Some thoughts on voice

Many many stacked handwritten white words on a black background, illegible but creating a white centre space

This is part of a series of posts teasing out themes from my short story reading:

These are thoughts on voice from my short story reading notes. I will refine them further in future — they are not exhaustive, and I have more observations to make!


A strong voice can frame and structure a story. A strong story frame or conceit can also leverage a distinctive voice (enhance, distill, excuse, focus…).

Outline of what follows:

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KINDLING — coming soon!

My first short story collection, Kindling, is going to be published by Small Beer Press! All going well, it should come out this October.

A fabulous debut of folk tales and fantasies by an award winning author and illustrator.

Small fires start in the hearts of Kathleen Jennings’s characters and irresistibly spread to those around them. Journeys are taken, debts repaid, disguises put on, and lessons offered — although not often learned — in these fantastic tales. Jennings’s confident voice lulls readers into stepping off the known paths to find “Undine Love,” “The Heart of Owl Abbas,” and further unexpected places and people.

Small Beer Press

I love love love that line “lessons offered — although not often learned”. Tragedies aside, there is something delightful about characters who don’t succeed in fully learning their lessons.

(Thanks go to many people — not least Small Beer Press! — and, as always, very much to Angela Slatter who helped not only many of the stories but also the collection into existence.)

Cover details to come…

Drawing of candle — yellow and white on a black background
(From the 2021 April calendar pattern)

February 2023 Short Story Reading Post

Photo of handwritten notes, extracted below.

This post is a roughly tidied version of my February 2023 tweets about short stories. There’s a list of all stories at the very end of the post (linking to where they are first mentioned).

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Story sale: The Five Lazy Sisters

My short story “The Five Lazy Sisters” will be out in the March/April 2023 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction!

Andrew Weston at Amazing Stories has reviewed the issue in advance, and says:

The Five Lazy Sistersby Kathleen Jennings, is a delightful homage, reminiscent in many ways, of the bedtime stories we used to delight in as youngsters, when imaginations ran riot, giving rise to lifelong legends of the heart… (read the rest here)

Sketch of five sisters of varying heights, in cloaks
Sketch of the sisters — part of the first draft

You can subscribe to F&SF (and order back issues) here:

Forthcoming anthology: The Book of Witches

Hand holding advance copy of The Book of Witches
Cover by Alyssa Winans

My proof copy of Jonathan Strahan’s anthology The Book of Witches has arrived! It will be published in August this year.

And in addition to Alyssa’s art — look at this table of contents!

Table of contents

My story is “Catechism for Those Who Would Find Witches” — and I will have more to say about that the closer we get to the pre-order and release dates!

  • “Seed of Power”, Linda D. Addison
  • “What I Remember of Oresha Moon Dragon Devshrata”, P. Djèli Clark
  • “Catechism for Those Who Would Find Witches”, Kathleen Jennings
  • “The Luck Thief”, Tade Thompson 
  • “Good Spells”, Ken Lin 
  • “The Liar”, Darcie Little Badger 
  • “Escape Artists”, Andrea Hairston
  • “The Witch Is Not the Monster”, Alaya Dawn Johnson 
  • “Met Swallow”, Cassandra Khaw 
  • “The Nine Jars of Nukulu”, Tobi Ogundiran 
  • “In a Cabin, In a Wood”, Kelly Robson 
  • “What Dreams May Come”, C. L. Clark 
  • “She Who Makes the Rain”, Millie Ho 
  • “As Wayward Sisters, Hand in Hand”, Indrapramit Das 
  • “Orphanage of the Last Breath”, Saad Z. Hossain
  • “The Unexpected Excursion of the Murder Mystery Writing Witches”, Garth Nix 
  • “So Spake the Mirrorwitch”, Premee Mohamed 
  • “Just a Nudge”, Maureen McHugh 
  • “Her Ravenous Waters”, Andrea Stewart
  • “Déjà Vue”, Tochi Onyebuchi
  • “BOTANICA: A Song in Four Movements”, Sheree Renée Thomas
  • “Through the Woods, Due West”,Angela Slatter 
  • “Nameless Here for Evermore”, Fonda Lee 
  • “Mask of the Nautilus”, Sheree Renée Thomas 
  • “Night Riding”, Usman T. Malik 
  • “Witchfires”, E. Lily Yu
  • “The Academy of Oracular Magic”, Miyuki Jane Pinckard 
  • “The Cost of Doing Business”, Emily Y. Teng 
  • “John Hollowback and the Witch”, Amal El-Mohtar

“Merry in Time” on Locus Recommended Reading List

The Locus Recommended Reading List 2022 has been announced: 2022 Recommended Reading List. As ever, it is a great place to go for suggestions (I’ve only read a quarter of the short stories!).

AND this year, my “Merry in Time” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) is included! It is a story for a very particular subset of readers, and I’m delighted when it finds them.

You can read it for free at BCS: “Merry in Time

Beneath Ceaseless Skies cover

There are many other splendid books and stories on the 2022 Recommended Reading List, including some I’ve blurbed, many by friends, and quite a few (but still only 1/4) I’ve reviewed!

January 2023 Short Story Reading Post

Photo of handwritten notes, extracted below

This post is a roughly tidied version of my January 2023 tweets about short stories. There’s a list of all stories at the very end of the post (that list links to where they are first mentioned, but there’s often further discussion).

This is fairly short post, but I’ve made up for that with a recent long post on List stories — how they work, what they offer.

Fascinations and encroaching interests this month include:

  • how to take parts of a large story in order to make a short one
  • how to keep short stories short
  • monologues
  • shapes that echo themes
  • changes in climate change fiction

Background and related posts:

And so, to begin…

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List Stories: How they work, what they offer

Tiny handwritten notes listing very general and largely illegible types of lists

This post is about short stories written as/around lists. It is based on notes from my short-story reading posts. (For background on the three-mood story structure, see Story Shapes — Three Mood Stories.)

Outline of this post (it should link to the relevant section):

I hope to write a shorter version one day.

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2022 Writing Update

Photo of hand holding tiny cut-paper forest

I have been writing (mostly editing) although my literary-creativity brain was largely offline for almost half of 2022, and I now have some catching up to do! However, some pieces I’m really pleased with were published.

Short fiction and adjacencies

  • Sold, coming out in 2023, and I’ll tell you more once tables of contents are announced:
    • “The Five Lazy Sisters”
    • “Catechism for Those Who Would Find Witches”
    • “Annie Coal”
  • Other:
    • Tiny illustrated stories for patrons: Between 11 and infinite, depending on how you count them. “Shrine”; “Memorial”; “Artist”; “The Tiger”; “The Girls in the House”; “Reputation”; “What a Terrible Situation” (multiple); “Visitor”; “The Lion and the Tortoise”; “The Bee and the Frog”; “The Mule and the Artichoke”. (I might have missed some.)
Black and grey pen drawing: A family of four figurines tied together and leaning against a milk jug.

Other Projects

Little leafy divider

Ongoing, WIP, and fate to be decided

  • Extensive reworking on a short novel! Which now has more edits. It’s the urban gothic previously alluded to.
  • The PhD project — the topic has changed to be about the observation journal, and the creative project is now the novel above. The original PhD manuscript is awaiting further edits, but “Merry in Time“, published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies this year, is connected.
  • Another full year of the observation journal.
  • “The Crescent Line”: another railway piece (in the spirit of Travelogues).
  • Two projects I’m excited about, based on existing work — I will tell you more once titles are confirmed!
  • Other things…
On the right, notes on scene placement in Cinderella, with some coloured sketches.

November 2022 Short Story Reading Post

Photo of handwritten notes — key sections extracted below

This post is a roughly tidied version of my November 2022 tweets about short stories. There’s a list of all stories at the very end of the post (that links to where they are first mentioned, but there’s often further discussion).

A short post this month! I was travelling for most of it, and also preparing and giving a writing workshop on short stories at World Fantasy, and an academic paper at the WIP conference at UQ. However, it is still a relatively long post, so the rest is below the cut…

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