Posted in Events, Reading, Writing

My Debut at Cheltenham Literature Festival

A newsflash about my appearance tonight at the biggest and longest-standing lit fest in the UK

Poster for tonight's event
Featuring… me!

Over the weekend, a message flashed up on the corner of my computer screen: “YOU’RE IN!” Clicking to read the full email, I learned to my delight that I’ve been selected to read one of my short stories at Cheltenham Literature Festival tonight, in the 9pm event in the Little Big Top, entitled “Stroud Short Stories’ Greatest Hits”.

Debbie Young at microphone reading Quick Change
Reading from one of my short story collections at Stroud Short Stories event, April 2015

Stroud Short Stories organiser John Holland had chosen 7 out of 120 stories that had previously been read at its twice-yearly story evenings. Each SSS event provides a snapshot of the high calibre of local writing. These 120 stories had themselves been sifted from thousands of stories submitted to SSS over the years.

While the story I read at the April 2015 Stroud Short Stories event was not one of the first seven chosen, Katherine Hunter, one of the original line-up, had unfortunately fallen ill, and so I was pulled off the reserve bench to fill the gap. I’m really sad for Katherine to have to miss this opportunity due to illness, and I hope she makes a speedy recovery.

In the meantime, I’ll be dusting off my gold dress, an appropriate outfit for reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate”, which I wore when I read it at the April 2015 event in Stroud.

Cover image for The Alchemy of Chocolate showing chocolate coins falling out of a purse
If you join my Readers’ Club, you’ll receive a free download of this short story as a welcome gift

I won’t spoil the plot for anyone who is planning to be in the audience tonight, but if you’d like to read the story, you can either buy Quick Change, the collection in which it originally appeared, as an ebook or paperback (ISBN 978-0993087967), or get a copy of the story as a welcome gift when you join my free Readers’ Club.

All that means is you give me your email address and I send you very occasional emails about new books, events and special offers. You can unsubscribe any time you like too, though I hope you won’t want to! Please click here if you’d like to join the Readers’ Club.

Tonight’s Programme

To whet the appetite of the audience, here’s the line-up for tonight’s event, in order of appearance:

  1. Debbie Young – The Alchemy of Chocolate
  2. Philip Douch – Trog and Kron Almost Get It Right
  3. Ali Bacon – Silver Harvest
  4. Andrew Stevenson – A Good Old-Fashioned Cooper
  5. Rick Vick – Seeing
  6. Mel Golding – A Small Change
  7. Bill Jones – The Vampires in the Basement

It will be introduced by the ever-entertaining John Holland, an award-winning short story writer himself.

A good friend of ours, David Penny, a historical novelist and technical manager of the Alliance of Independent Authors, will be attending to video the event, so we hope to be able to share that with you in due course.

In the meantime, you can get a further sneak preview of the event if you tune in to BBC Radio Gloucestershire at 12.30pm today when lunchtime show presenter Dominic Cotter will be doing a quick interview with me. John Holland will also be interviewed on the night by the station’s roving reporter in the Green Room. (I think it’ll be Jo Durrant, who is doing a great round-up of the Festival on a daily basis – catch her on Twitter here.)

Like to Enter the Next Stroud Short Stories Competition?

After all the excitement of tonight is over, it’ll be back to planning the next Stroud Short Stories event, which takes place on Sunday 20th November. You have until the end of Saturday 29th October to submit your entry. Please note admission is free, but only authors who have a connection with Gloucestershire or South Gloucestershire are eligible to enter. Stories may be on any subject, to a maximum of 1500 words. For more details, visit the Stroud Short Stories website. Ooh, nearly forgot to mention – this time I’m the guest judge, alongside John. All entries are anonymised before they reach the judges, so no chances of favouritism. 😉

With thanks to my lovely friend Jacky, who will be in the audience, for flagging up that this week is Chocolate Week – what’s not to love about that?!



Posted in Events, Reading, Writing

The Alchemy of Stroud Short Stories

Debbie Young and poster for Stroud Short Stories
Excited to see the poster as we approached the event venue

This weekend, I was privileged to take part in a special evening of live performances by 10 Gloucestershire authors of their short stories, chosen for the latest Stroud Short Stories programme. 

Not only was my story, which also appears in my collection Quick Change, chosen from among 128 entries for inclusion, but also the event was named after its title: The Alchemy of Chocolate.

The event was held in Stroud Valley Arts, a small, intimate venue with slate grey walls and a low ceiling, cosy and inviting. 75 seats were squeezed in to accommodate the audience. Such is the reputation of Stroud Short Stories as an entertaining and enriching event that tickets, a bargain at £5 each, had  sold out weeks in advance.

On the subject of money, I ought to point out that this short story festival makes no money whatever – it’s run simply for the love of the short story and to give a platform to local authors. It’s also designed to give new, as yet unpublished writers the opportunity to share the stage with more established authors. The passion behind this voluntary project shone through in John Holland’s witty commentary and careful nurturing of both authors and audience throughout the night. Its impact was clear from meeting a young girl who had been  brought by her mother to encourage her interest in writing.

Reading My Short Story

New cover for Quick Change
Now available in paperback – my collection of very short stories (aka flash fiction)

I was third up on the two-part programme – a great spot as it meant the audience was already warmed up when I took the stage, and after I’d finished reading, I could relax and enjoy the remaining seven stories. As I sat waiting my turn, I was glad my friend Caroline Sanderson, who features with me on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Book Club slot, had come along for moral support and interest.

My reading went very well, despite spotlights shining so brightly that while on he stage I couldn’t see anyone in the audience. They could have all gone home, as far as I could tell. Fortunately, their copious laughter in all the right places in my story assured me that they were still there and hanging on my every word. I had to pause a number of times to allow the laughter to run its course, which made me feel like a stand-up comedian, in the best possible way.

It was gratifying to be approached by a number of people afterwards saying how much they had enjoyed my story and how funny it was. Several said they could relate to the heroine Jennifer, who discovers a secret recipe to turn chocolate into gold. It was lovely to see how the story chimed with them on a personal level.

I was also pleased to have several people approach me about the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, having recognised me from the website. (I’d leafleted the seats with flyers for the event, which takes place next Thursday.)

Meeting Other Authors

Cover of Stroud Short Stories anthology
The new Stroud Short Stories anthology

It was an especial pleasure to meet so many local authors whom I’d not met before. (I’m 25 minutes’ drive from Stroud, and the 10 of us are dispersed about the county.)

I also very much enjoyed hearing their stories, from moving tales about suicide and unrequited love to wry riffs about avant garde artwork and stem cell technology. All 10 of us had completely different stories to tell, cleverly ordered by organiser and compère John Holland, himself a gifted writer of short fiction, into a digestible and seamless whole. Here’s a shout-out for the authors and their stories:

  • Martin Spice Le Fromager
  • Philip Bowne Cows Can’t Jump
  • Richard Vick Ways of Seeing
  • Katherine Mitchell Daffodils
  • Rod Griffiths The Sweetest Smile
  • Anthony Hentschel The Giant Meets the Christ-child
  • James Sinkins The Casablanca
  • Chloe Turner The Bronze Garden
  • Mary Omnes The Spinsters

If you’d like to read these stories, plus over 70 more, you can catch them in the handsome new Stroud Short Stories anthology, now available to order via Lulu here, edited and published by Nimue Brown. The books are a bargain at £10 (including P&P). That’s just 12p per story – worth every penny. My copy is on my bedside table, ready to dip into for quick late-night reading, though I’m already finding it’s impossible to read just one story at a time without being lured on to read many more.

All in all, it was a memorable and rewarding evening. Although authors who read at any event must “miss a turn” to give others a chance the next time, I’m already looking forward to the autumn event.

Stroud Short Stories takes place every six months. The next event will be held in the autumn with a spooky theme. To be kept informed of event news and for details of how to enter the competitions, follow their website: