Thursday 12 November 2015

Interview with womagwriter Glynis Scrivens

My guest today is Glynis Scrivens.

1. When did you start writing, Glynis?

In a sense, I’ve always written. Not for publication, of course. But writing’s always been my best way of conveying what I think and feel. When I turned fifty, I gave myself permission to be a writer. To see where it could lead. I’d enrolled in an editing course and quickly realised I wanted to be the one doing the writing. There was nothing left to hold me back.

2. What persuaded you to try writing for women's magazines?

I read Woman’s Day, New Idea and Women’s Weekly and always wondered how to become the person writing their stories. I’d see the same names over and over again. Then I heard of a teacher at the local high school who’d just sold a story to Woman’s Day for $300. Only that morning I’d been in a nice boutique trying on a $300 jacket I couldn’t afford. I sat down and wrote a story. The next night I wrote another. When Julie Redlich accepted the second story, I was hooked.
It’d never occurred to me that a magazine would pay so much. And we needed the money. I didn’t end up buying the jacket. My sales to Woman’s Day went on things for our home such as nice kitchen chairs and good cutlery – and a steady supply of decent coffee beans.

3. There aren't many magazines which publish fiction in Australia, are there?

That’s Life with its quarterly fiction special is our main story market. There are other magazines. Cosmos uses sci-fi stories. Bauer has a presence over here. For example, Take 5 puts out a quarterly fiction special but these contain reprints sourced mainly from Fiction Feast (UK).
Only ten years ago stories were the norm – in Woman’s Day, Woman’s Weekly, New Idea, Family Circle and other magazines that have since disappeared.

4. What are the main difficulties with regard to writing for foreign markets, and how to you overcome them?

When I decided to try selling stories abroad, finding details for the markets was the first hurdle. These days the information is more freely available but it used to be closely held.
Getting hold of a recent copy was also a challenge. In Australia we could buy English women’s magazines such as Woman’s Weekly and People’s Friend, but to read Fiction Feast it was necessary to take out a subscription. And People’s Friend arrived by ship, three months after publication.
Nowadays most magazines have a Facebook presence and a website or blog. These give a feel for the magazine and who its readers are.
I suppose the biggest change over the years for me is that I now write stories specially for certain overseas markets, rather than just sending them the stories I haven’t been able to sell in Australia.
Working out what to send non-English magazines will always be a challenge. Gauging length, style, genre etc. And of course they continue to change and evolve. I usually go by what they’ve accepted already and send more of the same, although sometimes I try my luck and sometimes get surprised.
I haven’t been able to sell stories to Woman’s World (US) yet. All I can do there is ask American writing friends to check for colloquialisms, and follow TV dramas for things like police procedure.
Nothing beats being able to read a magazine regularly, but when that’s not possible, it doesn’t mean we can’t break into that market. It’s a matter of perseverance – and good luck.

5. You've written a book on editing, how did that come about?

Writing a book was on my bucket list so when I read on Facebook that John Hunt Publishing (UK) wanted one on editing fiction for their Compass Points series, I was interested. At that time I’d just got together all my Writers’ Forum articles, wondering whether to put them out as a book. I had 30,000+ words. This seemed to be the way to do it – and gave me the confidence I’d be able to find enough material.
I was surprised how much work was involved in putting together a proposal, but thankfully my friend Lynne Hackles was at hand encouraging me and making sure it got done.
There wasn’t space in the book for any of the WF articles, as it turned out. So maybe that original project will see the light of day after all?

You can get the book from or and is on sale at 99p/99c over November.

6. I've heard that some writers use real people and situations in stories, especially if something has annoyed them. Do you ever do that?

Yes, probably more often than I should. Whoever said writers don’t need a psychologist was right in my case. If I’m wronged, the perpetrator often meets a grisly fate soon afterwards. Preferably something appropriate. I’ve even killed off editors in stories.

Generally whenever life throws something at me that really gets under my skin, I know it’s potentially a story. I’ll write it, often using real names and details. Then I let it cool off and come back to it later to change names, sometimes the sex or age of a character, setting etc.

Sometimes it’s just a phrase someone has used that stays in my mind until I’ve thought of a story around it.

7. What is it with possums? The Aussie magazine guidelines want us to avoid them - is that hard to do?

I hadn’t realised guidelines actually mentioned possums. Where I live in Brisbane they cause all kinds of problems as they like to live in the space between the ceiling and roof of a house.

You probably wouldn’t put a flying fox, dingo or toad in a story either.

8. What's your happiest or proudest writing moment so far?

It’s hard to imagine anything surpassing the thrill of holding my first published book. The realisation I’d actually done it. And it opened doors. If I could do this, what else could I do?
With stories and articles, every acceptance gives me a buzz, especially if it’s somewhere I haven’t been published before.

9. Are you a disciplined writer who plans everything out and sticks to a schedule?

I’m probably the antithesis of that by nature. I can be disciplined if I need to, but it doesn’t come naturally. If I’m writing a series, such as the best how-to books one for Writers’ Forum, that has to be carefully planned before I start. And I worked to a schedule for my book, setting aside a week every month to write a chapter.
But things tend to take on a life of their own and head off in a different direction to what I envisaged.
When it comes to fiction, I think my inspiration would dry up altogether if I tried to be disciplined. I can go for weeks without writing any stories and then produce five in a fortnight. I just have to trust my own process.
I seem to need chaos. Maybe that’s why I enjoy having chickens and ducks roaming around the garden?

10. Can you pass on any advice to other womagwriters?

I suppose the fundamental thing is to simply write your own stories. The ones that only you can write. Don’t be worried if they’re completely different to what everybody else is writing – or reading.

And if you believe in one of your stories, don’t give up on it. It can take a while for a story to find its home. Some of mine have well-worn passports. One I wrote in 2004 was consistently rejected. I’ve sold it twice this year. Another I wrote in 2012 sold to 4 different magazines in the space of 4 months earlier this year after being previously rejected by all and sundry.


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for this interesting interview, Patsy and Glynis. Really enjoyed reading more about you, Glynis - good to see you need a little chaos around you and can still produce the work!

Karen said...

I like the idea of trusting your own writing process, as I constantly rail against mine and try to be more disciplined (without success!)

We have the equivalent of possums in the area where I live called glis-glis, living between our walls and ceilings, but I've never tried to write a story about them :o)

Julie P said...

Excellent interview, Patsy and Glynis. Thank you.

Julie P said...

Excellent interview, Patsy and Glynis. Thank you.

Tassie Devil said...

Interesting to see and find out about another Aussie writer and about your sales success. Well done. interesting comment about Possums as I've sold a number of possum based stories over there including one to That's Life. As I have That's Life sent over to France I shall now catch up on some of your stories for them. No doubt I've read some of yours but now I can put a face to the name, so-to-speak. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Glynis,

Penny A said...

Hello to Patsy and Glynis, and thank you for this interesting post! (Never knew that about possums...)

Unknown said...

Rosemary, I actually need quite a lot of chaos in order to be creative - a luxuriant garden, a couple of dogs, a cat, ducks and hens. Books and magazines everywhere. I need to feel connected with my environment.

Unknown said...

Karen, when I do try to be more disciplined, I produce rubbish, to be honest. My heart has to be in it. I'll never be one of those writers who produce X number of stories a week come what may. So I've learnt to just do things my own way and not worry.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Julie.

Unknown said...

Do you subscribe to That's Life Fast Fiction as well, Alan? Lucky you, living in France. Do any of the magazines over there use short stories?

Unknown said...

Thanks for commenting, Penny

Unknown said...

Thanks for a very interesting interview, Patsy and Glynis. It's always great to 'meet' other writers and hear how they work.

Sue Blackburn said...

Thank you Glynis and Patsy. Terrific interview, really interesting. Always so good to hear how another writer works. Everybody has such a different 'system' don't they. Guess it should always be what works for you.

Teresa Ashby said...

Lovely interview Patsy and Glynis. Excellent advice about never giving up on a story you beleive in - I recently sold a story I originally wrote in 2001 :-) xx

Della G said...

Thanks Patsy and Glynis. Interesting that the womag market has dropped off there too in the last ten years. And a shame. Is it because we don't buy them any more? I guess it is.
Fascinated about the possums too. Though I know Alan has included a few in his stories! xx

Glynis Scrivens said...

That must surely be a record, Teresa? Well done.

Glynis Scrivens said...

I think magazines over here are generally suffering, Della. And the story slot seems to be the one let go of most often.

Unknown said...

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