Felicity Castagna is the author of the short story collection Small Indiscretions: Stories of Travel in Asia (Transit Lounge, 2011) and The Incredible Here and Now (Giramondo, September 2013), which won the Prime Minister’s Literature Award for Young Adult Fiction in 2015. She has also edited several short story collections, her most recent being On Western Sydney. Find out more at www.felicitycastagna.net
What do you love about short stories?
I actually write in many different genres. In addition to a collection of short stories and a young adult novel, I’ve also written a novel for adults, which is coming out next year, and I’m co-writing the stage adaptation of The Incredible Here and Now for The National Theatre Company of Parramatta. I also write creative non-fiction and have had my work adapted for radio and TV. Despite writing in all these different genres I still consider myself to be fundamentally a short story writer. It’s the short story form, its focus on the small moment in time, its ability to explore a subject with such an intensity and brevity and its capacity to speak to larger themes by concentrating on smaller ones that underpins all my writing. If you pulled apart all my work you would find it’s really all made from short stories.
The perfect short story is…?
A moment in time that tells the story of something larger. The short story is less about plot and more about what can be said through implication, by mood and atmosphere. It’s more about the things that are not said. The limited space the form allows for enforces a preciseness with language and imagery and an intensity that you don’t always get in the novel. When it is perfect it is something that the reader wants to return to over and over again because they get some new experience from it every time.
Which short story writers do you admire? Which stories in particular?
There are so many different short story writers that all have something different to teach us. There’s a lot to learn about how short stories can be told in different and experimental forms from writers like Tom Cho in Look Whose Morphing Now and in Ryan O’Neill’s The Weight of a Human Heart. Angela Carter enables us to see the stories we already know in very different ways when she re-imagines the story of Lizzie Borden in ‘The Fall River Axe Murders’ or the story of Little Red Riding Hood in ‘The Company of Wolves.’ I would need another 100,000 words to tell you about all the short story writers I love – I’ve always got at least a couple of short story collections I’m reading in any given week!
Learn more from Felicity in Shaping the Short Story, an in-depth workshop happening over six Thursdays starting 18 February, 6:30-9:30 pm at the NSW Writers’ Centre.