Staying Afloat, the first anthology of short stories by Hull-based writer Sue Wilsea, has as its sub-text her experience teaching English in schools, colleges, prisons, libraries and community centres and this breathes life into her stories. She writes about lost children, bereaved children, struggling parents and struggling teachers with sincerity and a touch of humour.
I’ve chosen three of the 19 stories in Staying Afloat. You can read more of Wilsea’s stories in her second anthology, Raw Materials.
‘Shapes. Colours’ is the story of Stephen who loves his teacher Miss Anderson dearly but avoids her gaze every morning when she points to the thermometer chart and asks how everyone is feeling today. Stephen has a Worry that started “as just a tiny spider of anxiety, scuttling around in his head at night when he couldn’t sleep.” To avoid attention in class, Stephen usually chooses yellow or orange rather than a dark colour.
In ‘Two Ophelias and Me’, first published in QWF magazine, an unnamed narrator thinks of two friends, Lin and Lyndsey, who jumped off the Humber Bridge. “I like to think of their hair and clothes streaming out like twin Ophelias (the three of us went to see Hamlet once. I thought I wouldn’t understand a word and actually I didn’t, but it was brilliant all the same) as they drift down deep, deep onto the riverbed.”
‘Lost’ is a heart breaking story about loss and memory. It starts “I’d lost my mother and was therefore in somewhat of a tizz.” When her mother is not in her room at her care home or wandering around the garden, Alice takes to the streets to check her mother’s haunts. It is a short, poignant story with an unexpected ending.
The settings for Wilsea’s tales are primarily the North of England and East Yorkshire, her characters including a vicar who discovers his true vocation in his forties; and a schoolteacher whose mischievous and disruptive pupil uncannily echoes her own son. ‘Paper Flowers’ won a BBC radio competition and was read on air by Judi Dench.
Read more about Sue Wilsea’s writing here.
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
STAYING AFLOAT by @SueWilsea #shortstories https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3gu via @SandraDanby