Today is my stop on the UKYA Extravaganza ‘The Great Big Blog Tour’ and I’m very excited to be hosting. For those that don’t know, the UKYA Extravaganza is an event happening on 28th February showcasing 35 great YA authors from all over the country. It’s an opportunity to meet, mingle and chat about all things YA. I’m lucky enough to be attending the event, so you can definitely expect a post about what happened (to be posted in March).
The tour runs through until 27th February, so take a look here at the other hosts and YA authors involved.
I’m pleased to welcome the ever so lovely Susie Day (author of Pea’s Book Series and My Invisible Boyfriend!) to A Book and Tea.
More Shorts Please! by Susie Day
No, not that kind. I’m here to get my glee on about a mostly unsung corner of UKYA writing: short stories. Why? Because I’m quite giddy that one of mine is in Malorie Blackman’s brand new anthology, LOVE HURTS.
I’d say Love Hurts is like a YA Love Actually – except I hate Love Actually, with its conviction that Martine McCutcheon is a) fat and b) therefore not a romantic prospect; with its endorsement of Andrew Lincoln’s creeper (‘I am in unrequited love with you’ is not a compliment); with its multiple boy-gets-the-girl scenarios in which the girl is an eerie silent prize and we’re meant to be pleased because Love, Actually! In fact, I think maybe Love Hurts is the anti-Love Actually. This is love against the odds: winning through or falling short, but mattering all the same. In Love Hurts, some people – hold tight, I know this is brand new information – are not straight, or white, or able, and they fall in and out of love too. In Love Hurts, some people are working out whether they fancy their best mate while giant humping mutant praying mantises invade. Eat that, Colin Firth.
Now, much of this lovely chunky paperback is made up of extracts from novels, from UKYA rockstars new and old – Non Pratt, Marcus Sedgwick, Bali Rai – and plenty of US authors too. It’s like pick’n’mix YA: a sweet small taste of many distinct takes on what that four-letter-word can mean. (Be warned: this anthology may damage your wallet. It left me with a whole new reading list.)
But, perhaps because the self-contained format will always be more satisfying than a snippet from a longer work, the short stories are what really pinged for me as a reader. I was struck particularly by James Dawson’s story The Unicorn, an older man looking back on a doomed youthful love affair during the Korean War, capped with quotations that powerfully reminded me how recently (still exclusionary) gay rights legislation arrived in the UK; Catherine Johnson’s atmospheric nineteenth-century London drama The Liar’s Girl, which kept me guessing and drew me close with such beautiful characterisation and clever plotting; and Laura Dockrill’s Gentlewoman, which felt sincerely as if it could be the opening of a whole book about Danni and her new life. I love the immediacy of the form, that brief but complete immersion into a new world. As a reader, it means I get to see my favourite authors more often, bridging that long sad gap between novels. As a writer, short stories let me flex, risk something new, tell the sort of tale that doesn’t fit a novel – but still matters. My own short story Tumbling, about a tentative first date between two Sherlock fangirls, was the kind of story I wasn’t sure everyone would ‘get’. But the response from readers has already been phenomenal.
All this has left me craving more short stories, so here are just a few of the other amazing UKYA short story collections already out there:
Losing It – original contemporary stories from Patrick Ness, Jenny Valentine, Sophie MacKenzie and many more on the subject of that first time…
And Then He Kissed Me – nine bittersweet romances featuring UKYA and YAIE authors Joanna Nadin, Sarah Webb, Adele Parks, Cathy Kelly and more
Daughters of Time – inspiring fiction drawn from history’s powerful women, from Boudicca to Mary Seacole to Greenham Common – featuring Mary Hoffman, Celia Rees, Catherine Johnson and more
War Girls – nine exclusive stories inspired by the real lives of young women during World War One, including Sally Nicholls, Adele Geras, Melvin Burgess
Twisted Winter – seven sinister tales for chill winter nights, from the likes of Susan Cooper, Frances Hardinge and Katherine Langrish
The Great War – short pieces inspired by real objects from a soldier’s writing case to the nose of a Zeppelin bomb, featuring Sheena Wilkinson, Michael Morpurgo, David Almond and more, in a beautiful book illustrated by Jim Kay
Next? – the afterlife confronted: edited by Keith Gray, bringing together Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Gillian Philip and more…
And for younger teens, Girls Heart Christmas is a real treat: diverse, kind, surprising, with stories from Jo Cotterill, Julie Sykes, Luisa Plaja and many more.
Seriously. New Malorie Blackman! New Patrick Ness! New Sally Nicholls! New everything – all in delicious funsize form.
I love that these exist. But I want more. I’d love to read a UKYA equivalent to My True Love Gave To Me, or another How They Met and Other Stories (the original home of David Levithan’s Love Hurts short). Stories about the night before your GCSE results come out, or Duke of Edinburgh hiking trauma; Bonfire Nights and May Days, Eids and New Year’s Eves; UCAS form fibs and hanging out by the Tesco Metro – with all the grit, humour and diversity that UKYA is famous for.
More shorts please!
What would your dream UKYA anthology look like?
You can find out more about LOVE HURTS here.