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Terrific stories, strong voices, bold approaches. These pages provide a dense concentration of talent.” – David Eagleman


A compelling collection of 26 short stories and novel extracts make up this seventh issue of The Mechanics’ Institute Review. Hop a train through India or skulk round London’s red-light district. Work a shift at an old people’s home; rediscover the fairy tale of adulthood. From Swedish winter to African summer via wars virtual and real, these fictions render the everyday extraordinary and the incredible possible. So lose yourself in this celebration of voice and register. Find yourself in vibrant colourful worlds.



S. J. Ahmed was born in Saudi Arabia, brought up in Pakistan
and lives in England. Currently in the second year of an MA in
Creative Writing at Birkbeck, she was also one of the editors of The
Mechanics’ Institute Review Issue 6. She is currently working on a
novel and a collection of short stories.


Barbara Bleiman is deputy director of the English and Media Centre
and editor of emagazine, a quarterly magazine for A-level students.
She has had two short stories for children published and numerous
educational books and articles. She has completed the fi rst year of
the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck and is currently working on a
novel, with the working title Little Jackie.


Daniel Bourke is a newspaperman. He was born in 1977 in Aldershot,
Hampshire and has lived in Farnham, Surrey, in South Wales and
in South, East and North London.


Aaron Cox is an Australian-born writer who is working on a collection
of short stories. He is employed as a copywriter in an investment
firm. Following a long journey through South-East Asia, he moved
to London in 2002 where he lives with his wife and two children.


Emmanuella Dekonor is a Ghanaian-Londoner. She holds a degree in
economics and French and an MBA, and is currently studying for
the MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck. Emmanuella was shortlisted
for a Virago poetry prize in 1993 and is seeking representation for
her first novel.


Bernardine Evaristo’s books include Hello Mum, a Quick Reads
novella about teenage knife crime (Penguin 2010); Lara, a verse
novel about her family history (Bloodaxe 2009); Blonde Roots, a
novel in which Africans enslave Europeans (Penguin 2008); Soul
Tourists (Penguin 2005); and The Emperor’s Babe, a verse novel
about a black girl growing up in Roman London (Penguin 2001).
She has taught creative writing worldwide and been on over
seventy international writers’ tours. She has won several awards,
is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society
of Arts, and received an MBE for services to literature in 2009.


Cordelia Feldman wrote her first novel, a 900-page Jilly Cooper-style
romp, aged fourteen, and hammered out the first draft of her most
recent – In Bloom, a novel for young adults – in six weeks for a
competition. She works part time at an authors’ and actors’ agency,
and does media work for mental-health charities.


Charlie Fish was born in New York in 1980. He is editor of www., the longest-running short-stories site on
the web, where you can find many of his own stories. He is also
a screenwriter; he recently wrote The Man Who Married Himself
starring Richard E Grant.


Felicity Francis is a magazine editor and business journalist. She
is currently studying part time for the MA in Creative Writing
at Birkbeck. Outside of her day job she writes mainly fiction and
particularly enjoys bringing her love for travel and foreign cultures
into her stories.


Thwarted at an early age in her ambition to become an astrophysicist,
due to an utter lack of mathematical ability, Liz Fremantle went on,
driven by blind optimism, to abandon a perfectly good career in
fashion journalism and become a novelist. She lives in London.


Salena Godden has been published in a myriad of both mainstream
and art-house literary magazines and anthologies, including
Penguin’s IC3, Canongate’s Fire People, Serpent’s Tail’s Croatian
Nights, Hodder & Stoughton’s Oral & Dedalus’ The Decadent
Handbook. Springfield Road, a memoir of her childhood, will be
published in 2011. Salena hosts and produces The Book Club
Boutique, Soho’s hippest literary salon; works for First Story, a
charity that aims to celebrate and foster creativity and literacy in
young people; and is a regular guest on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday
Live programme, writing and performing poetry live on air.


Jules Grant was born in Scotland and brought up in Manchester,
where she eventually studied Law. She practised as a barrister in
Manchester and Brighton, where she now lives with her partner
and writes full time. Her short story 'We Go Around in the
Night and Are Consumed by Fire', about a gang of women in
the Manchester criminal underworld, is published on the Writers’
Hub and, as a podcast, on the writLOUD website. She has recently
completed a feature-length screenplay and is working on a
collection of short stories.


Alex Gravenstein is an artist living and working in London.

Nominated for the IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award
for his début novel, Show Me the Sky, and winner of the New
Writing Ventures prize for fiction, Nicholas Hogg has also had work
broadcast by the BBC. His second novel, The Hummingbird and the
Bear, is due for release in spring 2011.


Xavier Leret was brought up in Bristol. He has written a number
of plays and made two feature films. He is currently working
on a novel. He finishes Birkbeck’s Creative Writing MA in
September 2010.


George Lewkowicz is happiest performing his stories to music round
London under his pseudonym Superbard:
superbard. His arts collective, Tea Fuelled Art, runs a cabaret
evening in London, and has produced several short films. His first
degree was in mathematics and statistics, and he still thinks of
himself as a scientist.

John Lucas is a writer based in South-East London. He is a student
on Birkbeck’s Creative Writing MA. His articles have appeared on He is currently editing his first novel, about psychosis
and reality TV, while working on his second. He is a confirmed


Born in Moss Side Manchester, Sadie McKenzie has been writing
fiction since childhood. She is a Mental Health and Addictions
professional, and a student on Birkbeck’s Creative Writing MA.
She is completing her first novel, My Father’s Daughter, about a
woman who inherits a homicidal legacy.


Romanian by birth, Swedish by upbringing and Londoner by
choice, Mihaela Nicolescu has rootlessness at the heart of her writing.
She also enjoys quite a bit of sex and violence (in her work). She
has been published in a number of magazines, including Mslexia
and The New Writer, and is currently working on a collection of
short stories for a kind publisher.

Hannah Parry originally trained as a nurse at King’s College London,
but started writing after her daughter was born. She is currently on
the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck, and is working on a historical
adventure novel for children of eleven plus.

Tamara Pollock was a member of the editorial team of The Mechanics’

Institute Review Issue 6. Her story 'Jules' was broadcast by BBC
Radio 4 in January 2010. She is currently working on her first novel.
She lives in London with her husband and three children.

David Quéva was born in northern France. He started learning English
at the age of twelve and moved to London in 1998. He is currently
working on a collection of short stories in which Gaulish myths,
Roman history, childhood trauma and death are interwoven into
a tapestry where boundaries between imagination and reality are
often blurred.

Elizabeth Sarkany has an MA in Creative Writing (distinction) from
Birkbeck. She has had stories shortlisted for the Bridport Prize,
Speakeasy and Coast-to-Coast and longlisted for Fish. One has been
broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and several others published in literary
magazines and anthologies. She was a doctor once, now teaches
creative writing in the lifelong-learning sector and is working on a
collection of short stories.

John Ralston Saul is an award-winning author and the President of
International PEN. He is perhaps best known for his philosophical
trilogy: Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West,
The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense
and The Unconscious Civilization. His latest book is The Collapse of
Globalism and the Reinvention of the World.[LINEBREAK]


Laura Tapsfield graduated from Queen Mary, University of London
with a first-class degree in English literature and is currently
studying on the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck. She writes short
stories, screenplays and has just started work on a novel.[LINEBREAK]


Stephen J. Vowles was born in Hanover, Germany in 1955 whilst his
father was serving with the British Army. In 2009 he retired from
the City where he spent over two decades trading in European
equities. A student on Birkbeck’s Graduate Certificate in Creative
Writing, he has read at writLOUD; 'The Long Way Home' is his
first published work. He moves on to the Writing for the Media
MA at Bournemouth University in September 2010.

David Foster Wallace wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The
Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews
with Hideous Men and Girl with Curious Hair. His non-fiction includes
the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing
I’ll Never Do Again and the non-fiction books This is Water and
Everything and More. His posthumous novel The Pale King will be
published by Hamish Hamilton in April 2011. He died in 2008.

Katherine Woodrow spent a year working in Northern Transvaal,
South Africa though the inspiration for her story 'Beside the
Yellowwood Tree' was the owner of a bicycle shop in Fulham.
Katherine is currently studying creative writing at Birkbeck. She

was born in Kenya and now lives in London.

The Mechanics’ Institute Review

Issue 7 Autumn 2010


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


ISBN 978-0-9547933-7-1


Essay “Concrete Expressions” © John Ralston Saul, 2010

The New Examiner” © 2009 The David Foster Wallace Literary Trust

Contents © the individual Authors, 2010

Holland” is indebted for its eponymous metaphor to “Welcome to Holland” © 1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley

Cover image and illustrations © Alex Gravenstein, 2010


Cover quotation: “Whatever you dream you can do begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


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: Sue Tyley


Editorial Team: Farzana Ahmad, Alan Baban, Valeria Melchioretto, Catherine O’Connor, Esther Poyer, Rhiannon Smith, Rachael Withers


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, Department of English and Humanities, School of Arts, Birkbeck, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 0203 073 8372. Email:




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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