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The Short Story in the 21st Century

Sunday, March 30, 2014 - 18:30 to Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 20:30
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 18:30 to Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 20:30
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 18:30 to Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 20:30
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 18:30 to Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 20:30
Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

These seminars will investigate the genre of the short story, and its writing, publication and readership in the 21st century.

As in previous series from the OU's Contemporary Cultures of Writing research group, there will be two speakers per session, each presenting a different view of the subject under discussion. The seminars are free and open to all post graduate students and academics with an interest in this field.

The themes for the three seminars are:

Seminar 1: March 11, 2014
What is a 21st century short story?

Defining what a short story is and can be, and considering historical shifts and fashions.

Speakers: Ailsa Cox, Edge Hill University; Jonathan Taylor, University of Leicestershire.

Ailsa Cox photoAilsa Cox, Reader in Creative Writing and English, Edge Hill University

Ailsa Cox is a fiction writer and critic, with a special interest in the short story genre. Her own stories have been included in various magazines and anthologies, including The Virago Book of Love and Loss (ed. Hammick, Virago, 1992); Stand One (ed. Blackburn, Silkin and Tracey, Gollancz 1984); No Limits (Crocus, 1994); Critical Quarterly, Panurge, Writing Women, Sunk Island Review, Metropolitan and London Magazine (April/May 2001). She has also been shortlisted for prizes including the Stand International Short If you have any queries regarding any aspect of this seminar series, please contactStory competition, the V.S. Pritchett award and the Bridport prize. 

Ailsa currently teaches Creative Writing at Edge Hill University. Her theoretical research has continued to explore the relationship between the short story and temporality.  She is the editor of the peer-reviewed journal, Short Fiction in Theory and Practice and a member of the editorial board of The Journal of the Short Story in English. She is also a member of the Katherine Mansfield Society, co-ordinates the Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story and is co-director of the newly formed European Network for Short Fiction Research.

Jonathan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Leicester

(c) Jonathan TaylorJonathan Taylor's books include the novel Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the short story collection Kontakte and Other Stories (Roman Books, 2013). He is editor of the anthology Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud (Salt, 2012), winner of the Saboteur Award for Best Fiction Anthology 2013. He lectures in Creative Writing at Leicester University, and is co-director of arts organisation and small publisher Crystal Clear Creators. His website is

Listen to an audio recording of this seminar (duration 1 hour 36 minutes).

Seminar 2: March 25 2014
Readership, publication and competitions

Examining who reads short stories, who publishes them, and whether the web is becoming increasingly important in terms of influencing the form. We will also look at the role of universities in nurturing the short story.

Speakers: Aamer Hussein, University of Southampton; Scott Bradfield, St Mary’s Twickenham.

Aamer HusseinAamer Hussein, Professorial Creative Writing Fellow, University of Southampton

Aamer Hussein was born in Karachi and moved to London as a teenager in the 1970s.  He is a graduate of SOAS. He has published five collections of short fiction, the first of which, Mirror to the Sun, was published in 1993; the most recent, The Swan's Wife, was published in Pakistan this year. He is also the author of a novella, Another Gulmohar Tree, and a novel, The Cloud Messenger.  He also writes short fiction in Urdu, and is a regular columnist for the book pages of DAWN (Karachi).  

Hussein was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2004. He is Professorial Writing Fellow at the University of Southampton, and currently holds fellowships at IES and SOAS.  

Scott Bradfield, Lecturer English/Creative and Professional Writing, St Mary’s, Twickenham

Scott Bradfield photoScott Bradfield is the author of five novels and several collections of short stories, including Greetings From Earth:  New and Collected Stories (1993) and Hot Animal Love:  Tales of Modern Romance.  His stories have appeared in Triquarterly, Black Clock, The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and numerous year's best collections.  Formerly a Professor of American Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Connecticut, he currently teaches in the new MA program in First Novel Writing at St Mary's University, and has recently developed City Lit's first online program in short story and novel writing.

Listen to an audio recording of this seminar (duration 1 hour 25 minutes).

Seminar 3: April 15 2014
Flash fiction and the oral short story

A comparison of flash fiction and oral stories - considering the revival of live readings and the short story's relationship to anecdote and performance.

Speakers: Peter Blair, University of Chester; Dave Swann, University of Chichester.

Peter Blair photoPeter Blair, Senior Lecturer in English, University of Chester

Peter Blair is Senior Lecturer in English, and Programme Leader of the MA Modern and Contemporary Fiction, at the University of Chester, where he also teaches Creative Writing. He is co-editor (with Ashley Chantler) of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, a biannual founded in 2008 to publish stories and reviews of up to 360 words. He has also edited anthologies of flashes, short stories, and poems, and formerly worked as a contributing editor in reference-book publishing. Peter has been a judge in the Cheshire Prize for Literature and several flash-fiction competitions, and has himself been both shortlisted and a runner-up in the short-story section of the Bridport Prize. He has published on South African fiction in The Cambridge History of South African Literature and in journals including Modern Fiction Studies andCurrent Writing. He is author of the ‘Flash Fiction’ article in The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2014. An interview with David Gaffney, conducted by Peter and Ashley Chantler, is forthcoming in Short Fiction in Theory and Practice.

David Swann photoDavid Swann 

David Swann has had five successes at the Bridport Prize, including three stories featured in his debut collection, 'The Last Days of Johnny North' (Elastic Press, 2006). His book, 'The Privilege of Rain' (Waterloo Press, 2010), was shortlisted for the 2011 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, and features reflections upon his work as a writer-in-residence in a prison. A former newspaper reporter, he now lectures in English & Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. In 2013, David gained his second success in the National Poetry Competition. He divides his time between Brighton and Hove, where he is hard at work on a trilogy of novels and a book of micro-fiction.

If you have any queries regarding any aspect of this seminar series, please contact Dr Sally O’Reilly –  

Contact Us

Contact Derek Neale or Ed Hogan by email: 

The Postal Address is:

Department of English and Creative Writing
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

Tel +44-1908-652092