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MIR  Editors
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Either brand new or previously unpublished in the UK, the short stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Russell Celyn Jones, Peter Ho Davies and Richard Milward will leave readers longing for more. Alongside these fantastic contributors are 22 edited stories by some of the most talented writers on the Creative Writing programme at Birkbeck, University of London, and a preface commissioned specifically for MIR6 from Jean McNeil.

          This stunning collection continues to confirm The Mechanics’ Institute Review as an important source of emerging writers. Around every corner are fresh, new voices; writers taking their imagination in fascinating directions.

          In these tales, moments of birth, death and redemption are dissected and stark revelations extracted. A cabbie’s philosophy about love, releasing a mother’s ashes, the shadowy legacy of war and the search for that elusive blue Smartie all feature in this vibrant anthology. From breakfast in the Bisti Badlands to night-fishing for girls in Split, each story reveals a different view of human frailty and its consequences.

          This issue also features a range of beautifully typeset quotations about the art of writing.



Anna Ackland grew up in north Essex. She taught English as a foreign language in Spain and Japan. While teaching creative writing, she started to write herself. Since then, she has performed a comic piece at the Greenbelt Arts Festival, and is now working on a collection of poems and stories about trees.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria. She is the author of two novels, Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, and is the recipient of a 2008 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Her story collection The Thing Around Your Neck was published in April 2009 by Fourth Estate.


Anna Baggaley graduated from Bristol University with a BA in English and Drama. After a brief stint of globetrotting, she began a career in publishing. Currently working in the editorial department of a world-famous romance publisher, Anna lives in South London and enjoys reading, eating cake and being right.


Thea Bennett is a writer and actress, and divides her time between Northamptonshire and London. She has published two novelisations of children’s TV serials, and enjoys reading her short stories at writLOUD. “Ember” forms part of the novel she is currently working on.


Emily Cleaver has had work published in Smoke and One Eye Grey magazines, performed at the live fiction events Liars’ League, Tales of the DeCongested and writLOUD, and is working on a collection of stories set in Victorian London. She works in a second-hand bookshop on Charing Cross Road.


Peter Ho Davies is the author of a novel, The Welsh Girl, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and two story collections, The Ugliest House in the World and Equal Love. One of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, he currently teaches in the US.


K. K. Dayal lives in London. Her work has featured in the 2003 Serpent’s Tail anthology Kin. She is currently working on a novel.


Jon Elsom was born in Southampton and lives in London. He is a creative director in a large advertising agency. “The Other Side of Anything” is his third piece of published fiction and is an extract from the novel of the same name, on which he is currently working.


Richard English is a British Academy Award-winning researcher who writes for Rocks Backpages. His publications include Living with Hepatitis C (1997) and Coping Successfully with Hepatitis C (2000). For 2009, he is the recipient of a grant from Arts Council England (Literature) to complete his novel Sunrise with Sea Monsters.


Sue Gedge has twice read at writLOUD. Her first novel, The Practical Woman’s Guide to Living with the Undead, can be read on She has contributed a short story to the Romantic Novelists’ Association anthology Loves Me, Loves Me Not, published in autumn 2009 by Mira Books.


You’re Listening to Paul Power” is an extract from the novel of the same name, Graham Hodge’s first book about a primetime radio DJ who wants to make amends – on air. Graham has a BA in Modern Languages from Merton College, Oxford and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. He is thirty-five and has a family, a mortgage and a day-job in the music industry.


Joanna Ingham writes fiction, poetry and drama. She was a runnerup in the BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year Competition 2008. Joanna works part time at The Women’s Library running education projects, primarily with young women. She also facilitates poetry and scriptwriting workshops in a range of settings including schools and day centres for older people.


Kavita Jindal’s short stories, poems and articles have been widely published in literary journals, anthologies and newspapers. Her poetry collection Raincheck Renewed was published to critical acclaim by Chameleon Press in 2004. Kavita was born in India and currently lives in London. Selected work can be read on


Russell Celyn Jones is the author of Soldiers and Innocents, which won the David Higham Prize, Small Times, An Interference of Light, The Eros Hunter, Surface Tension and Ten Seconds from the Sun. He has taught at the universities of Iowa, East Anglia and the Western Cape, South Africa, and currently runs the Creative Writing Programme at Birkbeck, University of London. His retelling of one of the stories in the Welsh folktale collection The Mabinogion, from which “Lord of Dyfed” is an extract, will be published by Seren in October 2009.


Chris Lilly was born in 1953, and moved to East London in 1977. He teaches in Tower Hamlets and lives on the Isle of Dogs. He started writing again after a twenty-year break for children. He is currently in the second year of the Birkbeck Creative Writing Certificate course.


Mary Irene Masaba writes children’s stories. A teacher and a newsreader for Radio Uganda/Uganda Television, she relocated to the UK in the 80s and worked as an outreach worker. She was a runner-up in the T. S. Eliot International Short Story Competition 2007. “Loving Relatives” is from a novel in progress.


Jean McNeil is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada. She is the author of Hunting Down Home, Nights in a Foreign Country, Private View and The Interpreter of Silences. A novel set in Antarctica, The Ice Lovers, will be published in September 2009. She lives in London.


Richard Milward was born in Middlesbrough in 1984. He is the author of two novels, Apples (2007) and Ten Storey Love Song (2009), both published by Faber, receiving accolades from such folk as Irvine Welsh and Lauren Laverne. He is currently working on the screenplay for Apples, as well as a new novel. A recent Fine Art graduate of Byam Shaw School of Art, Richard has been known to read from his novels with a hand-painted mask on his bonce.


Born in northern France in the 70s, David Quéva has been teaching modern foreign languages for the last seven years. He started learning English at the age of twelve and moved to London in 1998. His writing reflects his French background and his interests include the supernatural and world literature. He is currently working on a collection of short stories.


Josh Raymond is a rowing coach. His short stories have appeared in The Mechanics’ Institute Review Issue 5 and Tales of the DeCongested Volume 2, and he sometimes writes book reviews for the TLS.


Lesley Saunders was born in south-east London. She has worked as a journalist on the Mail on Sunday, the Evening Standard, and a national newspaper in Ghana, West Africa. Her other passion is music, and she currently writes classical reviews, in between working on her second novel.


David Savill lived and worked in Hungary, Bosnia and Georgia before joining the BBC as a documentary programme maker. His short stories “Death in the Family” and “Table Rock Lake” are published by Tindal Street Press. He works as a visiting lecturer in creative writing at the University of East London. David is completing his first novel, The Last Days of David Hasselhoff, from which “Free Country” is an extract.


Moira Sharpe works as a student adviser in a big adult education college in central London. She was born in York but has lived in Hackney long enough to feel like a Londoner. She is currently studying on Birkbeck’s Creative Writing Certificate course and is working on a collection of short stories.


Originally from Western Australia, M. L. Stedman lives in London. Her stories have been published in the anthologies Desperate Remedies and Tales of the DeCongested Volume 1. “Notes of Experiments on Mice and Other Mammals” is from her collection Outsiders Within. She is now writing a novel.


Margi Williams is a southern California native who spent 2008-09 in London, writing and learning about life on the other side of the pond. She hopes to return to the UK permanently some day, but for now she is working on her first novel back under the California sun.


Maggie Womersley completed the Birkbeck MA in Creative Writing in 2007. Her first novel, Eddie Bain’s House of Horrors, tells the story of a young family who discover a human skeleton under their garden shed. Maggie lives in London with her husband and son.


Carol Wong grew up in Victoria, Canada, and lived and worked in Vancouver before relocating to London in 2003. She completed the Birkbeck MA in Creative Writing in 2009. “The Cousins” is from a work in progress, a collection of linked short stories.

 The Mechanics’ Institute Review
Issue 6 Autumn 2009

The Mechanics’ Institute Review is published by MA Creative Writing, School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HX

ISBN 978-0-9547933-6-4

Foreword © Jean McNeil, 2009
Contents © the individual Authors, 2009
Cover image © Ron Erwin / Getty Images

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without prior permission.

Project Director: Julia Bell

Editorial Team: S. J. Ahmed, Ingrid Glienke, Jacqueline Haskell, Caroline Macaulay, Tamara Pollock, Deirdre Shanahan, Sarah Walcott

The Editorial Team would like to thank Russell Celyn Jones, Julia Bell, Sue Tyley and Anne-Marie Taylor for making this project possible.

For further copies or information, please contact Anne-Marie Taylor, MA Creative Writing, School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7079 0689.

Printed and bound by Antony Rowe Ltd., Bumpers Farm, Chippenham, Wiltshire

Cover design and typesetting by Raffaele Teo

The Mechanics’ Institute Review is typeset in Book Antiqua



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