Can it be the end of January already? Miserable Monday and Woe-Is-Me Wednesday have been and gone for another year – those dangerous days when our resolve disappears and we either pour a large glass of red or succumb to the online sales to cheer ourselves up. Random purchases such as a Turkish coffee grinder and a pair of blue faux-Doc Martens are winging their way to McFish Towers as we speak. Only a couple of books though. You might be surprised to hear that I no longer buy many books. Instead, I make the most of my local library. Not only does it save money, the pressure of having to finish each book by a deadline means I read faster and more often!

Having said that, I did receive a few in the post this week: the new short story collection, Altered Images, from my writer friend, Jo Derrick, a contributor’s copy of the latest Bath Flash Fiction Award anthology and three books which VP author, Wendy Beasley, kindly sent to me. The TBR pile is still a teetering ziggurat!

I’ve just finished reading Burntcoat by Sarah Hall and it was every bit as engaging as I hoped it would be. A dark and poetic novel about art, love, sex and death. What else is there?!

And I’ve just started the hot-off-the-press novel, Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor. It’s a huge book – and I’m usually a novella kind of girl – but it’s already got me hooked. India is a favourite place of mine and I’m already immersed in the novel’s contrasting and colliding worlds of obscene wealth, corruption, crime, and startling poverty.


No one has sent me any news to broadcast, so you’ll have to put up with mine!

I’ve had an acceptance for a short story this week, and it’s one which I’m really excited about! More will be revealed in due course.

I also have three new reviews for my forthcoming poetry collection (which is now available to pre-order!) to share with you this week. The full-length reviews can be found on my personal blog: but here are a few extracts:

“It’s magical.” Ralph Dartford, author of Hidden Music

“The writers I love the most really capture how it feels to be human; Huggins is one of them. If you think poetry isn’t for you, try reading this collection. Read slowly; read aloud to feel the words. Huggins proves that she is a writer with great emotional understanding and the technique to express it; her work is deep, beautiful and truthful, free from pretension.” Hannah Retallick, author and award-winning short story writer

“This poetry sparkles. I love the reflective quality which enabled me to re-experience the confusion or joy and spontaneity of youth. There are some absolute crackers including ‘out chasing boys’ which nails those heady days and ‘dizzy with it’ which captures the exuberance of the time. I highly recommend talk to me about when we were perfect. Treat yourself to a copy.” Gail Aldwin, author of The String Games and This Much Huxley Knows


Flames of Remembrance

The SearchTwo children of Holocaust survivors and two refugees from current genocide and oppression will read and discuss their work in an attempt to understand the legacy of the Holocaust.

Featuring acclaimed poets Jennifer Langer, Alireza Abis, Viv Vogel and Aziz Isa Elkun.

Exiled Ink are hosting this event at 49 Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3HZ on 31st January at 7pm.

Pay at the door or tickets through Eventbrite:


Writing Tips…

Last time, we looked at short story openings. But what about endings? Here is another extract from the second tutorial in my short story course, The Heart of the Short Story.

You could think of your story as a kite and the ending as the string, held tightly in your hand. Your story may fly off in any one of a number of directions, however it needs a great ending to anchor it down, to stop it from floating away without a satisfying resolution for the reader.

You may think it’s too soon to think about last lines when you’ve hardly begun a new story, however it’s useful to look at the finish line now, as it will help to inform you about how to write the rest. If you can identify what your story is about then you’ve found your ending, and sometimes you need to delve deep beneath what you’re writing to find out.

There are several types of ending:

The twist, or unexpected ending

‘The Necklace’ by Guy de Maupassant is a great example of a twist ending. The whip-crack ending turns the whole story upside down and changes the entire premise of the story in one single sentence.

Spoiler alert: It’s easy to find this story online, so don’t read on just yet if you don’t want to know the ending!

We think Mathilde spent ten years paying for her one night of pleasure, but at the end of the story we see that if only she had been honest with Madame Forestier, those ten years would have been unnecessary. The irony is compounded by the fact that we learn Mathilde has lost her youth and beauty as well as her previous lifestyle – now seemingly luxurious compared to what she has since endured – all for nothing.

As a writer you should bury the clues that lead to a final twist very carefully. A twist should never make the reader feel tricked or deceived, they should always feel their emotional commitment to your story has paid off. The twist shouldn’t de-value their investment, it should deepen it.

Have a read of ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson, and see how she builds up to the shocking ending with subtle signals. (NB: This is a link to The New Yorker, but as long as you haven’t gone over your limit of complimentary articles you should be able to read it.)

Implied ending

This is often the most tempting type of ending for the writer, but unless it’s handled well it can be the most frustrating for readers.

There is no conclusive end, nothing is spelt out or explicitly stated. This can be done either by withholding information or leaving open the possibility of multiple explanations or endings, leaving the reader to decide for themselves. They are then left with questions – ‘Did they or didn’t they? ‘Is the narrator lying?’ ‘Does that mean that this will happen, or will it be that instead?’

This technique is very effective as it creates a talking point and keeps the reader thinking about your story long after they’ve finished reading. Instead of ending the story, the last lines take us to a new place; a place where we can continue to think about all the ideas explored in the piece and figure out what it all meant. For a writer, this is gold dust; if your story sticks in the reader’s mind, if they have put in a little bit of thought to understand it, then they’ll seek out more of your work.

In my story, ‘All Stations to Edgware’, Eleanor has reluctantly travelled back to England after many years in India, still not entirely sure about the decision she has made to spend her final years in suburbia with her estranged son, Vinnie, a man she hardly knows. As she pulls up outside his house in a cab, she sees Vinnie approaching:

“A man walked down the street towards her, briefcase in hand, prematurely grey, hunched with disappointment. He turned in at the gate of number forty-three and her heart stopped. Vinnie. He paused, and bent down to pull up a bright, lone wallflower that had dared to grow in a crack in the driveway. Eleanor waited to see if he would hold the flower up to his nose and inhale the heady scent, but he lifted the lid of the wheelie bin and dropped it inside.

She leant forward towards the cab driver and tapped the glass screen.”

Has Eleanor tapped the screen because she wants the cabbie to drive off and take her back to the station, or because she has reluctantly accepted her fate and wants to pay him?

Tie Back Ending

With a tie-back ending, the story begins and ends in the same way. This could either mean returning to the beginning by echoing the same line in the first and last paragraphs, or it could mean the story comes full circle by starting and ending with a description of a central motif or symbolic item central to the piece. Both of these techniques will create a feeling of balance and equilibrium in your story.

Alternatively it could mean that the ending is revealed first. This will take away some of the suspense for a reader, so you need to be sure that your story has enough twists and surprises to pull it off.

A tie-back ending does have the advantage of allowing for a very focused method of writing, as it’s always easier to navigate your story if you already know where it’s going.

Happily Ever After – Explicit Ending

Better suited to longer stories and novels, an explicit ending ties everything up and gives the reader the answer to every important question. This type of ending is often considered the most satisfying for the reader, although personally I prefer to have to do some thinking of my own when I finish a story. Also, an explicit ending is harder to achieve satisfactorily when your story is only a couple of thousand words long.

Before I Go…

My word of the week is sprezzatura. This wonderful Italian word, created in the 16th century, is actually more than just a word, as it embraces an entire concept. It describes a kind of effortless grace – the art of not looking as though you’ve tried too hard – and was defined by its creator, Baldassare Castiglione, as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”

See you next time!

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