Author Archives: Lane Ashfeldt

The Willesden Prize, Stories and Tunnels

Stephen Moran, head honcho of the Willesden Herald, has invited me to judge this year’s Willesden Prize, aka ‘The Willesden Herald New Short Stories Competition 2017’, and I’m a bit worried I won’t be up to the job, because the only thing I’m good for right now is listening to music (mostly, this past week or so, The Psychedelic Furs). This month I’ve also started, but not finished reading, several lengthy novels. I’m hoping it won’t be like that when it comes to reading the shortlist. The not finishing, I mean. But then, it’s rare for me not to finish a short story, or not hear the end of a song. No doubt commitment comes into it. The end of a novel or TV series can feel so far off you’ll never get there, and sometimes it seems the writers have had trouble getting there, too.

But songs and stories tunnel into their content instead of finding ways around or over it. I love tunnels: old railway tunnels, foot tunnels, even disused mines, especially when they lead somewhere unexpected. Another country, an underground concert, a beach with no visible path leading to it…


(…not a request for stories featuring tunnels as much as for surprises.) If you’re thinking of giving this a go, here’s a bit more info.

The Willesden Herald New Short Stories Competition

The Willesden Prize is open to anyone, anywhere, writing short stories in English. Length and theme are unimportant – just send the best unpublished piece you have, up to a max of 7500 words. Entries are read blind.

Closing date: August 31

Entries must be sent via the online entry page, with an entry fee of £7.50.

Winners anthology

The winners announcement will be made probably in October or November.  Stories by the ten shortlisted writers will be included in the a paperback book to be published, by December 2017, “Willesden Herald: New Short Stories 10”. (If you’re curious,  find the back issues here.) Each contributing writer will receive two comp copies. Entry fees help pay for the anthology and prizes.

£1200 in prizes

This prize is not all about the money, far from it. Everyone who works on it, sifting, doing admin, judging and editing the anthology, does so on a voluntary basis — but… A prize fund of £1,200 will be split between the 10 shortlisted writers. The winner receives a Willesden Herald mug plus £300, the runner-up £200, and 8 short-listed writers each receive £75.

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an Alt.Valentine Story of the Month on Seren Books

Read this story on the Seren website

John Berger

I reviewed John Berger’s ‘Here is where we meet’ for the Irish Examiner when it came out in 2005: just adding that review here. I was sad to learn of his death. It was lovely to meet him. through his writing. Towards the end of 2016 I’d thought of him once or twice out of the blue, wondering how he was doing, and hoping he would not go out in the cull of 2016. 

Artist, Marxist art critic and author John Berger is likely to be best remembered as writer of the influential ‘Ways of Seeing’, a book and accompanying TV series dating to 1972. The book became a cornerstone of cultural studies theory and is, to this day, required reading at art schools and universities around the world. The fact that in the same year he received the Booker Prize for an experimental novel, ‘G’, is relatively overlooked, as is his acceptance speech in which he deplored literary awards and announced his intention to donate half his prize money to the Black Panthers. If this sounds like the attention-seeking bluster of an enfant terrible, it is worth noting that at the time the writer was actually 46. Now nearly 80, Berger has burst back on to the literary scene with the publication of ‘Here is where we meet’, a book that mixes fiction with essay, past with present, and death with life.

Structured and packaged as eight and a half pieces of fiction, these ‘stories’ provide a framework for autobiographical essays that have as much in common with travel writing and philosophy as with fiction, and the book also finds time to intermittently argue with itself over whether or not it is an autobiography. The protagonist, John, bears a number of resemblances to Berger. In the early pages, his mother cautions him:
—You sound like somebody writing an autobiography. Don’t.
— Don’t what?
—You’re bound to get it wrong.
Throughout this opening story, ‘Lisboa’, John converses with his dead mother. Each meeting, be it in a square or a café, at a fish market or on an elevated aqueduct, is described in luminous detail; together, these sequences function as an eloquent meditation on life, love, and death. John dances with his mother in a Lisbon café, and other café-goers stare, because she is only there for him. Elsewhere in the book dead teachers are encountered in Krakow and Madrid, while in the Islington home of a former art school colleague John sips tea and reminisces about friends, now lost or dead, who once meant everything to him, in a house itself redolent with its own half-remembered histories.
An intimate book that deals lightly with heavy themes, ‘Here is where we meet’ gives its reader the impression of meeting, perhaps even being led an imaginary dance by, its author. It is for this reason a book which this reader did not want to end.


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Resolution – no phone?


You could call this is not a resolution so much as entropy. My old and battered smartphone has turned into some kind of phone sandwich. Instead of replacing it, I’m giving it go without.

  • Plusses
  • More time for other things
  • More money for other things
  • Not having to charge the phone
  • Not having to carry it everywhere, and worry about losing it
  • No  last-minute tweak option for meetings
  • Minuses
  • Am not always carrying a camera (sometimes a plus)
  • Sometime need to use other methods to replace texting
  • No last-minute tweak option for meetings



Giveaway: The Dublin Review

The Dublin Review by Post

Secret. Best thing about having a story in The Dublin Review? (Revolution postage stamps aside.) Earning a contributor listing below Antonin Artaud, whose ‘An absented-minded person of the student type’ from Issue 1 of the Review is essential reading. Artaud’s penniless travels in Ireland are traced here in official letters, but despite being told at one remove the story is one we can all identify with. The compelling ‘Rough Sleeper’ by Arnold Thomas Fanning in the current issue explores similar experiences from a lucid insider perspective. Haven’t read the whole issue yet, am saving the rest for a longish journey coming up,  but it all looks good… The Dublin Review can be bought here. Or to win a copy, just add a comment below. Optional tie-breaker: name an Irish band you will be listening to this winter, and why. Entries close Friday 16 December 2016, so the prize can reach the winner by that day. Oh, and here’s a pic of the prize to motivate you.


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