After the war her family moved to Hampstead, London, and eventually settled in Shoreham in Kent from where she attended Tonbridge Grammar School. Her writing career started with her winning a poetry competition in the Daily Mirror at the age of 16. After leaving school her first publication was a volume of two novellas, Dust Falls on Eugene Schlumburger/Toddler on the Run the following year.
She holds a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Literature and is also Honorary Visiting Professor at Middlesex University. In an interview with The Telegraph in 2004 Shena explained that she is synaesthetic and "sees words as colours", her own name is yellow.
- Dust Falls on Eugene Schlumburger/Toddler on the Run (1964)
- Music Upstairs (1965)
- Old Crow (1967)
- An Advent Calendar (1971)
- Babies in Rhinestones and Other Stories (1983)
- A Bowl of Cherries (1984)
- Redhill Rococo (1986)
- Dreams of Dead Women's Handbags (1987)
- Dunedin (1992)
- Such Devoted Sisters: An Anthology of Stories (1993) (editor)
- The Laughing Academy (1993)
- Collected Short Stories (1994)
- The Orchard on Fire (1995)
- Friendship: An Anthology (1997) (editor)
- The Artist's Widow (1998)
- The World's Smallest Unicorn and Other Stories (1999)
- Heligoland (2003)
- The Atmospheric Railway (2008)
- Dancing on the Outskirts: selected stories (2015)
Awards and nominations
- Fawcett Society Book Prize (1987) for Redhill Rococo
- Scottish Arts Council Book Award (1994) for Dunedin
- Booker Prize for Fiction (1996) (shortlist) for The Orchard on Fire
- Orange Prize for Fiction (2003) (shortlist) for Heligoland
- Whitbread Novel Award (2003) (shortlisted) for Heligoland
- "Bohemian rhapsodist". The Guardian. London. 10 July 1999. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- "A writer's life: Shena Mackay". The Daily Telegraph. London. 4 January 2004. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- Rachel Cooke, "It all began with Freud and Bacon...", The Observer, 9 November 2008.
- Reiner Luyken (19 October 2011). "Wo jeder Brite als Verräter gilt". Die Zeit (in German). Zeit-online. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- "Shena Mackay". ContemporaryWriters. Archived from the original on 8 April 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Bohemian Rhapsodist" - The Guardian, 10 July 1999.
- Helen Brown, "A Writer's Life: Shena Mackay", The Telegraph, 4 January 2004.
- Shena Mackay at British Council: Literature
- Ruth Thomas, "Shena Mackay Interview", Textualities, 2005.
- Rachel Cooke, "It all began with Freud and Bacon...", The Observer, 9 November 2008
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