The Edinburgh City of Literature Story Shop and Men

1 08 2011
The Edinburgh City of Literature Story Shop and Men
Image: JA Cosgrove

The Edinburgh City of Literature Story Shop
I’m not one to cast unfounded accusations or remarks—I’m the kind of guy who likes to gather evidence when building a case first—but yesterday I raised an eyebrow at something that concerned a suspicion I kept quiet about last year.

The Story Shop programme is run by the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust and is aimed at giving new writers a chance to be seen and heard at the Edinburgh Book Festival. A bunch of writers are selected from applications to read a short story or couple of flash fiction pieces, to an audience at the world’s biggest and best festival of literature.

Last year the organiser selected 14 female writers to fill the 17 available slots (view the 2010 list here). I went to several of the readings and the writers were well deserving—no complaints there. However, this year the number is 15 female authors out of the 17 available slots (view the 2011 list here).

Hence my raised eyebrow.

These are, of course, merely statistics and they are all that I offer. It may be that there were no male applications good enough. And while I am also aware there are a lot of excellent female writers in Edinburgh and around the world, many of whom I have worked with and some remain good friends, it strikes me that for a programme being run for new writers of both sexes there appears, at first sight, to be an unfavourable imbalance against male writers.

I’m not saying I am a better author than any of the people that were give a slot this year or last—congratulations to all of them and I look forward to hearing as many of them read as I can manage—but Edinburgh does have some rather excellent new writers that are male, yet it seems we are unable to successfully tap into this programme.

I like to think I’m not a half bad writer and I would dearly have loved to been a part of the Story Shop, hence why I applied these last two years. I’m at the stage of my career where I’ve had short stories published and longer fiction picked up by independent publishers, and through my chapbook poetry, I’ve managed to glean a fairly healthy readership and name for myself. So I find myself feeling slightly frustrated to view these figures and wonder how much of a chance I really had.

So my point is this: over two years, were the Story Shop organisers really only able to find 5 male writers worthy of doing a reading out of the 34 slots available?

Colin Galbraith | @colingalbraith