Birkbeck launches nationwide short-story anthology

The Mechanics’ Issue 14 includes stories by award-winning established authors as well as featuring new voices from Birkbeck and beyond.

The Mechanics' Institute Review authors

The first nationwide issue of The Mechanics’ Institute Review – the annual anthology of short stories published by Birkbeck – was recently launched at a vibrant celebration event in the School of Arts’ Keynes Library. Although it’s the fourteenth year of the series, this is the first time The Mechanics’ has been open to writers from throughout the UK: thanks to a grant from Arts Council England, it has been able to widen its reach beyond Birkbeck Creative Writing Programme students to seek out talent from across the country.

Issue 14 continues the series’ tradition of featuring established authors, and presents new work from award-winners Jenn Ashworth and Alan Beard as well as a foreword by MA Creative Writing Course Director Julia Bell – which begins, provocatively enough: “Teaching creative writing is a pain in the ass.” The remaining 24 stories were chosen – by blind selection – from a total of around 250 submissions, and still include some by Birkbeck CW alumni, among them Sogol Sur, whose debut poetry collection Sorrows of the Sun was published by Skyscraper Publications on 16 September.

The Mechanics’ Issue 14 provides a unique snapshot of writing in the UK, with subjects including immigration, refugees, child sexual abuse, male genital mutilation and celebrity culture. Search for your sister with David Attenborough, for the truth with a caterpillar who’s afraid of heights; be hunted like a fox. From Partition-precarious India to change-auspicious China, quantum suicide and existential surgery to social media assassination and mythical fish, these unique perspectives will grip you.

The aim of The Mechanics’ is to showcase and champion the short story as an art form, promoting diversity, inclusivity and opportunity for all while publishing new work of the highest possible standard. Editors – all of whom are volunteers – and writers are involved at every stage of the publishing process, to widen access to the industry and provide development and education opportunities. To date, a significant number of the approximately 270 writers featured in MIR have found agents and landed contracts as a direct result of their inclusion in the anthology.

Speaking about being published in this year’s volume, Dane Buckley said: “It’s been an opportunity you can’t pay for.” Fellow author Ellen Hardy said: “The editing process really challenges you to define what you’re doing with every single sentence, which is a great experience for a writer.” Meanwhile, editorial team member Miranda Roszkowski said: “I’m most proud of it being a truly UK-wide book”.

The Mechanics’ Issue 14 is available in print format from local independent bookshops, all branches of Waterstones and all bookstore portals, and in both print and e-book format on Amazon.

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