Lucy Caldwell and Jan Carson on Woman’s Hour

Interviews, News

Is Ireland going through a ‘golden age of literature’ when it comes to women’s writing? Sally Rooney and Anna Burns are hugely popular but what is behind this boom in new writing? Writers Lucy Caldwell and Jan Carson discuss.

Learn the Craft of the Short Story at Faber Academy


Learn the craft of short story writing, then create and polish new stories with an award-winning writer. Includes two masterclasses, led by Lucy Caldwell. The course if part of the Faber Academy

The online course will run from 27th January – 14th April 2021 and is limited to 12 Places.

Sessions will take place 7pm–9pm every Wednesday night for twelve weeks. Below is a session breakdown, which is subject to change, but should give you a good idea of what to expect.

For more details about fees and course timeslines, or to apply, visit the Faber Academy website.



In this course, we’ll look at what a short story is, has been historically, and what it might be – using that reading to develop your own practice as a writer. From Angela Carter and Borges to Lydia Davis and David Hayden, we’ll look at fairytales and urban legends, at flash fiction, at the concept of the ‘well-made’ short story and how contemporary writers have dismantled it. We’ll read David Foster Wallace and Dorthe Nors and talk about coming-of-age stories. We’ll read Lucia Berlin and Akhil Sharma and talk about how to write your own life, and we’ll read Lesley Nneka Arimah and Hassan Blasim and discuss the modern fable. We’ll read Kevin Barry, who blew the contemporary Irish short story wide open, and we’ll read work by some of the most exciting emerging voices, such as Yan Ge and Melatu Uche Okorie, and discuss how to write contemporary life. We’ll read Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson and Elizabeth Bowen, looking at how to create and maintain a story’s mood. We’ll read Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish and learn how to edit our own work: where to begin, and where to end, and how to cut right down to the bone. We’ll end by looking at how and where to get your own work published, and at opportunities for unpublished and emerging writers.

Small Wonder Festival

Interviews, News

An online panel discussion with Lucy Caldwell. Caleb Azumah Nelson and Eley Williams, shortlisted writers from this year’s BBC National Short Story Award with chaired by BBC’s Editor of Readings Di Speirs.

Now in its fifteenth year, the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University is one of the most prestigious for a single short story. From the short and pithy to the layered and literary, via robust poetics, family hierarchies and maligned youth, this year’s shortlist is the perfect reflection of all that can be achieved in few words.

Small Wonder Festival at Home is a weekend of free digital events to mark Small Wonder: Charleston’s annual festival dedicated to short stories and short form writing which runs from 10am (BST), Friday 25 September – 10pm (BST), Sunday 27 September.

Lucy Caldwell goes on a wartime footing for new novel


The author has turned to the Blitz in her native Belfast while the pandemic delayed her short story anthology

Rescue workers searching through rubble after an air raid on Belfast

‘Are you reading much during the quarantine?” asks Lucy Caldwell, sounding breathless, as if she has just run up a flight of stairs — though, in reality, it’s how she talks. The playwright novelist and short-story writer has been in lockdown with her husband and two young children in their seventh-floor apartment in London’s Whitechapel for several weeks. “I’m finding that I don’t have the mental capacity to read for pleasure,” she admits. “I’ve always read prolifically, but not while entertaining two kids during a pandemic.”

While peers including Marian Keyes and Anne Enright have admitted to feeling unproductive as a result of lockdown malaise, Caldwell reveals that spring 2020 is one of the most creative periods of her career. Were it not for the pandemic, she would have been celebrating the publication of her latest collection, Intimacies, now postponed for a year. Instead, she finds herself “churning through” an as yet untitled fourth novel about the Belfast Blitz.

“It’s bizarrely resonant. I’m finding the parallels between then and now quite remarkable,” says Caldwell. “As we were approaching the outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe, I observed people across the Continent attempting to carry on as normal as possible for as long as possible, thinking it’s not going to happen or, if it does, it’s not going to be as bad as they’re saying. And that’s similar to what happened in Belfast after war broke out in 1939.

“Everyone felt that aerial raids on London were imminent, but they didn’t happen until 1940, so surely Belfast would go unscathed. It was too far out of range. It hadn’t happened so it wouldn’t happen. The government imposed rationing in London and elsewhere not because of supply chains, but because of panic buying. But in Belfast, they didn’t really panic. Very few children were sent to the countryside. So when the Luftwaffe attacked in Easter 1941, the city wasn’t prepared and there were more casualties than in any other single raid on the UK.”

(read the full article at the Time (Paywalled))

Rachel Dean’s Big Ask


Lucy Caldwell on her childhood in east Belfast and loss of much-wanted pregnancy

In this week’s interview Rachel Dean talks to author Lucy Caldwell (38), who grew up in Belfast and now lives in Whitechapel, east London, with her husband Tom Routh (38) and their two children, William (5) and Orla Rose (2)

Q: Tell us about your childhood

Big influence: Lucy with parents Peter and Maureen and her children

A: It was so happy. I was born and grew up in the Belmont area of east Belfast. My dad Peter was an architect and my mum Maureen a full-time mum.

I have two sisters, Kim (36), a palliative care consultant, and Faye (34), an English teacher. Both are near me in age and we were very, very close.

We used to spend weeks, months on end in our secret imaginary worlds. In later years, when I read about the Bronte siblings and their worlds of Angria and Gondal, and saw the tiny books they used to make, I felt such a headrush of recognition. One of our most elaborate worlds was called Braxton, and we drew and illustrated its chronicles, going back generations.

Everything we did and saw and read was folded into our made-up worlds, which sometimes felt more urgent and alive than the “real” world around us.

I didn’t want to grow up and found growing up very painful because there was so much I didn’t want to lose or have to leave behind.

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: Family legend has it that I wanted to be a writer before I could actually write – I used to fold up pages to look like books, draw pictures and tell my mum what words I wanted and where I wanted them.

When I was 13, we were asked to write an extra chapter for the Jennifer Johnson novel How Many Miles to Babylon?

I wrote an alternative ending – I worked so hard on it, and handed it so proudly to my teacher, convinced it was even better than Johnson’s, but more importantly knowing that I was utterly sure about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

So to see my shelves of my own books sometimes feels remarkable.

I’m not sure I’d say I felt proud, exactly, because I’ve been so lucky to have the support of my family, encouragement of my teachers and mentors – anything I’ve managed is due to them too and I’m always mindful of that.

But what I think I am proud of are the small, private ways in which my writing has made a difference for people.

There are a precious handful of responses I’ve had from certain readers that I will never, ever forget.

Q: The one regret you wish you could amend?

A: Where do I begin? Sometimes I’m just a bundle of regrets.

Mainly it’s the small things – the things I should have done or said but didn’t, the things I did but shouldn’t, the times I should have been kinder or more patient, or just let something go, but instead enjoyed the blaze of feeling self-righteous …

Q: What about phobias? Do you have any?

A: Pigeons. I don’t mind dozy bumbling woodpigeons, but I can’t stand their scraggy feral inner-city cousins, especially when they flap right in your face. The only pigeon I can tolerate is the one in Mo Willems’s children’s books.

(read the full article at the Belfast Telegraph)

Following her own brilliant short story collection Multitudes, Lucy Caldwell guest edits the sixth volume of Faber’s long running series of new Irish short stories, continuing the great work started by the late David Marcus and subsequent guest editors Kevin Barry, Deirdre Madden and Joseph O’Connor.

Eimear McBride, Kit de Waal and Sally Rooney are among the writers to feature in  Being Various: New Irish Short Stories, which brings together new stories from Ireland’s current golden age of writing and features newly commissioned works from writers including Louise O’Neill, Paul McVeigh, Kevin Barry, Lisa McInerney and Arja Kajermo.

Caldwell said: “Being Various has a brilliant array of writers making waves in the twenty-first century, from lauded names to newcomers ranging from their twenties to their sixties; Irish by birth, by parentage, or residence.”

Being Various: New Irish Short Stories is published on May 2, 2019

Being Various: New Irish Short Stories

News, Short Stories