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We’ve been nominated!

‘Five Days to Polling Day’, a story by Danielle McLaughlin, originally published in issue 8 of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR in December 2013, has been shortlisted for the 2014 Short Story of the Year Award. The winner will be announced at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards on 26 November.

Danielle joins award-winning Irish writers John Boyne, Christine Dwyer Hickey, Ciarán Folan, Frank McGuinness and Donal Ryan on the shortlist. Her debut collection of stories will be published in 2015 by The Stinging Fly Press, of which John Murray (UK) and Random House (US) have bought the rights, along with her first novel. She was nominated for this prize last year too and was recently published in the New Yorker.

Meanwhile, we at THE SOUTH CIRCULAR find ourselves in the company of the Irish Times, New Island Books, the O’Brien Press and the London Magazine as publications included in the shortlist which the founder of, Vanessa O’Loughlin, says features ‘both stellar names in the world of Irish Fiction as well as new and exciting emerging voices. Just like last year, this is a shortlist to watch.’


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Editor’s note issue 7

It’s that time of year again: school’s back. Little people are taking one of their many steps towards becoming hopeful, positive contributors to this world. For the healthy and watched-over, theirs is a compact world, punctured only occasionally by unfamiliar adults, places or impulses. For the neglected, it’s a constant confusion of adults, places and impulses. Most will make it. Somewhere along the line, the difference between success and failure will be marked by a simple choice between doing and not. For the others: the dim, the doughy, the unheard and the unseen, that choice will never present itself.

I will admit that this was not on my mind when I began to read the submissions for issue 7. But it’s true the stories that slid out of the pile and were labelled ‘promising’ are tales of children and adults who know that something is up. These are not stories of humdrum innocence ruined by epiphany. Jonathan Gibbs‘, Krishan Coupland‘s, Shane Mac an Bhaird‘s and Hila Shachar‘s characters know they have the choice to seek another way of being in their world. Innocence has no room here. Rather, their natural irreverence for the sham of a ‘real world’ they encounter might allow them to move through it protected. These stories beckon the reader to imagine their fates after the last line.

While choosing these stories I came upon a story by Sylvia Townsend Warner: ‘The Children’s Grandmother ‘. It is a story in which the sub-narrative (the terrible deaths of six of the grandmother’s seven own children) distracts the reader in their summation of her present handling of her grandchildren. Colm Tóibín says that by the time this gothic tale begins, these deaths have happened so long ago that there is the assumption that the grandmother is ‘out of character’ for much of the story. In her mind though, the grandmother has chosen to deal with grief in a way so spectacularly robust that in her final words, she can pity her daughter-in-law who, she believes, has the worse fate of seeing her children grow up and leave her.

They say life is all about how you choose to meet it.

When it came to deciding the medium of the cover of issue 7, I knew I wanted to commission a photograph. When I thought of bright and promising photographers on my radar, Philip White‘s name had been on my long-list for some time, having been introduced to me nearly two years ago by Richard Gilligan. And then I saw Philip’s photographs of Irish musicians Mmoths and Orquesta for Thread magazine’s fifth issue and my hunch became a hunt. The starkness, nay bare-facedness, of his portrait of Clare reveals the kind of confidence, conviction and haunting vulnerability exquisite in the very young and the very brave.

For me, Philip’s photograph is a near-perfect calling card for the kind of written work we at THE SOUTH CIRCULAR strive to bring you every quarter.


Aoife Walsh


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Editor’s note issue 6

Cover issue 6 June 2013 (detail) © Hannah Doyle,

In the aftermath of the party we threw for THE SOUTH CIRCULAR’s first birthday, a familiar vapour of uncertainty began to parade around my workspace and I began to doubt. Again. For with the affirmation, the highs of the live readings, the sugar rush of the cake my sister had baked and the comedown, I wondered ‘Is that it?’ and ‘Is that all we had to do to get to this point?’

Something happened here. In your life there are a few places, or maybe only the one place, where something happened, and then there are all the other places.

In Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro resists calling this happening a ‘moment’ but here I will throw the words catalysis, catharsis and chrysalis at you and trust that your imagination will bring you to such happenings as you have known in your own life. When the before and after are so clearly defined that you cannot believe or accept that either state relates to the same life or you, the same person.

But by avoiding such hackneyed terms, Munro shows that what constituted a life is often only the result of fabrication in hindsight and known after the event. Fiction is this creation before.

We consider the four stories (by Seán Kenny, Helen Chandler, Pierce Gleeson and Tim Smyth) in issue 6 of THE SOUTH CIRCULAR to be about such happenings, confidently executed with singular voices and employing a tingling tension inside the ordinary. This tension is possible in fiction, when a tale is told with imperfect detail and the reader addresses at once the quotidian as well as the irresistible pull of change. Because we cannot draw the arc in our own lives in advance, we find in these stories that happening which does, someplace else, for someone else, at some other time.

Overt or not, the happenings of these stories set an image, a sense, a sign for the next time we glimpse animals in a field, kiss the wrong person or take a job we never wanted.

And the process used by our long-time collaborator, Hannah Doyle, to create her cover perfectly mirrors the register of at least one of the stories in this issue: ‘A moment passes and nothing has changed, or maybe it has changed dramatically, only for us to see. The window was painted on wood with spray paint, gouache and acrylic, then literally dragged through a thorny field. The dots are vinyl composed on clear acetate, and the text was written on a steamy window and digitally cut-out. Everything was then layered in Photoshop. This is how I usually work: get an idea, gather imagery, draw, paint, sculpt, experiment, photograph. Through trial and error, and trial again, things happen.’

By mentioning ‘other places’, Alice Munro faces the fact that life goes on and what once was sacred to you is now in the hands or heart or mind of another. So after our party we got up and began work on this issue almost immediately and we turned again to Object Lessons: the Paris Review presents the art of the short story. We listened to New Yorker fiction podcasts and we took notes when Jon Hamm spoke to Pete Holmes about curiosity, certainty over arrogance and becoming undeniable. And we took heart from points made in Art and Fear and decided that no, that’s not all we had to do to get to this point. For you our readers, we’ll work now and draw the arc later.

Aoife Walsh