Reflections on Writing Short Stories

M Y Alam‘s paper ‘Identity politics and the conditions of production: Reflections on writing Short Stories’, which he recently presented at the 11th International Conference on the Short Story in English, has been published on The paper takes a look at what lies behind the production of short stories, from both a writer’s and an academic standpoint. To support this, he offers an insight to ‘Getting laced’, his first short story, written as homework for English class at school and an examination of his story ‘Taxi Driver’ which features in the book Ideas Above Our Station. Here is a small extract from the paper.

‘The world makes you write what you write – but how you write, that’s down to your own neuroses and biases. I’m pretty sure most people realize this, or have a view of this kind of position. But this is especially relevant when it comes to writing that takes place in – and is of – political minorities. I use this term as a catch all means of referring to groups who may be in the numerical minority but also possess, significantly, less political power than those who belong to mainstream, centred and neutral positions. I guess I’m talking about what some would call ‘Others’ whether referring to sexuality, ethnicity or culture. In the British context, these deviants have often been foreign but not necessarily distant – the Irish, for example, were and arguably still are one of the most demonized of all ‘ethnic’ and religious groups. Throughout the course of the twentieth century, and even up to the present day, race has figured heavily in the British social imaginary and consciousness. Actually, race, ethnicity, culture or indeed those markers of identity which are more closely linked to faith and religion, appear to be significant throughout the contemporary global landscape. However, the British experience of Empire continues to permeate contemporary life for so called indigenous populations and for those who are of former migrant, former colonial, heritage. It is against this evolving backdrop that the utility of literature, and art in general – and the short story form in particular – is rendered a useful means through which issues pertaining to identity politics are presented, explored and offered to readers.’

Click here to read the paper in full or to download it as a PDF.


Humty Dumpty – Discuss

Professor of the absurd Peter Mortimer discusses the social and political resonance of the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty in this satirical paper presented at an impromptu fringe session of the 11th International Conference on the Short Story in English. Recorded at The Foyer, Courtyard Hotel, Downtown Toronto, 18 June 2010. Moderating the event is Professor Alan Spence and assisting Professor Mortimer in his presentation are Emma Turnbull and Beda Higgins.

Click here to open up this paper as a PDF. Rick click to save it.


Peter Mortimer is a playwright, poet and travel writer who lives in the North East coastal village of Cullercoats. He is the founder and artistic director of Cloud Nine Theatre Productions, and the editor of IRON Press. His books include Broke Through Britain, 100 Days on Holy Island, The Last of the Hunters, Cool for Qat and Camp Shatila, a chronicle of his time in the Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut where he put on a play with school children. For more information on Peter visit his website

Margaret Atwood – Our Cat Enters Heaven

Margaret Atwood was the headline guest reader at the 11th International Conference on the Short Story in English which took place in Atwood’s home town of Toronto last week. As the city was busy preparing itself for the imminent visit of the world leaders at the G8 summit, in her opening she extended a warm welcome to the ‘Wonderful writers, scholars from all over the world and devotees of the short story. We, right here in Toronto, are so pleased that you have come here, you are much more welcome among us than the G8. Unfortunately we have not spent $1.2million on a pretend lake for you, but we have a lot of real lakes that people will be able to visit at some point. One of them is right out front and it’s called Lake Ontario and it doesn’t cost you a thing.’

She then read two stories, the first of which is presented here, the satirical ‘Our Cat Enters Heaven’ from her collection The Tent.