One of the short stories that I (will) carry with me. I wrote at length for Lunate about Yes Yes More More when it was published last year. ‘Rise Up Singing’ is a pivotal story in a debut collection that gathers together a small ‘cast’ of characters and follows them from school and over the next couple of decades or so. What do I like about it? I like how it’s generous enough to allow its characters to live on the page jeopardy-free. Even as its trim plot (on a hot summer afternoon in Bolton, we follow two teenage girls, Janey and Annie, from school to home, to club, and to home again) introduces Annie’s father right at the end, all he wants to do is have a quiet moment with the girls, rather than a fight. Which, at first, feels odd. It shouldn’t, of course, but I suspect Wood is motivated in part by aspiration. For her characters. For us all.
I revisit ‘Rise up Singing’’s joyous dialogue in my head on an almost daily basis. In testing moments now, both Han and I will say, “There’s no need for any of this”: a shared understanding that (I hope) pays tribute to the story’s opening scene where Claire places her head on the desk and whimpers that very line in an English Lit class as an ill-advised acid trip starts to take hold.
“We’re good girls,” Janey says to Annie as they sit on the kerb together on their way home. Sometimes that’s all you need from a story. Just wonderful. (GK)
Published in Yes Yes More More, The Indigo Press, 2021
I am trying to write about summers at the moment, in lots of my work the sky and the air have become really important, and one of the things that helps is Anna Wood’s collection because 1. It is brilliant and life affirming and reminds me of being young and wreckless and yet also just about safe. 2. Anna Wood can give you summer in about ten words, and it surrounds you completely.
This story is about some friends who have a night out, they take various risks which, from the other side of the page feel as though they could go wrong at any moment, but in fact are fine. They are fine, and it’s just so nice to know they are having a good time!
Published in Yes Yes, More More, Indigo Press, 2021
Summer in Anna Wood’s ‘Francine’ means festivals. It means pitching a tent and creating a base camp, going with the flow, drinking pints of cider and stretching out for a snooze on a shady patch of grass whenever the mood suits. A group of friends head to an unnamed festival for a long weekend of hedonism, and they throw themselves straight into the thick of it with henna tattoos and pitchers of cocktail, settling in for a weekend of music, dancing, and staying up all night. It’s idyllic, a playground for grownups. When a stranger pitches her tent on the fringes of their camp, it feels like an imposition, but keen to shed their ‘London snark’ and embrace the free-wheelin’ Glasto lifestyle, the group adapts to let the mysterious Francine into their circle. The brilliance of this story is that Francine doesn’t actually do anything: content to sit on a hay bale, she doesn’t seem to have any needs or desires of her own. Happy to accept cups of tea, flapjacks, joints and drinks, she takes from the group but gives them nothing but a bright smile in return, and this unnerving presence casts a shadow over the weekend. ‘Francine’ is the perfect summer short story, drenched in sunshine but simmering with tension.
Picked by Alice Slater. Alice is a writer from London. She’s co-host of literary podcast What Page Are You On? and writes about short stories for Mslexia. She edited the short story anthology Outsiders for 3 of Cups Press. You can read her individual Personal Anthology here.
First published in Outsiders, ed. Alice Slater, 3 of Cups Press, 2020