Tag Archives: Woman’s Weekly

Why this might be my last short story

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You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d abandoned writing altogether, given the lack of recent blog posts. This isn’t the case, and apologies for the radio silence, but two linked events have prompted this post.

The first is the publication of my latest short story in the current issue of Woman’s Weekly. Now, I’ve written for WW for over five years, and during that time they’ve published some stuff I’m really proud of. Some may knock the woman’s magazine market, but I’ve always been of the opinion that WW has allowed writers a little more freedom in terms of subject matter and depth than some of the other magazines, particularly in their Fiction Specials, so I’ve always enjoyed writing for them.

This week though, there’s been outcry in the womag writing community after Time Inc, who now own WW, changed their contracts to bring their fiction acquisition in line with their other freelance material (non-fiction, photographs etc.). New contracts will be issued on an all-rights basis meaning that any fiction writer whose work appears in the magazine will have no further rights to their own story. In the past, after 18 months you could submit your story elsewhere or publish it yourself (as I’ve done with my collection The Camel in the Garden for instance). More importantly, the story still belonged to you in both the moral and legal sense.

 

“Symptoms” was accepted months ago under the old contract, hence my copyright is intact. In the past, I have sold a few stories on an all-rights basis (one of which was very early on when I was young and particularly dim. I didn’t even keep a copy of the story – and I never managed to get hold of a printed copy either, so that story is well and truly gone – all these years later, I can’t even remember the title or what it was about, save it was an equine-themed one). If you’re a writer starting out, and it’s your first sale, then I guess you might be so happy to see your work in print you might not mind about the rights issue. But for me, I’m afraid I won’t be making any future submissions to Woman’s Weekly as at stands, which makes me feel rather sad. We can but hope there will be a change of heart at Time Inc head office, but I very doubt it.

If you want to read more about the situation, Simon Whaley has written a comprehensive article on his blog here and there’s plenty of discussion about the issue on social media at the moment. If you have anything to add, please feel free to comment below.

 

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Write What You Know

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Oh, that old chestnut!  Much maligned advice in the writing world these days.  Don’t just stick to what you know, they say, push your boundaries.  Well, sometimes I grant you, that’s the way to success.  But personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing on subjects which are near and dear to you.  God – or the Devil (take your pick) – is in the detail, after all.

My first writing success was a short story in PONY magazine back in the day (the day being sometime in 1990 – though the story had been accepted about 18 months previously – writing teaches you nothing if not grim patience!).  I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d done everything right with that first submission.  I knew my market inside out (I was a long-time subscriber to the magazine and an avid reader of pony books of any kind).  I was writing just the kind of story they were looking for.  Unfortunately, it took me a long time to realise how I’d come to be successful with this magazine, and to be able to emulate that success with others.

Roll on 25 years, and lo and behold – I have another horse story in print!  This time in the current Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special.

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And in the intervening years, I’ve acquired two beautiful ponies of my own.

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So I count myself very lucky to have two great joys in life – writing and horses – and especially lucky that they mix so well! 😉

Revisions, revisions!

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Apologies for the lack of posts recently.  I wish I could say it was because I was busily working on a great new writing project, but I’m afraid it’s my usual summer dip when hay making and horses take priority.

But that’s not to say that there’s not been a bit of scribbling going on in the background.  In fact, one piece in particular has been occupying a considerable amount of my writing and re-writing time, and that is a story I originally sent to Woman’s Weekly back in May.  The story itself started life last year when I had an idea for a scenario, but couldn’t decide from which character’s point of view it should be written.  I experimented with several different voices before settling on one which seemed right for the piece, but the storyline refused to develop, so I put the whole thing away for a while to concentrate on other projects.  In the spring, I re-read the beginning, liked it and wanted to push it to a conclusion.  I finished a first draft, ran it past one of my local writers’ groups for feedback, and made some amends – then sent it off.

The good people at WW said, “We like it, but…”  They listed a few things they had issues with, and asked me to take another look.  So I took another look and sent it back.  The amends I made threw up some more queries from the WW team, so back to the keyboard I went.

This time, I made some more fundamental changes, and ran the re-written piece past the long-suffering people at Writers’ group yet again.

WW said there were still some problems.  But I was impressed that at this stage they didn’t simply say, “Do you know what, Jenny, just forget it!”

I waited a bit, pondering various amends and additions as I stacked hay or mucked out!  I concentrated on the end section of the story where the main problems seemed to lie.  The thing was, despite all the extra work, I loved my characters – I wanted them to make it, to exist on the printed page.

I developed, re-wrote and amended.  By now the story had expanded considerably.  I worried it might now be too long and unwieldy.  But there was nothing obvious to cut.  So I sent it off again.

And waited.

By now I had convinced myself that, despite the faith of the WW team, and all my work on it, this story was fundamentally flawed.  I fretted about other issues they might raise with the new, new version.  In my mind, I think I’d almost written it off.

So it was with absolute joy that I received an acceptance email this week!  Although it’s been a bit of a slog, the story has definitely benefited from the extra work – so a big thank you to Clare and the team at WW for asking for the re-writes, not simply rejecting it at the outset.

To say I’m looking forward to seeing it in print would be an understatement!

 

 

 

Why a Camel in the Garden?

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If you happen to pick up a copy of the June issue of the Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, you’ll find it includes my story The Camel in the Garden. The story is about Sally, a recent divorcee, who has moved to Somerset with son Ollie, in order to be closer to her parents.  Ollie discovers a camel in the garden – not a real one as it turns out, but a fiberglass model originally made for a carnival cart.

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The story started out as an exercise for a local writers’ group.  We each circulated some photographs around the group – any subject matter – then each chose, from the range of photos collected, one to write about.  One of the photographs submitted was of a large model camel hidden in some undergrowth.  Being a Somerset lass, it reminded me of ‘Humphrey’ the camel who was stationed in a field by the side of the M5 for many a year.  Humphrey had apparently originally been made for a Bridgwater Young Farmer’s carnival cart in the 1980s, and as a huge fan of Somerset carnival, I loved the idea of Humphrey being saved from post-carnival destruction and allowed to live on, watching the world (well, traffic) go by.

For anyone who’s never been to watch a Somerset carnival, I urge you to go.  In fact, it should be on everyone’s bucket list.  I firmly believe that even the most world weary could not fail to be enchanted by the spectacle.  Held in November (part of the Guy Fawkes’ celebrations) in the darkness of early evening, the carnival floats (or more properly ‘carts’) are lit up with hundreds of light bulbs, and the clubs go to great lengths to design decorations that completely cover tractor, trailer and generator.  If you need anymore encouragement to attend, this great piece of entertainment is FREE to watch – though you should take handfuls of coinage to throw into the charity collections.

So whilst I hope you enjoy the story, I also hope you’ll consider going along to watch the carnival one year (check out the website for more info and lots of great pictures: http://www.bridgwatercarnival.org.uk/). I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

Acceptance, rejection, and a short list

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It’s been a week or two of contrasting fortunes writing-wise for me.  Had a piece of flash fiction rejected by 100 Word Story (boo!), a short story accepted by Woman’s Weekly (BIG hooray!), and an email confirming I’ve been short-listed in the Writer’s Forum monthly competition (nail-biting hooray!).

The rejection was very sweetly phrased, so I can’t possibly grumble.  If you’d like to have a go at submitting your own 100 word story, pop along to their website: http://www.100wordstory.com/  and you can follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/100-Word-Story/213141275370389) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/100word_story.

The Woman’s Weekly acceptance was a real boost – not least because they got back to me so quickly.  This is really, really appreciated.  Writing teaches you great patience, as busy editors often take months to read and respond.  Having said that, I have great respect for editors such as David Howarth at Scribble magazine, and Shirley Blair at The People’s Friend who take the trouble to provide a detailed feedback on rejected stories.  This kind of criticism is invaluable – and I’m happy to wait for their feedback.

But I’ll certainly need some patience while I wait to see if I’ve been placed in the Writer’s Forum comp – if you don’t hear from me for a bit, you’ll know it’s because I’ve nibbled my nails down to nothing, and it’s too painful to type! 😉

My Woman’s Weekly Debut!

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Very excited to have just received my complimentary copy of the current WW Fiction Special.  Not only is this the first time I’ve appeared in a Woman’s Weekly publication, but also it’s the first complimentary copy I’ve had from one of the “big” magazines – so thank you, Woman’s Weekly.

I also have quite a soft spot for this particular story – “5%“.  It started out as an exercise for my local writing group.  The theme was “disguises”, to be interpreted in whatever way you wished.  I have no idea why, but I immediately had the idea of a little boy dissatisfied with his costume for the school play, and his mum not really having time to make the costume any better because of her work commitments.

I wanted to explore the idea of disguises in the wider sense.  I’ve often felt in various work roles that I’ve been putting on an act – pretending to be the perfect person for the role I’m in, but worrying that the real me will show through the disguise.  Do you remember that TV series “Faking It” where people had a month to learn a new skill or role before being assessed by a panel of experts who would try to pick out the person who was “faking” from a group of three or four?  Well, I think a lot of life can be like that.

In the story, the heroine realises it’s not just her son who is in costume – she too wears various disguises, to the extent that she begins to wonder who she really is anymore.

If you get a chance to read it, hope you enjoy it, and any constructive comments will be gratefully received!  🙂

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Good things come to those who wait…

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Patience and perseverance are two essential qualities for writers.  And so it is with joy that I have finally had an acceptance from Woman’s Weekly for my story “Five Per Cent”.  Am absolutely delighted, as I’ve been trying to place something with WW for ages, with nothing but standard rejection letters to show for my efforts.  It just goes to show, you have to keep on trying.

Interestingly, WW say they’ll send a complimentary copy of the issue in which my story is published – which is a nice gesture. Some of the other national magazines where my stories have appeared haven’t tended to do this, meaning you’re in danger of missing your own publication.

I don’t know whether other writers for women’s magazines would agree, but from my limited experience, I’d say you had more chance of an acceptance if you sent your story directly to the fiction editor rather than to the general submission address given by the magazine.  This has been the outcome in at least two cases for me.  It’s not surprising, I suppose, given if you’re an editor, you’re likely to look more favourably on someone who bothered to find out your name and done some research into the magazine.  Maybe the general submission address is a self-fulfilling slush pile?