‘Hardened Brides of the Lord’ by Lauren Van Schaik

All you need to know is that this is about a bunch of nuns in mediaeval France going bonkers for a litter of kittens – and that hysteria, and, inevitably, murder ensues. It’s comedy, it’s historical fiction, it’s satire: it’s got felines and feminism and perhaps best of all, an inspiring origin story: Lauren (whom I know) was feeling very down about her writing, and after a few rejections lacked the confidence to send even this belter out, so I offered to do it for her – that way, she wouldn’t have to hear about it again until she got an acceptance. I picked The Cincinnati Review because anything with Review in the title often indicates the three Ps of Prestige, Print and Payment – and a few months later a superb story of which she’d despaired not only appeared in a very respectable journal, but was named as an Other Distinguished Story in Best American Short Stories 2021. Also, I’m chuffed to have suggested the title: the previous working title, Cat Nuns, being too on the nose 😊

First published in The Cincinnati Review, June 2020, and named an ‘Other Distinguished Story in The Best American Short Stories 2021. Read an extract here

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