A Brief Pause is a professional development programme for 20 short fiction writers and 12 female creative writing practitioners.

Writers will attend 12 two-hour online masterclasses, via Zoom, in fortnightly sessions, over a period of six months, which will take writers from draft to publication.

A monthly reading series, featuring guest speakers, will showcase new writing. Writers on the programme will also take part in the reading series to showcase their own writing and will have the opportunity to be published in the scheme’s anthology which will launch as part of Short Story September 2021.

A Brief Pause will be led by managing editor of Dahlia Books, Farhana Shaikh with support from The Literary Consultancy. The programme is funded by Arts Council England.

Masterclasses will be led by the following creative writing practitioners: Xanthi Barker, Susmita Bhattacharya, Rebecca Burns, Emily Devane, Melissa Fu, Divya Ghelani, Anita Goveas, Abi Hynes, Farhana Khalique, CG Menon, Mahsuda Snaith, and Alison Woodhouse.

There are twenty places on the scheme. 5 places are reserved for writers based in the Midlands.

The programme costs £120 which is a nominal fee to be returned once you have completed the scheme.

We will be awarding 5 bursary places for low-income writers from underrepresented backgrounds.


Please submit the following via email:

  • A short story sample (of up to 1200 words)
  • A biography and writing CV, including contact details
  • A covering letter of why you would like to join the scheme and how it will benefit your writing
  • If you are applying for a bursary place please include a short statement on how you qualify

Please submit your application via email with ‘A Brief Pause’ in the subject heading to Farhana Shaikh at f.shaikh@dahliapublishing.co.uk

The closing date for applications is midnight on 4 January 2021. All applications received by the deadline will be considered. Early applications are advisable.


The programme is open to un-agented writers who have not yet published a full-length work of fiction or non-fiction. Previously self-published writers may apply. You must be over the age of 18 and based in England.

The scheme is specifically designed to support the development of talented short fiction writers. You will need to show a commitment to the short form in your application.

Attendance to the masterclasses which will take place fortnightly via Zoom is mandatory. Sessions will take place on Saturdays between 3-5 pm from 16 January 2021.

Writers will be expected to complete a short story which will receive critical feedback from The Literary Consultancy, and be published as part of the scheme’s anthology.

If you would like to arrange an informal discussion about any aspect of the scheme or your suitability please contact Farhana Shaikh on f.shaikh@dahliapublishing.co.uk

Additional information:

The West Midlands region includes Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire and Shropshire. It includes cities of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Stoke on Trent and the borough Telford and Wrekin.

The East Midlands region includes Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Rutland. It includes cities of Derby, Leicester, and Nottingham.

Underrepresented backgrounds includes writers from socio-economically marginalised backgrounds, writers who come from LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) or BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) communities, or writers with a disability. 

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