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Short stories occupy time and place. These can be locations as precise as a specific street corner on the stroke of noon on a particular, or as vague as there and then, but they are the ‘there and when’ of how stories happen. We talk of stories ‘taking place’, and often that place is crucial to the story being able to ‘take place’ at all. The timing too can be critical in how a story unfolds. There’s a many a story set before the days of mobile phones which would be simply unbelievable in an age of instant communications without elaborate, and perhaps unconvincing plot devices – ‘a funny thing happened to me on the day my mobile battery ran out’.

I’ll be looking at when and where stories come from and might be going to in a workshop for Darren Harper‘s Carlisle Phil and Lit Society, in room 8, Fisher Street Galleries, Carlisle, on Thursday 12th of October, 7.00pm to 9.00pm. Course Fee: £10 Booking: To book a place on the course, or to find out more, please contact Darren at


Triangles we’re sometimes reminded, can be eternal, and when they are we’re usually talking about relationships between three people, and the tensions within them. Triangles, in a different context, that of engineering, are stronger, more secure, than quadrilaterals. You can’t distort a triangle, without breaking it apart, unless of course, you can adjust the length of the sides.

Triangles can tessellate. They can mirror. They can be equilateral, right angled, obtuse or acute. They can be appear stable, or top heavy; broad or narrow; immovable, or poised to tumble from one face to another. The points of a triangle can become the centres of circles to which the other two points are circumferences, perhaps intersecting arcs. And each of those descriptions might be a metaphor. No wonder they are so useful, as a concept on which stories might be constructed.

As a preamble to Carlisle’s Borderlines Book Festival, Mike Smith, who writes fiction as Brindley Hallam Dennis, will be leading a writers’ workshop at Carlisle Library (Thursday 5th October, 10.00am-12.00 noon.) that will explore some of the ways we might take the ‘triangle’ as the basis for creating the situations in which our fictional short story characters might find themselves (or create!).  You can get tickets here.

A week later, from 1.00pm to 3.00pm on Thursday, October 12th, in Room 8, Fisher Street Galleries, he will be leading a workshop on locations in short stories: how do we use them? How much to put in? How much to leave out? And when to tell?

Lanercost Festival takes place later this month, and as part of it Marilyn Messenger & Brindley Hallam Dennis will be reading from their Ambiguous Encounters collection of short stories, and from other collaborations.  The reading, at Dacre Hall, Lanercost Priory, a couple of miles east of Brampton, on Tuesday 21st June, will start at 12.00 noon.  Copies of their short story collection, and other books will be available on the day, or can be purchased here.









On the following Saturday, 25th June, at the same venue, Mike Smith (aka BHD!) will run a one day short course in the ‘short story,’ picking up several elements from his ‘Facets of Fiction Writers Workshops. Tickets  are available here.





January 23rd 2016

1: The Place We’re Going To

Taking our lead from many writers & critics we try our hand at several well defined types of short story endings

Beginning with those important last few words


February 20th 2016

2: What Lies Beneath?

Hemingway famously said that a story was like an iceberg, with its bulk hidden from view. We’ll have a go at stories where what’s hidden is what gives the ending its potency.


March 19th 2016

3: In Minor Keys

Irish writer and ‘literary lion’ George Moore talked about endings ‘in minor keys’

What might he have meant, and can we use the concept in our writing?


Each workshop runs from 2.00pm till 5.00pm

£20 per workshop (£45 if you book all three)


Workshops are held in the Old Stock Room at Todd Close

In North Cumbria. Places are limited.

To book, contact Mike Smith at


Facets of Fiction Workshops at Todd Close, Autumn 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree 3-hour prose fiction workshops on the theme of



Stories grow out of the interaction between characters and locations (in space and time) and these three workshops look at different aspects of those interactions.

These workshops are writing-centred, with exercises, readings and discussion. Each workshop stands alone, but all three are built around the same triangle of forces from which stories emerge. £20 each (£45 for all 3)

Dates: Saturday September 26th

          Saturday October 31st

          Saturday November 21st

Workshops run from 2.00pm – 5.00pm