Interview by Rupert Dastur
Some months ago, we did an interview with Sean Preston about Open Pen, the short story magazine. What more can you tell us?
OpenPen is fantastic resource for writers – they are passionate about short fiction, and keen on fostering emerging writers as well as putting out exciting work from more established writers. On top of that, they always put effort into slick design and great live events to promote their issues. The end product is a free short magazine packed with stories, with no theme uniting them but put together based on quality. Also they include micro fiction, and a few regular columns. Did I mention it’s free? It is free.
Why do you think short stories are important and how has Open Pen – as well as other magazines and websites like it – helped keep the short story alive?
Short stories are important for readers and writers alike. For writers, they can provide a platform for trying interesting forms and ideas that perhaps don’t merit longer treatment, or need refining. Short stories also offer their own challenges- how do you affect the reader with only a few thousand words? For readers, the shorter format allows them to buy into conceits and writing styles they might never stick with in a novel. OpenPen publish fiction they think is good, with no qualms on potentially divisive or controversial subject matter. All they care about is quality. OpenPen and magazines/websites like it aren’t just keeping the form alive, they allow a forum to help push the short story forward.
What can you tell us about the anthology Open Pen is raising money for?
The OpenPen Anthology is something of a celebration of five years of content. Across that time they have published an incredibly varied catalogue, and this is a chance for them to cherry pick from that to create a great collection- with the inclusion of new pieces by the selected authors, it also provides a platform for these writers to show-off new content in contrast to their older works. Through all of this their signature attention to quality and design is evident.
While we have the pleasure of your company, we would love to hear a little more about your own writing and you’re your thoughts on the short story. Could you tell us why you began writing shorts stories and also a little about your process? Do you write in the morning? Write several drafts, or just a few?
I write whenever I can, and I always have a notebook or two with me. Normally I collect ideas and scene and then do an incredibly rough draft, which then goes through a couple of serious drafts before I’m happy to take it forward. Ideally I’d say writing in the late afternoon somewhere sunny, but for the moment I’ll take whatever time I can find. I began writing short stories because I wanted to try a lot of different forms and genres, and the short story allows me to try a bit of everything rather than being constrained to one voice for too long.
What makes for a great short story?
The beauty of the short story is that the answer to this question can be so varied. A great short story can be a plotless vignette, or a masterfully choreographed twist of storylines. It can have almost no characterisation, or focus entirely on characterisation. It’s that inherent flexibility in the form that I enjoy- Aside from length, there are no constraints. Anyone who tell you a short story must contain a certain ingredient is -!
What advice would you give aspiring short story writers?
Finish things. Half-finished stories are useless- give it an ending, no matter how bad. You can always rewrite bad writing, but first it needs to be there. If it is bad, do another draft- rinse and repeat until its good or it’s dead.
Lastly, getting back to the matter at hand, what parting words would you say about Open Pen and the short story anthology that will have our readers zooming across to donate?
OpenPen publish short stories because they love short stories. They support emerging writers with an incredible level of patience and feedback and they promote quality fiction with care an attention. Over five years they’ve published dozens of stories in their magazine, and this anthology is the culmination their entire ethos: fiction that will impact you. If you love short stories, you already have one thing in common with every single person involved in this project. Check it out.
Ian Green is a writer from Northern Scotland. His work has been published by OpenPen magazine, Meanjin, Almond Press, Transportation Press, and performed at Liar’s League London, Litcrawl, the Literary Kitchen Festival, and Lost Treasures of the Black Heart. He was a winner of the BBC Opening Lines competition 2014, broadcast on BBC Radio 4. For more check out www.ianthegreen.com or @ianthegreen
Rupert Dastur is a writer, editor, and founding director of TSS Publishing. He studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and is Associate Editor at The Word Factory, a leading short story organisation based in London. He’s also Events Coordinator for the Society of Young Publishers (London) and Curator for WritingCompetitions.org. His own work has appeared in a number of places online and in print and he is currently working on his first novel.
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