Dancing with a Stranger – a short story collection from Pauline Hughes

This project began with trying out some short stories in the market.  I had been teaching some prose fiction on the creative writing course and I thought I really need to get some stories out there, rather than just my poetry publications.  One of two stories were taken by small publishers and then another one by Comma Press and I found that I completely enjoyed telling stories. DancingCOVLARGE There seemed to be recurring themes and obsessions.  I have always been fascinated by the process of migration, immigration, movement ofpeoples. Perhaps something in my own family history, with grandparents and parents on the move from Wales and Ireland and then my own adult life bringing up a family whose background was mixed.  So as I gradually put the stories together I found that what drew me were interactions between people of different cultures and from different countries.  The stories span quite a series of decades (but then I am really old!).  There’s a story set in an Irish immigrant family in the 50s and another set now where an illegal immigrant tries to find a man who will marry her so she can stay. Two of the stories are set in Sierra Leone where I have worked.

It’s hard to get feedback on stories as there are so many words.  I belong to a couple of writing groups but it’s all about looking at poems.   In the end I shared them with the novelist and editor John Murray on a course in Greece because I was desperate to get an outside perspective on whether they worked.  He was wonderfully encouraging but also sharp in his criticism.  So somehow or other everyone needs their fiction to be picked apart I think by someone who reads carefully.  I didn’t agree with everything he said and in the end used my own instinct with some elements of the writing (for example he doesn’t like the present tense in short fiction but I felt that it was right for some of the stories).

The publisher, Sheila Wakefield (Red Squirrel Press) has published my poetry so she knew my work and had seen some individual stories and approached me with the idea of doing a collection.

Red Squirrel Press

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