A short story expert from Edge Hill University will argue that the ‘author matters’ during an international conference on this genre of writing.

Ailsa Cox, Reader in English and Creative Writing, is guest speaker at the two-day event on 8th and 9th April at the Université d’Angers, France, which she is helping to organise in collaboration with the CRILA short story research group.

This year’s theme is ‘the Figure of the Author in the Short Story in English’ and proposes to re-investigate the question of authorship through the lens of the short story, as the brevity of the genre and its emphasis on form seem to intensify an impression of authorial presence.

A number of literary authors and scholars, including Professor Charles E. May and writer Toby LItt, will examine the issue of authorial manifestations in the short story, including Ailsa, who will be presenting a paper on British writer Helen Simpson.

Helen Simpson is the author of five acclaimed short story collections and has a string of awards under her belt.  Her most recent collection Inflight Entertainment features on the long-list for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2011, which has just been revealed, and she is interviewed in a new journal edited by Ailsa, Short Fiction in Theory and Practice. Ailsa is currently writing a book about Simpson.

Explaining why she chose Simpson’s work to talk about at the international conference, Ailsa said: “I have studied Helen’s writing and her career for a long time as she is one of the most important British short story writers and has a lot to say about contemporary life. In my paper, I talk about her story The Festival of the Immortals, which takes place at an imaginary festival populated by dead writers. I talk about the connections between reading and writing; for example, most short story writers are also avid readers.  Despite the literary theory that the ‘author is dead’, people are more interested than ever in getting to knowing the ‘real life’ author. I’m a short story writer myself and I think the live author does matter.  This is what I’ll be arguing at the conference.”

The University is a leading player for its short story research and has a growing reputation in this subject matter both nationally and internationally, not only for its academic expertise but also for running the prestigious Edge Hill Short Story Prize.

This unique accolade, now in its fifth year, is the UK’s only literary award that recognises a published collection of short stories and which always attracts entries from a number of distinguished writers and newcomers.

Ailsa said: “We’re extremely proud to run this prize, which is so important for writers and indeed the future of the short story. This genre of writing is so accessible and so many people enjoy either reading or writing in this concentrated form. Although established writers still sometimes find it difficult to have this work published, there has been a surge in the number of independents publishing them, which is why I feel that its form is well equipped to survive the current economic climate. Long may it live.”