If you’re looking for something a little different to dip in to over the holidays, I have a suggestion: “A great collection of original, funny, sad and inspiring stories.” That’s how a reviewer on Amazon’s UK website described Stories for Homes, an anthology of 63 short stories of all styles and genres on the theme of ‘Home.’ There are families, lovers, friends, neighbors, and a surprising number of dead bodies. It’s a damn good read, and as a bonus, all profits from the sale of the anthology go to the UK housing and homelessness charity Shelter.
I first learned about the project in May, when I saw a call for submissions on Twitter. My immediate reaction was great idea, followed by I have to give this a go. I’ve always had a job and a roof over my head, but like everyone who lives in this city, I know people who haven’t been so lucky. Times are tough right now, and unfortunately there’s more need than ever for organisations like Shelter.
Stories for Homes is the brainchild of a London-based writer called Sally Swingewood. I didn’t know anything about Sally, but I’d seen editor-in-chief Debi Alper presenting at Writers’ Workshop events and I really liked her clear, friendly, no-nonsense style. As well as being a freelance editor, Debi writes contemporary thrillers and teaches creative writing, and I knew that she’d be setting the bar high. I was right. The stories are surprisingly diverse, but the quality of the writing is consistently excellent.
‘Home’ is a great theme. Everybody has their own idea of what it means to them. It’s a basic human need, deeply emotional but totally individual, and the stories reflect that individuality. It’s also ideal fare for a romance writer – home is defined by people, so all the stories are character-driven and full of heart. Reading this book gave me lots of food for thought with my entertainment.
My absolute favorite is the last story in the book, a very black comedy called Not In My Back Yard, by Lance Cross. He has a way with words that makes me think of Christopher Brookmyre or Peter Temple, and which had me checking out his biography to see what else he’s written.
Other ones I especially like are Thomas McColl’s The Keys To The House, Rachael Dunlop’s Drowning In Fresh Air, Zelazko Polysk’s thought-provoking Nadzieja Dreams of Nowhere, and two stories set in the future: Jules Anne Ironside’s Mayflies and Wendy Ogden’s The Importance of Singing. Michael Scott Thomson’s Green Door brings back memories of a time many years ago when I lived in a flat in Stockwell. We had neighbors just like Katie and Steve’s new neighbors Daz and Will.
I’m thrilled and proud that my submission made the final cut. I love fun, feel-good stories, so I decided to do my thing and leave the serious issues to writers better qualified to tackle them. I wondered about men and women whose career keeps them constantly on the move. I’m a sports fan. I love tennis, and I started to think about the life of a professional player. Many of today’s famous names began their career at a tennis academy, in an unfamiliar country, living there from their teens or even earlier. After that they make their way on the professional circuit, constantly travelling, often with very little money, frequently depending on sacrifice from their families. They grow up dealing with injuries and loneliness. If they’re successful the financial rewards are great, but if you asked a person like that to define ‘home’, what would they say? That’s what I decided to write about. I called my story Home Advantage, which is a term that describes the extra advantage sports players are believed to enjoy when playing at home.
Stories For Homes is available as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, where it has an average customer review rating of 5*. Please give it a try and get some good karma with your good reading this holiday season!
PS If you like the book, please spread the word: post on Facebook, tweet (hashtag #storiesforhomes), or tell your friends – whatever works for you! Reviews on Amazon would also be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much 🙂