And if I can’t boast about it on my own website, where can I? My short story Conservation won third prize in the 2015 Mslexia short story competition, to my complete delight. It’ll be published in the June edition of the magazine.
I love writing short stories. I can immerse myself in a character, situation or idea, stepping out of my world and into another one for just long enough to make it work. Given that I’ve spent years working on one novel, to write a short story in a couple of weeks and have it published is absolute bliss.
Conservation was my response to reading about the destruction and theft of ancient artefacts from the museums and archeological sites of Iraq, sadly a story that has become only more pertinent. I heard a radio documentary by Simon Cox about the trade in these stolen objects and how they sometimes find their way to the high-end antique shops and interior designer stores of rich European cities like London and Paris.
The documentary made me think about displacement, of people and objects. Living in London, you’re surrounded by people from every corner of the world, as neighbours, friends, colleagues – or simply as faces on the street, languages heard on the bus or interesting new food shops opening up in the local parade. Every one of those people has a story that brought them to London. As a former Bloomsburyite, I spent many hours wandering the galleries of the British Museum, among the riches (loot, some might say) of the world. How had all these things found their way here?
So Conservation was an attempt to tell one story, of a small golden statue (based on an ancient Babylonian figure I found in the British Museum) and an Iraqui man who comes across it, unexpectedly, in a London apartment. I entered it for the Mslexia competition, then immediately decided it wasn’t good enough. I started tinkering with it, re-wrote it, thought about submitting the revised version elsewhere – and then had a call from Mslexia. The lovely Debbie Taylor wanted to congratulate me in person on my prize. I’ve been sitting on the news ever since, dying to tell people about it. I’ve subscribed to Mslexia for years – it’s one of the things that encourages me when I don’t feel I’m a ‘proper’ writer. So I couldn’t hope for a better endorsement.
Image: I couldn’t find a good image of the statue that inspired me, but I like this goddess from Katy Kullen’s photostream on Flickr, with CCL.