Monday, 16 July 2018

Night-time stories: an interview with editor Yen-Yen-Lu

There are just 3 weeks left in our call for night-time stories! It's definitely time to find out more about editor Yen-Yen Lu's thoughts on stories and the night-time. Fellow EP team member Philippa Barker asked her a few questions...


Why night-time stories? What drew you to the genre? 

From my own experience, in real life and in writing, night-time brings out a combination of strange, serious, dark, and warm stories. I think it’s a very versatile theme, open to lots of different interpretations and hopefully will encourage authors to explore what interests them.

I’ve written, read, and heard night-time stories about two nervous people on a first date, a ghost driving people around New York, a friendship ending after a night out, and a woman being followed home by a stranger. These are stories that are very different in genre and content and I like the idea that they could all be happening at the same time (though I do wish women being followed home by strange men didn’t happen at all).

I would really like to put together a mix of different voices and genres in this anthology and I’m hoping that night-time will inspire a variety of stories.

What do you like about the short story genre? 

Some of the best short stories are really great at world building. There’s not as much room in a short story, compared to something like a novel, to establish the setting, the characters, their relationships and the story and I think that this sometimes forces the author to only focus on the most important details to create a compelling story. I really appreciate when it’s done well.

The single-author fiction collections that we’ve published so far are really good at that and they are definitely the types of story I would like to read and want to publish. Postcard Stories by Jan Carson is a collection of very short, snapshot moments set in modern day Belfast, catching strangers in everyday moments. First fox by Leanne Radojkovich is also a collection of flash fiction but a lot of the stories create a more surreal, fairytale world. The Secret Box by Daina Tabūna is three coming-of-age stories focused on young women going through strange situations and realisations and finding themselves changed by the end of it.

What makes a good night-time story? What would you like to read? 

A good night-time story would be something that is very grounded in whatever world it’s set in, whether that’s the UK today or 1960s Tokyo or an ancient world of vampires, something that can stand alone but leaves me wondering about what might happen after the events of the story. I suppose this goes for short fiction in any genre though.

‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson isn’t a night-time story and it has been a few years since I last read it but sometimes I still think about it: what made the village decide to start and continue the lottery? How do families of the victims cope after they’re chosen for the lottery?

I would like to read submissions that are honest and authentic with interesting details and I hope to find some warmth in most stories. In general, I’m interested in work that is bold and breaks stereotypes and cliches. I’m less interested in stories that try too hard to be clever – I find that simple ideas work best.


The Emma Press is open for night-time stories until 3rd August 2018. The anthology will be edited by Yen-Yen Lu (right).

You can read the full guidelines here and you can read the press release here.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Back to the future: an update from editor Tom Sastry

A quick update from Tom Sastry, editor for our anthology of future poems!

We recently submitted our longlist for the Future anthology. We are reading blind so we don’t know who is on it but poets were contacted by Emma Press last week. The quality was high and the poems wonderfully varied. Decisions were not easy.

We have undoubtedly overlooked poems which would have improved the book. Many of the poems we have not chosen will find publication elsewhere. We will read some of those and wonder why we didn’t see their virtues more clearly. We look forward to being proved wrong many times.

In the original invitation, we tried to suggest different ways people might approach the theme. No single approach has dominated. The longlist contains poets who have addressed the future obliquely by showing the present as an arbitrary vantage point; poems about the near future set in a world that is recognisably our own; poems set in futures where life is very different to life today and (perhaps unsurprisingly given our preoccupations) poems about the end of the world or something very like it.

The thing the longlisted poems have in common is this: they inhabit their own settings. They show a willingness to leave the concerns of our time behind; to create rather than merely observe or comment. It is hard to do this – it is much easier to consider the future as an extension of our ideas about the present: an unfolding of events which will vindicate our hopes, fears and beliefs.

The poets we have longlisted have performed the essential act of imagination. The concerns of the present are there, of course, but there is something else: a distinctive take on what might be and a willingness to follow it into unexpected places.

At the same time they have produced real poems. It is one thing to create a convincing future world in thousands of words of prose; it is much harder to set a poem there without resorting to long passages of scene-setting or description. It requires a poet’s understanding of what the reader needs and what they can be left to imagine for themselves.

If you are on the longlist, it means we love your work and would like, if possible, to include it in the book. Unfortunately, we don’t have space for you all. The decisions only get harder from here.

P.S. November sees the publication of this. The poems in this book are the reason I was so excited to be invited to work with Suzannah on this project. They are extraordinary.