Short Story Secrets of the Modern Masters
Learn how the best short stories are really written...

Discover the secrets of great contemporary short story authors with author, editor and publisher Tom Conaghan, founder of Scratch Books, a new small press dedicated to the art of the short story.


A highly-rated writer, editor and teacher, Tom has interviewed many of the form’s modern masters on the craft of short story writing, including Ben Okri, Tessa Hadley, Wendy Erskine, Yiyun Li, Sarah Hall, Colin Barrett, Jessie Greengrass, Irenosen Okojie, Jon McGregor, Chris Power, Ronan Hession and George Saunders. His course draws on their insights, theories and advice and is aimed at both novice and experienced writers, offering a unique approach designed to enhance your understanding of the craft.


Learn the inspiration and process that authors have used to create their most famous short stories. Whether you have the seed for a story or are just ready to surprise yourself, this course will take you to the beating heart of the short story.


Dates: Tuesdays 6.30pm - 8pm April 19th - June 7th.

Location: Ink@84 Books, 84 Highbury Park, London N5 2XE

Fee: £225+VAT



This 8-week course will meet one evening per week in shop for ninety minutes and will be limited to 12 participants (with a minimum of 6). In addition to writing and analysing your stories, each week students will be asked to read a short story for discussion in class. Each participant will receive a copy of Reverse Engineering, the brand new story collection from Scratch Books, containing stories from Sarah Hall, Jon McGregor, Jessie Greengrass and others (included in the course fee). After the course finishes, Short Story Secrets of the Masters will culminate with a celebratory in-shop reading event at Ink@84 for family and friends where each participant will have an opportunity to share their work, should they desire.






Over the course of eight weeks, this course will aim to: 

  •  Allow you to find inspiration from within your own “white hot” unconscious: starting from the heart of inspiration, the unconscious, we will write and discover the voices, images and other senses that occur instinctively in us to glimpse the possible theme of our story.

  • Help you examine and shape your ideas while they are still molten.

  • Choose the most story-worthy aspect of our unconscious writing and develop it, looking into the story for its life and its truth.

  • Understand the diverse shapes of the story and choose the most appropriate structure to house our narrative.

  • Understand the importance and function of endings, and how to raise the ending to its ‘surprising but necessary’ conclusion.

  • Give you the tools to redraft and hone the story to be its best version, ensuring all technical aspects are working hard to make the story as rich and affecting as possible.

  • Learn what needs to be excluded to get to the essence of the story.

  • Learn how to make your sentences conjure your world and evoke a response from your reader with the bare minimum of narratorial input.






About the Tutor:

Tom Conaghan is the publisher of short story press Scratch Books. He is the prose editor at the literary journal, Bandit Fiction, as well as a short story judge with The Word Factory and at the US journal Story Magazine. He is a prize-winning and Pushcart-nominated short story writer as well as a London Library Emerging Writer 2022, and recently completed his MFA in Creative Writing. Prior to this, Tom taught English Literature in secondary schools. 


Read about Tom's new imprint Scratch Books in the Observer here.


Here’s what writers say about working with Tom Conaghan:

Tom made comprehensive, detailed and insightful comments on the opening of my manuscript. He understood what I was trying to achieve, his suggestions added polish, and I feel motivated to move on to the next stage with my project. -- Belinda B, The Love Cure, Virginia Prize for Fiction shortlistee, 2020


Thank you for being a fantastic editor, your suggestions made it so much better! -- Sarah D - Debut short story collection Flight Instinct, forthcoming 2022.

Tom is a fantastic teacher who possesses the rare ability of drawing out and nurturing the essence of a student’s work. He is a great listener, and his feedback is incredibly helpful. My work has benefited enormously from his careful attention.’ -- Katie B, author