Almond has more irons in the fire

The Carnegie Medal champion of champions isn't the only competition David Almond has been shortlisted for, as Tamzin Lewis explains.

The Carnegie Medal champion of champions isn't the only competition David Almond has been shortlisted for, as Tamzin Lewis explains.

The exquisite craft of the short story has undergone a decline in fortunes in the modern marketplace but raising its prominence is the National Short Story Prize.

The winner of the 2007 competition will receive £15,000 and will be announced on Monday. On the shortlist of five is Slog's Dad by author David Almond, who lives in Northumberland.

Jackie Kay, professor of creative writing at Newcastle University, is also shortlisted for her story, How to Get Away With Suicide. The three other chosen writers are Hanif Kureshi, Julian Gough and Jonathan Falla.

David Almond's story appeared in So, what kept you? This is a book of stories inspired by lines in notebooks left by the great short story writers Anton Chekhov and Raymond Carver. David was inspired to write Slog's Dad after seeing the Carver line: "How much longer have I got?" He says: "Carver was important to me. I remember reading him for the first time and being astonished. When I saw this line I suddenly had the image of a man returning from the afterlife and being allowed a certain amount of time on earth and saying, `How long can I stay before I have to go back again?'."

Slog's Dad is part of a sequence of short stories which David has written over 10 years set in Felling, where he grew up.

It tells of the appearance one spring day of Joe Mickley, who died the previous year, to his son Slog and Slog's unbelieving pal Davie. Slog is able to talk to his Dad and marvels at the reappearance of his legs which had been amputated.

David says: "I call them stories from the middle of the world - Felling. When Slog asks his Dad what Heaven is like, Joe replies, `It's like having all the saveloy dips you ever want. With everything, every time.' When I was young I would have believed a saveloy dip was heaven!"

The National Short Story Prize is accompanied by a campaign, Story, working with libraries and bookshops to promote short story collections.

* So, what kept you? is published by Northumberland's Flambard Press and New Writing North. www.flambard press. co.uk

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