Thursday, 14 March 2019

Guest post by womag fiction collector Jay Mackie


My Fiction Collection by Jay Mackie

Oh how I’d love to turn the clock back to the ‘golden age’ of fiction in British women’s weeklies! For me, this would be the late 80s to late 90s.

My name is Jay Mackie, I am 43 and I live in Nottingham where I am a composer and private music teacher. I have collected magazine fiction (and magazines) on and off since 1988, after looking forward to the Mini Mystery story in my mum’s copy of Bella each week. It’d be the first page I’d turn to. Looking back now and rereading my collection of these spanning some ten years since Bella’s 1987 launch date, these stories had it all; whodunnits, voodoo, unsettled ghosts, UFOs, an encounter with Old Nick himself and much more. These tales displayed varying literary styles and mystery content, but were always constructed with such skilful craft and elegance.

I even had a go at writing my own at the tender age of 14 and sending it to the then fiction editor, Linda O’ Byrne. I received a lovely reply from her stating her enjoyment on reading my tale, but she felt that the characters didn’t have enough ‘bite’ for her. Not bad for my first (and last!) ever story! I accepted this constructive criticism and her complimentary copies of a dozen older Mini Mysteries to add to my increasing collection.

My reason for collecting these was that someone’s careful literary toil and expert storytelling seemed too good to resign to the bin once finished. Plus, it was nice to enjoy again and compare to other stories. Over the years I have added other fiction pages to my collection too from weeklies such as Best, Take a Break and Chat mainly. The early days of Chat’s ‘4 Minute Fiction’ page from the early 90s was nice to compare with Bella, as quite a lot of the stories shared supernatural or similarly off the wall subject matter – and a few of the same writers.
Collecting vintage magazines for me is a lovely hobby if you’re nuts on nostalgia like me. Magazines provide a truly authentic and direct link to the past; the then current celeb news, advertising, vintage fashion and of course the abundance of weekly fiction. In Best’s early days some issues treated us to no less than three stories a week. Sadly as we’re all aware the world has moved on and gradually many weeklies have now ditched their fiction in favour of even MORE banal celebrity sensationalism in my view. The old content is something to be praised for its variety and enjoyed with fondness for the era.

As Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo says, only keep something if it ‘sparks joy’. That’s precisely what vintage magazines and their fiction pages do for me. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

I’d sincerely love to hear from anyone out there who either collects magazine fiction, or magazines in general. You may well have copies of stories which would complete my collection, and vice versa to swap or just chat about. You may have even written mysteries for Bella and the like back in the ‘golden’ days, do leave a comment or drop me an email (jayiguana@yahoo.co.uk) – it’d be super to hear from you!


14 comments:

Patsy said...

Thanks, Jay. This ia interesting in two ways – I didn't know collecting stories in this way was a thing until I 'met' you. I'd assumed the magazines were all read and then thrown away, with possible a few articles or recipes kept to refer to. It's nice to think that also happens with fiction.

It's also very interesting that it's not just writers who regret the reduction of fiction in magazines and that readers miss it too. There are masses of excellent stories being written, so why are so few being published?

Bea Charles said...

Thanks, Jay. It’s good to know there are people like you who enjoy commercial magazine fiction - we just need a few more ‘powers that be’ in the magazine world to recognise the value of that commodity (and of those who supply it). And the social history stored within your collection must be fascinating.

carrie said...

Thanks, Jay. As Patsy and Bea have said, it's lovely to know that there are people like you who love and collect fiction for the sheer joy of it. Maybe magazine editors will realise that it's not just writers who mourn the passing of fiction, but readers too, and will increase their fiction slots accordingly. If the magazines that have switched to celebrity 'stories' switch back to introducing fiction once again, in todays world that would be just the tonic we all need :)

Jay Mackie said...

Thanks all for your lovely comments so far. It has been such a joy to share my relatively solitary hobby with you all - even my partner isn’t really aware of the extent of my collection. This is largely due to trying to keep secret the amount I spend sometimes sourcing vintage magazines to fill in my gaps! There’s a common thread running through the comments though - we all want fiction reinstated in weekly mags. I know so many people who enjoyed the ‘coffee break fiction’ type stories each week where it was a bit of a ritual to buy their preferred weekly mag and look forward to the fiction with a cuppa on their work breaks. In lieu of this, modern weekly are shadows of their former selves with little variety any more. I know a lot of people who stopped buying their favourite weekly when the formats changed. Powers that be - it’s not just writers who need increased writing opportunities, but a whole army of reader fans have been let down.

ados123 said...

So nice to read of someone collecting magazine stories.

Thank you for writing this Jay and posting Patsy.

Alyson

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jay. Faith restored!

AngieM

New girl on the block said...

It would be really interesting to hear a response to this conversation from a magazine editor.
The readership of women's magazines does tend to be older so I understand that the publishers need to cultivate a younger readership, hence the move towards celebrity gossip. However, I would be interested to know whether this has in fact led to an increase in younger readers. I suspect not, as celebrity gossip is available on so many other platforms - all of them much more accessible to younger readers. Commercial fiction, however, is different, in that it is not published across so many platforms. This leads me to wonder whether publishers who have moved away from it should reinstate it with updated guidelines for contributors, in an effort to make it more appealing to younger readers.
I also think that the concept of a 'coffee break' read has become dated, as the workplace has changed considerably since the 80s/90s. The culture now is much more likely to involve coffee and lunch at your desk while still working, or involvement in the 'gig economy' with no fixed hours/breaks. Maybe we need to think of magazine fiction as the thing you read in your 'screen free' time, as we are encouraged to have that time away from our screens for the sake of our physical and mental health.
Just a few thoughts......

Megan said...

I agree with all previous comments. I do have another thought. Jay has written lucidly about her hobby and I wonder if she could send a non-fiction feature about it to a magazine - Yours comes to mind, read by older women who will remember some of the magazines she mentions. The powers that be might take notice...
Megan

Sharon boothroyd said...

The twist in tales in the UK That's life! mag were fab. I used to love reading them and I longed to write this type of story and get published in there.
But sadly they stopped their weekly fiction.(But I still wrote the twists!)
I don't remember the glory days where every mag had fiction in it - I can only just recall stories in Bella & Best. How I wish more mags would hold a healthy respect for fiction.
I've never been interested in celeb gossip.
Once the weeklies began to favour this,I stopped buying them, as I thought they were dumbing down their readers.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Jay - really enjoyed it. I remember the heyday of woman fiction, loved reading it, then started writing it! My first publication was in Best magazine, followed by Chat, and then My Weekly. I then stopped writing (stories) for over twenty years. Then I started again! I've now managed lots of publications, but oh how I wish we still had such broad markets for our work as we did years ago. Lovely to hear that you are such a fan. Be great to see you on TV talking about your collection and maybe persuading magazines to invite the Womagwriters back on board. You've cheered me up - really lovely to hear from you. All good wishes, Jay. Thanks to Patsy, too. Kate Hogan

Jay Mackie said...

Hi Kate - glad you were cheered by the article! Drop me an email on jayiguana@yahoo.co.uk as I’d love to know more about your Best and Chat stories! 😊

Patsy said...

Thanks for your comments!

It's good to know that a few people agree with Jay and I that it's a shame there's now far less fiction in the magazines than there used to be. Personally I really miss the short twist in the tale stories which used to appear in that's life! It was reading those which made me want to write for womags.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jay. Will see if I can find the photocopies of the stories for Best and Chat from 1990ish and if I can I'll send you the copies.
Good wishes Kate

Jay Mackie said...

Brilliant thanks so much Kate!