‘“New Waves of Interest’: Women’s Short Story Writing in the Late Twentieth Century’

Ailsa Cox

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

In the Introduction to his Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories (1987), Malcolm Bradbury celebrates a ‘new wave of interest in short fictional forms’. Several of the younger writers whose work he included – Angela Carter, Graham Swift, Clive Sinclair, Ian McEwan, Adam Mars-Jones – were publishing collections. Yet by 2002, the English and Scottish Arts Councils were launching a ‘Save Our Short Story’ campaign, defending what was now perceived as an endangered species. This chapter asks what was happening to short story writing by women in the years between Bradbury’s assertion and the launch of the campaign. It draws on my own experiences as a short story writer, reader, publisher and teacher to give a personal view of short story writing and publishing. In the first half of the chapter, I examine the availability of outlets for short stories by women, in women’s magazines (e.g. Woman’s Journal, Cosmopolitan), small press publications (e.g. Metropolitan, which I co-founded and edited, 1993-7); and anthologies, e.g. Granta, Best Short Stories) and BBC Radio. I also look at the role of feminist publishing houses and magazines (e.g. Virago, Pandora, Women’s Writing) in providing a platform for women writers; and in establishing a women’s short story writing canon, including figures such as Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Bowen, Jean Rhys, Grace Paley, Fay Weldon and Alice Munro. I identify the steady development of communities of women short story readers and writers, referring also to the importance of the writers’ workshop, both within the academic discipline of Creative Writing and in groups based in the community or in adult education (e.g. groups belonging to the Federation of Worker Writers & Community Publishers). These communities of writers were providing an outlet for new voices, sustaining a marginalized form during what at first glance seems to be a fallow period. The chapter ends with close readings of stories by Janice Galloway and A. L. Kennedy, both of whom emerged as distinctive new voices in the 1990s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Women Short Story Writers: The New Woman to Now
EditorsEmma Young, James Bailey
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Pages114-132
ISBN (Print)9781474401388
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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    Cox, A. (2015). ‘“New Waves of Interest’: Women’s Short Story Writing in the Late Twentieth Century’. In E. Young, & J. Bailey (Eds.), British Women Short Story Writers: The New Woman to Now (pp. 114-132). Edinburgh University Press. http://www.euppublishing.com/book/9781474401388