Thursday, 25 July 2019
A very friendly reception
Shirley Blair was very friendly and welcoming, as were the rest of the fiction team, and editor Angela Gilchrist.
Starting top right, there's Sarah Holliday (illustrations) Lucy Crichton, Shirley, me and Tracy Steel. (Yes, I was given tea in a special People's Friend mug!) Angela somehow escaped being in the photo, and 'my' editor Alan Spink was on holiday.
I also met Jill Finlay, former fiction editor of The Weekly News, and the first editor ever to accept one of my stories.
Of course I didn't just chat – I snooped about and asked questions.
The office was very tidy and modern looking, with most work done on computers. The stacks of paper you see are submissions. Due to increased numbers of these, and the 150 year celebrations, there are still some stories sent in April waiting to be read. I asked if any restrictions would need to be brought in to cope with the rise in submissions and was assured there are no plans to do this. Stories by new writers are very welcome – but please be aware it might be quite a while before you get a response. It's felt that although readers enjoy stories by favourite regular authors, they also like to see new names and enjoy quite a wide range of genres.
I had a riffle through and recognised quite a few names. Each card contains details of the author, the story, and comments for the illustrator, just to jog memories. The illustrator reads the whole story and may suggest illustration ideas.
There weren't many 3,000 word stories in the box. The entire fiction team mentioned wanting more at this length. Well most mentioned, one pleaded! 200 of these are needed each year – it's 300 in the case of 2,000 word stories, but these are recieved in large numbers.
Stories stay in the box for varying lengths of time, as each issue requires a mix of story lengths, styles and genres. It's possible that a seasonal story might not get included in the appropriate issue for that year and so be kept for the next, or the annual, but that's unusual.
Talking of a good mix – it's to get a good balance that story titles may be changed. Shirley said quite often stories have fairly similar titles, so these will be altered. If a character name is used in more than one story in the issue then this too may be changed. Shirley says she prefers not to do this, as she knows authors take care to select the right name. That suggests unusual names might be a good idea, but Shirley cautioned against those which a reader 'doesn't know how to say in their head'.
I asked for a top tip for new writers and was told, 'include dialogue'. A story is 'most unlikely' to be used without any. (I'm presenting a dialogue/charaterisation workshop in Nottingham in September)
Shirley's blog. Along with all kinds of advice, she provides story prompts (there's no requirement to use these, but if you do then let her know as she enjoys seeing how one image can lead to very different stories).
After leaving the fiction desk (via the cake shop Shirley directed me to!) we went up Law Hill to see the 'Our Wullie' painted by Sarah. The building over his hands is the DC Thomson offices.
Picture credits – Mr Patsy ;-)