One of the things I loved about working on our short story and poetry anthologies was figuring out how to put the covers together. The contents would be of excellent quality – we published the very best from the shortlists of our annual, international short story competitions, so the quality was guaranteed – but their style and subject matter ranged across every genre and every topic you could imagine. Finding a title and a ‘look’ that worked for all the stories was always a challenge but sooner or later, something would emerge.
Here are three memorable examples:
How do you know?
Ancestors linger in darkness, held by the attentions of the living. A monk prepares to answer the eternal question. An accident victim loses his memory, another loses something less tangible. One artist dreams of snow, another of the sea – but what do their artifacts dream of? The last performing tiger in the world meets the mob… and then there are the crocodiles…. In these shape-shifting stories murderers, sleuths, monks and marketing wonderboys all battle with their unique visions of the world but who wins, and how will they recognise victory when it comes?
24 stories to keep you awake
But what to put on the cover? Himself and I had spent a memorable weekend exploring the architecture of central Manchester that year and in the end, we picked on a detail of a bull from one of the gargantuan city centre memorials…
Just how much can a missing character-card matter to a schoolboy? Can you recognise true love? What can be forgiven, what should remain hidden, and what will be revealed? Lance Hanson’s ‘Sleeping Jesus and the Green Goblin’ seemed to set the tone for this cascade of tales about things that are not where they should be, or not what people expect them to be. Can you fill the spaces?
Well, Earlyworks Press club member Cathy Edmunds came up with a jigsaw with some pieces missing. That seemed to fit the bill, but what to put in the spaces? I have no idea why, but after some rummaging around, a photo of mine of this extraordinary yew tree from Crowhurst, just outside Hastiings which also has some significant spaces, seemed to be the thing. Oh, and there was the title. Significant Spaces…
An escaped parrot changes lives on the streets of Glasgow, an art historian finds a young lover too much to handle, a big-game hunter meets an unexpected nemesis – and that’s just the first three stories. The collection also offers a window into the lives of amnesty activists and kidnappers, soldiers and aid workers, jazzers, photographers, Irish dancers and taxi-drivers – through stories fizzing with love, laughter, fear and revenge, fairytales, dreams and nightmares.
But I had fallen in love with Loretta’s Parrot. And a mental image of him, flapping around in the tenements of the city throwing a bit of holy chaos into so many lives gave us the theme – but you know what? None of us had such an image in our photo collections so, as ever when that happened, our Cathy Edmunds picked up her brushes and paint, and got to work. Fantastic! There he is, Loretta’s Parrot…
You can order all these books from any decent independent bookstore but if you’re in Hastings, give me a shout and you can have a special Christmas offer – all three delivered to your door for £12. That’s three excellent Christmas presents nailed in one go.