Short Fiction

‘Culture Matters Co-operative Ltd promotes a socialist and progressive approach to art, culture and politics.’ This is the declaration on the reverse of the title page of a new anthology about working class lives, called Ghosts of the Early Morning Shift. Subtitled ‘an anthology of radical prose from contemporary Scotland’ it’s a mesmerising collection of memoir and fiction, and I am very pleased to have my short story Under Cadzow Bridge appear there. Published in summer 2021, Ghosts of the Early Morning Shift is a companion volume to the poetry anthology A Kist of Thistles.

2021 has been a bit of a breakthrough year for me. After more than a dozen tries, I’ve finally had a short story accepted for the prestigious New Writing Scotland. Published by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, this annual publication is the pinnacle for short fiction, poetry and other forms of writing.

Not only that, but the story itself – Her Body was an Aviary – is one that I’d sought a home for sixteen times before it was accepted. It’s a story I’ve always believed in, but it obviously needed editorial distance to fully draw out its strengths. And it obviously must have needed to find the right editors, too!

This twentieth issue of Gutter is a celebration of this influential magazine of new Scottish and international writing. My short story ‘Frozen Waste’ was the opening story in the very first issue, and it is a huge pleasure to me to have my writing feature as the opening story in this commemorative issue. Thank you, Gutter, for all the support you’ve given me over these years! Here’s to a great future for this fine litmag, which is now run as a non-profit cooperative.

The story I have in it is the opening sequence from a novel-in-progress called ‘Salt’.You can find out more information and buy Gutter here.

Spring 2019 saw me head to Preston to attend the award ceremony for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction. I was utterly delighted to be shortlisted in this year’s competition, which had the theme of ‘Scent’ – which is also the title of Dinesh’s collected works. The competition was set up two years ago by Comma Press with the University of Central Lancashire in memory of Dinesh, who was active in both organisations. 

I’ve sought hard to find a publisher bold enough to publish my short story ‘In UK Now’, which is written from the point of view of a refugee, living in a city in the UK, who is facing serious PTSD issues and culture clash. The story was longlisted in Mslexia’s short story competition in 2018 but never published. When I saw the call for the Dinesh Allirajah prize, I seized the opportunity to edit it (deepening ‘scent’!) My sincere thanks go to Comma Press and UCLan for shortlisting it and for publishing it in the competition ebook ‘Scent’. It’s available for Kindle on Amazon.

My short story ‘Beach Babes’ was published in Paisley-based Scottish lit mag Laldy in Winter 2018.

In summer 2018, I participated in the Truth or Lies readings organised by Andrew McCallum Crawford in Falkirk and Glasgow. Fellow readers in these events to celebrate short fiction included Donal McLaughlin, Karen Jones, Vicki Jarrett and others, not forgetting Andy himself.

This photo was taken at Falkirk’s Behind The Wall venue by Eddie Mceleney. See more of ‘What Eddie Sees’ and follow him on Facebook.

I’m delighted that my story ‘Troubles’ has been published in issue 92 of Wasafiri, the London-based magazine of International Contemporary Writing. Here’s an excerpt:

Not a smile. Not in the mood for talking. She looks straight out of the window. You move into gear and tell yourself to focus. Maybe she looks like one of the Corrs or the Nolans. Even Dana, going further back. Maybe you just recognise the look of the Irish. A face from the old days. Actually, her face looks puffy, especially at the eyes. You should know that’s a sure sign not to start a conversation. She’s dreaming out of the window, and you tell yourself to keep your eyes where you’re going.

You take the squinty bridge route past the flats at Finnieston to avoid the queues at the Kingston. You’ve an airport pick-up in half an hour and can’t risk missing it. People are generous on their way to their holidays, especially if they’ve had a glass or three to steady the nerves and get into the spirit. You were in two minds about taking this woman’s hire when it came up on the screen, but the cab’s been quiet and cash is cash. Anyway, it’s fairly local; she’s only going a couple of miles.

A couple of miles across the … ah, right. That’s when you glance back at the screen and check her destination. That’s why the girl isn’t talkative. And that’s when you remember who it is she reminds you of.

My short story ‘Scarred’ appeared in Southlight 22, which was launched at the Wigtown Book Festival in September 2017.

I’ve turned to crime! My short story ‘In a Whirl’ features in a fantastic new collection called ‘Happily Never After’. The inspiration for this collection came on the final day of the Crime & Publishment 2016 crime-writing workshop weekend held at The Mill Forge hotel and wedding centre near the heart of Scotland’s legendary home of clandestine weddings, Gretna Green. Obviously, with that as our setting, we were going to write about love and marriage. It would have been criminal not to! The proceeds from sales of this charity anthology go to ‘Hearing Dogs for Deaf People’

Booktown Writers have produced their first anthology, with one of my stories in it.

Called Booktown Writings, the anthology consists of the winning and commended stories from their annual Short Story Competition along with contributions from some of Booktown Writers’ own members.

I’m delighted to see ‘Flags’ here. ‘Flags’ won their first competition in 2012.

There’s lots of really good reading in this collection. Booktown Writers meet in Wigtown, Scotland’s National Booktown in beautiful Galloway. 

News round-up

August 2014 – my short story ‘Plein Sud’ appeared in Gutter 11. Set in the South of France, it features a woman who is disaffected with her seemingly idyllic life.

August 2013 saw the publication of my short story Just Boys, They Were in Gutter 9.

Here’s how The Metro described it:

“The fiction in the current issue (its ninth) specialises in warm but clear-eyed domestic realism. Carol McKay writes about the childcare trials of a Falklands veteran”

See the full review here.

Gutter is really worth subscribing to. It’s now being run as a workers’ cooperative. For more information, visit the Gutter website.

In Autumn 2013, my short story Flags was published in Southlight .

In December 2011, my short story Safety Glass was published in the ezine Spilling Ink Review.

In June 2011, my short story Grit was published in the University of Glasgow e-zine From Glasgow to Saturn. Read it here.

I was delighted when my story Frozen Waste appeared as the opening story in the first edition of Gutter , the magazine of new Scottish writing, in Autumn 2009.

I’ve always been an admirer of Chapman, and was ecstatic when my stories Total Obliteration and Ugly Duckling were published there. You can’t read them online but here are links to issues 107 and 98 on the Chapman website.

My story Decomposing appeared in Mslexia 15.  Mslexia’s a great source of information and inspiration to all writers – male or female!

My short story Unrestricted reached the final six in the last Macallan / Scotland on Sunday Short Story Competition.

An ebook of my short fiction (from 1999 – 2009) is available from Pothole Press. Ordinary Domestic: collected short fiction is available for Kindle and on Kobo, and should soon be available on iBooks.