Thursday, 23 April 2015

Interview with Womagwriter Helen Hunt

Today's guest is Helen M Walters (formerly Helen M Hunt)

1. What made you first start writing womag fiction?

I first started writing short stories about ten years ago. I’d gone along to a creative writing course at my local adult education college and once I’d written one short story, I found I couldn’t stop. I was addicted! After a while I decided I might as well start trying to sell them, and that started the long journey towards publication.

Since then, I’ve been published by Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, The Weekly News, The People’s Friend, Take A Break Fiction Feast, Yours and Best in the UK as well as a few non-UK magazines.

2.Is there a particular genre within the womag market which you particularly enjoy writing?

I like to try different things. I don’t write a lot of romance stories as I prefer to write about a wider variety of relationships, including those between family members, friends, and even total strangers. I aim to write about things that are a bit unusual whenever possible – in the past I’ve written about alopecia, organ transplant, egg donation and sex change amongst other things. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of women’s magazine fiction.

3.Are you a disciplined writer producing a steady stream of stories, or do you wait until you're in the mood?

I’m not disciplined at all, I’m afraid. My story writing tends to go in fits and starts, depending on how many ideas I have. For example, at the moment I have five ideas waiting to be turned into stories, and I can’t find time to write them. But sometimes I can go for a couple of weeks without having any ideas. Those barren times are awful.

I also have to balance my short story writing with other writing commitments. I write a column for Writers’ Forum, which has to hit the deadline every month, other pieces of non-fiction and book reviews. I’m also working on a novel at the moment.

4. How do you deal with rejections? (I'm assuming you're not that one writer who never gets them - apologies if that's the case.)

Some rejections are harder to deal with than others. It’s all part of the job and you have to let it be like water off a duck’s back most of the time, but every now and then there’ll be a story you really love, and that you think was perfect for a particular magazine and they’ll turn it down. That always hurts. The only way to get over it is to keep going. Send the rejected story back out to another magazine, tweaking it first if necessary, and write more stories. Never give up!

5.The right writing snacks are very important - what's your fuel of choice?

Chocolate. Always.

6. I've heard that some writers use real people and situations in stories to work off frustrations or put something right. Do you ever do that?

To a certain extent, yes. I think we all put our own personal experiences into our work. It’s inevitable because it’s what we know and feel most deeply. And writing about what you feel most deeply helps you write more emotionally authentic stories. I do think you have to be careful though, to make sure that if you do that you’re not doing it in a way that could cause people to recognise themselves in your writing and take offence.

7. You teach writing don't you?

Yes, at the moment I’m mainly doing residentials for West Dean College and the WI College at Denman. I teach ‘Creative Writing for Beginners’, as well as an ‘Introduction to Short Story Writing’ and a specialised ‘Short Stories for Women’s Magazines’ course. All the details can be found on my website http://www.helenmhunt.co.uk. And I’m happy to answer questions about any of these courses if people want to get in to

My next specifically Women’s Magazine course is at West Dean from 5-7 June.

These are residential courses in lovely surroundings with excellent food laid on and will give people the right conditions to make really significant progress with their writing.

I’ve included photos of West Dean so that people can see how beautiful it is.

I love teaching because it’s always great to meet writers who are keen on finding out more about the craft. I always find that I learn from the students as well as them learning from me, and I always come away feeling inspired, if somewhat exhausted.

8. What do you think is the biggest hurdle for beginner writers?

That’s a difficult one. I suppose it’s getting your first publication really. You might find you have to make a lot of submissions and deal with a lot of rejections before you get that far, but it does get easier after that. And then ‘cracking’ each individual magazine will help you on your way. I think it’s true to say that with each magazine once you’ve had one acceptance, it is easier to get subsequent ones. The editors start to get to know your name, and trust your writing.

It took me a long time to get over that hurdle. I start writing in 2004, and started submitting in 2005. My first publication was in 2006, and that was a non-fiction piece for My Weekly. My first piece of fiction was published in 2007 by Momaya Press, as the result of a competition, and my first womag story was published by Woman’s Weekly in 2009.

That was quite a long and difficult journey, and I felt like giving up many times. Looking back, I’m not quite sure why I didn’t!

9. What has been your happiest or proudest writing moment so far?

That first womag fiction publication in 2009 was a very proud moment. I feel proud every time something I write is published though, I think it’s important to hold on to that and not become jaded with the whole process.

10. Can you pass on a tip for other womag writers?

Concentrate on actually writing. It sounds obvious, but there are so many things out there to distract aspiring and beginner writers. Talking about writing, networking on social media and going to lots of writing events won’t make you a writer. Only writing and getting published will.

And if you’re serious about being published by womags, then you have to read them and study them in depth so that you know the market inside out. It’s nice to write for yourself, but if you want to be published, you have to write for the market.

Thanks so much to Patsy for having me as a guest on her blog. If anyone has any questions, please do leave them in the comments section and I’ll pop back and answer.

19 comments:

Maria said...

Great interview, very inspiring to hear about your journey Helen...

Kath McGurl said...

Excellent interview, thank you!

Sue Blackburn said...

What a brilliant interview with lovely Helen. Interesting and inspiring to hear of your journey, Helen, and the emphasis on the message that is so important to writers - never, ever give up!

Thank you Helen and Kath xx

HelenMWalters said...

Thanks for all your lovely comments, and thanks for having me as a guest, Patsy.

Samantha Tonge said...

Really interesting interview and that photo is lovely, Helen. Love the look of that college... Sam x

HelenMWalters said...

Thanks, Sam. Yes, West Dean is very beautiful.

Georgina Troy said...

Great interview, thank you.

Karen Clarke said...

Lovely interview, and so true that you have to develop a thick skin and keep writing :o)

HelenMWalters said...

Thanks, ladies . Karen, sometimes I think we need such a thick skin it's amazing we can still move!

Patsy said...

Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment! I really appreciate it.

HelenMWalters said...

Thanks so much for having me as a guest, Patsy. It's so good to connect with people here.

Carrie Hewlett said...

Thank you for such an inspirational interview; seems the maxim is 'never give up' - it really helps to hear of other's stories!

HelenMWalters said...

Very much so, Carrie. It can be difficult in the face of rejection, but it's the only way.

Bernadette said...

Lovely interview.
Rejection is hard, but if your work isn't 'out there' it can't get accepted either, so it's part and parcel of the deal. As Helen says, just keep trying - you never know what's around the corner.

Anonymous said...

Great interview Patsy & Helen. Well done on sticking with the journey, Helen and well done on the success you've enjoyed as a result of your efforts. Good wishes KH

HelenMWalters said...

That's spot on, Bernadette. The best way to get no rejections is not to send anything out, but it's also the best way to get no acceptances.

And thanks, KH.

L said...

Inspirational and helpful. Thanks.

Wendy's Writing said...

'Concentrate on actually writing'. I agree that has to be the perfect tip, Helen.

HelenMWalters said...

Thanks, L.

And Wendy, yes, it's surprising how often people seem to not get that one!