University of Chichester and a Commissioning Editor for The Story Player. Her work has been broadcast on Radio 4 and published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies.

Melanie Whipman

Her debut short story collection, Llama Sutra, was published last year by Ink Tears Press. She said: “I love the challenge and the discipline of crafting a short story. It’s all about compression and lack of waste. But it’s a constant balance.

“While you’re fighting to put down the best words and the best images, you are also aware of the need to create space for the reader - to leave things ‘unsaid’. It is as much about what is happening off the page as on the page. That’s the challenge for me. I also adore the ability to hop in and out of genres.”

Mel’s inspirations include Sarah Hall, Anton Chekhov, Ernest Hemingway, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, Sarah Hall, Margaret Atwood, Lorrie Moore, Helen Dunmore, David Constantine, and Tania Hershman. “The one thing those writers share,” said Mel, “is their ability to shine a lens on some small moment of life, which is often seemingly insignificant, yet which says something profound about humanity.”

Karen Stevens

Chair Karen Stevens is a prize-winning short story writer who works as a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. She is currently working towards a PhD in Creative Writing at Chichester and is the editor of the highly regarded Writing a First Novel: Reflections on the Journey.

Find out more

The event, which starts at 6:30pm, will be held in Cloisters Chamber at the University’s Bishop Otter campus on College Lane, Chichester, PO19 6PE. It is free for members of the public as well as University students and staff.

For more about the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester go to Alternatively find out more about Professor Alison MacLeod at