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Staying Afloat

Sue Wilsea

'Two of my friends have jumped off the Humber Bridge now, so it’s a kind of special place for me.'

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Sue Wilsea's witty, devastating and resonant short stories have been delighting readers for two decades, and built her reputation as one of Hull's foremost modern storytellers. Staying Afloat collects nineteen of her finest tales, of men, women and children, as they attempt to count their blessings, find their way, and keep their heads above water...

Always heart-breakingly recognisable, Sue's characters (whatever their moral standing) are also endlessly fascinating; their inner selves established from line one, but frequently never fully understood until the story's end – sometimes, not even then. Highlights include Stephen facing his mother's death, his father's insanity and 'Circle Time'; the unnamed narrator contemplating what led two of her friends to jump off the Humber Bridge; and Dick the Vic, whose unlikely adventures lead him from the ministry to a club known only as 'The Dirty Habit' – a story which must be read to be believed.

Sue's mastery of humour and drama will keep you entertained through every sentence, and with happy endings facing an equal team of less-than-happy, the book will keep you hooked until the very last word – which is, appropriately enough, 'maybe'.

'Sue’s sympathy for characters is, I think, to be found in some of the greatest short stories.'
— Daphne Glazer

‘Sue Wilsea’s writing is always sharp and enjoyable ... I am very glad to see her intriguing stories coming into print.’
— Romesh Gunesekera

'A tender journey into vulnerable yet beautiful lives ... delicate stories that open up bright worlds.'
— Martin Goodman


Sue Wilsea was born in Portsmouth in 1952, and now lives in East Yorkshire. During the last thirty years she has taught English in schools, colleges, libraries, community centres, prisons, and at present, on the part-time Creative Writing degree at the University of Hull.

Her writing has been widely published, broadcast and performed, and her accolades include being one of nine writers labelled ‘New and Gifted’ by the Jerwood/Arvon Foundation in 2010. She has won a BBC radio competition for multi-episode short stories, and been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

Her first collection of short stories, Blood Sisters, was published by Stone Creek Press in 1993, but is now out of print. July 2012 saw the Valley Press publication of her long-awaited second collection, Staying Afloat, which contained many new stories along with a few classics back in print, subtly updated since their earlier incarnation – for example in the final piece, ladies who talked about "double glazing and microwaves" now discuss "solar panels and organic veg boxes".

A new collection, Raw Material, is due in November 2016.


Edition: Paperback

Date Published: 2012-07-02

ISBN: 9781908853127

Catalogue Number: VP0030

Number of Pages: 160

Cover design by Jamie McGarry

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