Short Stories

Swallowed by a Whale

In this specially-commissioned anthology, sixty accomplished authors share secrets and insights into their writing lives: on their inspirations, methods, wild ideas and daily routines; on the pleasure and the pain in achieving their literary goals; on how they started out and how they hope to continue. They outline some golden rules for staying on track and talk candidly about what goes wrong as well as right. 

We hear from novelists, poets, biographers, and children’s writers; illustrators, campaigners, teachers, mothers, husbands, an entrepreneur turned surfboard shaper, a quantum physicist, an opera librettist, and a Laureate who loves dragons. All writers. We have emerging talents in our team alongside much-loved authors whose books have sold in millions.

Each reflects in their own way on the creative process and the compulsion to write.
How to find inspiration? How to get the words right? How to cope with writer’s block? How to handle bad reviews? How to become a better reader? Pencil or computer? Inside or out? And where do the good ideas really come from?

Swallowed by a Whale includes contributions from: Kwame Alexander, Anthony Browne, Cressida Cowell, Isabelle Dupuy, Inua Ellams, Lev Grossman, Joanne Harris, Catherine Johnson, Thomas Keneally, Neal Layton, David Mitchell, Beverley Naidoo, Chibundu Onuzo, Chris Riddell, Francesca Simon, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Raynor Winn and many more.

The Book of Hopes

In difficult times, what children really need is hope. And in that spirit, bestselling author Katherine Rundell emailed some of the children’s writers and artists whose work she loved most:

This collection, packed with short stories, poems and pictures from the very best children’s authors and illustrators, aims to provide just that. Within its pages you’ll find animal friends from insects to elephants, high-flying grandmas, a homesick sprite, the tooth fairy, and even extra-terrestrial life.

There are 133 contributions from authors and illustrators, including Anthony Horowitz, Axel Scheffler, Catherine Johnson, Jacqueline Wilson, Katherine Rundell, Lauren Child, Michael Morpurgo and Onjali Q. Raúf. A donation from the sale of each book will go to NHS Charities Together, in gratitude for the incredible efforts of all those who worked in hospitals over the quarantine period.

“When Anna Bailey’s mother was killed by an incendiary bomb, nobody knew what to do with her.”

Anna Bailey

My story is a rather fey story about a girl who encounters a mysterious stranger who is not all that he seems.

Mystery and Mayhem

‘Mystery and Mayhem’ is an anthology of mystery stories for 9-12-year-olds, including stories by Robin Stevens, Frances Hardinge and Caroline Lawrence. I loved writing my story for this anthology – although I felt a bit cheeky about being included, since the only book I’ve written which is even slightly detective-ish is An Island of Our Own.

“We finished sticking the stamps on the letters and sat staring at them in gloom. Being a ’tec were a lot harder than Sexton Blake and Nelson Lee made it look. I were beginning to think them ’tecs in stories had an awful lot of luck. They was always stumbling across pages from important letters, or walking past an open window, just exactly when the murderer were discussing something revealing with his accomplice.”


When a valuable necklace goes missing from Mr Mathieson’s safe, the evidence points to kind Mr Conrad. But office boys Arnold, Stanley and Billy are sure he’s innocent. Can they find the real thief before it’s too late?

Set in 1921, this is a how-dunnit rather than a who-dunnit – how did a thief manage to open a locked safe without knowing the combination?

I got the idea for this story from a book called ‘Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman?’ about nuclear physicist and amateur safe-cracker, Robert Feynman. I won’t tell you how the thief opens the safe, but I will tell you that using this method, Robert Feynman managed to break into about a third of the high-security top-secret filing cabinets at the Manhatten Project – where physicists were trying to build the world’s first nuclear bomb.

War Girls

‘War Girls’ is an anthology of stories for young adults about young women in the first world war. It includes stories by four Carnegie medallists, and follows the adventures of nurses, farm-girls, singers, ambulance drivers and even snipers!

I thought I knew all about the First World War. Boys dying in muddy fields in France. ‘Remember me when I am gone away’, and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori’. War memorials in market squares, and the names of the dead on the walls of churches. I’d never thought about the women, except possibly the nurses, in war films, in long skirts and hats with crosses on them.

‘Going Spare’

When I was asked to write a story for ‘War Girls’ I knew I wanted to write about the ‘spare women’ leftover after the Great War. In 1918, there were two million more women than men in Britain, who had to make lives for themselves without a husband. These women became pioneers, campaigning for pensions, university degrees, equal pay and entry into professions such as engineering which had been closed to them. My story is about those women.


Next? is an anthology of stories for teenagers about the afterlife. When I was asked to contribute a story, I knew I didn’t want to write something fantastical. I wanted to write about a young person for whom the afterlife is a real and pressing problem now.

“Pretty much everyone I love is going straight to burning hell, so sometimes I wonder why I’m trying so hard to get into heaven.”

The Fallen

My story, The Fallen, came from two places. From my mother, who is a teaching assistant, wondering what to say to a little girl who told her, “All the girls in my class are going to hell, because they don’t wear the veil.” And from a family friend who is a vicar, talking to a parishioner whose brother had killed himself. “I don’t want to go to heaven,” she told him, “If my brother isn’t there.”

WOW! 366: Speedy Stories in just 366 words

Wow! 366 is an anthology of 366-word-long stories published to raise money for Childline. Full of stories short enough that even the most harassed parent or teacher can find time to read one, it includes work by Geraldine McCaughrean, Roald Dahl, and even Gordon Brown!

“He was small and pink-eyed, with white fur and a pink tail that curled around Narinder’s coloured pencils.”

Sally wrote Narinder’s Mouse as part of this collection of stories. 

Make More Noise

An incredible collection of brand new short stories, from ten of the UK’s very best storytellers, celebrating inspirational girls and women, being published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the UK. 

“Each story, written by a star-studded list of contributors, including well-known, award-winning and new voices in children’s literature, celebrates strong female characters, with subjects ranging from the ’43 Group to modern ghost stories.”

£1 from the sale of every book will be donated to Camfed, an international charity which tackles poverty and inequality by supporting women’s education in the developing world.