Early March marked the exciting release of a new anthology, packed to the brim with writing from an exceptional lineup of new northern voices. The collection is edited by S.J Bradley, author of Brick Mother and Guest, both published by Dead Ink, and Anna Chilvers, author of East Coast Road, Tainted Love and Falling Through Clouds, novels published by Bluemoose Books.
Featuring 15 stories in total, the anthology celebrates work from 12 new Northern voices who have graduated from the Northern Short Story Festival Academy programme. It also includes 3 exclusive stories from editor Anna Chilvers, Litro Fiction editor Barney Walsh and Richard Smyth, author and literary critic.
Initiatives such as this one are so important to increasing regional diversity in publishing, shining a spotlight on new potential for the industry. We’re seeing more and more of a focus on Northern writing and regional voices breaking through the London-centric noise, particularly with incredibly insightful work from women.
In her foreword to the anthology, Chilvers reflects on the programme:
‘The discussions revolved around how far the form could be bent, stretched and subverted. The writing was exciting and brave… There was an atmosphere of playfulness, a freedom to try out new and innovative ideas.’
These traits can be read as distinctly northern; the seeking of innovation and subversion of the ways we see and write about the world are strongly present throughout the series of stories in the anthology.
In Haleemah Alaydi’s A Very Private Confession, she intelligently explores human desire and intimacy, both up close and at a distance. Alaydi’s narrator is obsessed with the couple next door and becomes entangled in their lives from the other side of the wall. She finds comfort in their intimate moments but the more she has to hide it, the more her own relationship with her partner Gabriel begins to suffer. This story was excellently written, structured with intention and features a twist to rival any bestselling crime novel.
The potential for honesty and vulnerability to be explored through short fiction is certainly a defining feature of the stories in This New North. Another piece that stands out is Jennifer Isherwood’s Artefacts. Capturing the intense feelings we experience in the most mundane of moments, Isherwood crafts a story that is both tender and thought-provoking.
Brian is faced with a letter that brings his security into question — his house has been built on a mineshaft and could collapse at any moment. Through this hook, the reader is encouraged to
think about home and heritage; at one point the author invokes historical locations on the northern landscape that cleverly connect the protagonist with his past. Through outstanding writing and sharp reflections, Isherwood’s story is certainly a memorable one.
Having explored the whole collection, it can be concluded that This New North is an impressive anthology of stories which carefully curates a wide selection of themes and experiences. It’s fresh, artistic and brilliantly captures the diversity of stories and talent in the North. Looking ahead, it will be exciting to see how these voices progress and how projects such as this one will inspire even more northern writers to emerge into the world. This New North is published by Valley Press, based in Yorkshire. You can purchase a copy here.
Words: Beth Barker
Beth wanted to contribute a monthly review to NRTH LASS in order to shine a light on Northern women writing great books. The North is very much underrepresented in publishing and she hopes a monthly review throughout 2021 will showcase the talent Northern women have to offer.