Wednesday 30 March 2022

New market, my birthday, copyright stuff

Womag news

Stylist magazine will be publishing one short story a week from April. These should be under 1,000 words and can be of any genre. The fee is £200 and they don't take all rights. Sounds pretty good to me!

They say they'll consider submissions from anyone, but 'Stylist Short Stories is designed to offer an opportunity to those who are particularly underrepresented in commercial publishing such as female-identifying, trans and non-binary writers' full details are here

Copyright stuff

Recently I've had queries from a couple of people uncertain about the rights they gave up when a story was published in the past. Unfortunately it isn't always possible to answer that query.

If I sold to the magazine at the time I'll know what my contract said – because I always read mine, check I understand and keep a copy. If you sold to the same magazine at the same time it's likely the contract you signed will be the same, but it might not be. When terms change contracts aren't always sent to everyone at once. Sometimes stories are accepted on one set of terms but not published until after the new contracts comes into force so different stories in the same issue could be subject to different terms. It's also possible that an author may have negotiated terms which differ from the standard contracts. (I have, very occasionally, negotiated terms which don't require me to give up all rights when others in the same publication have signed theirs away.)

Please, please, please
– read any contract and be sure you understand it BEFORE signing, and keep a copy. You may think now that you don't mind what rights you give up so it doesn't matter and then find in the years to come that you feel differently. If you can't check which rights you gave up, you can't assume you can legally use the story.

Free entry competition news

Thanks to Alyson for the link to this short story competition. There's £500 on offer, plus a free virtual workshop to get help with your entry.

Now the really important part. It's my birthday. I know I'm getting money to spend on plants and plan to spend part of the day choosing and planting them. That will make me hungry, so please leave cake in the comments.

Wednesday 23 March 2022

The Art Of Re-drafting by Womag Writer S. Bee.

Today's guest is my writing friend and critique buddy S. Bee. She's kindly sharing the amount of work, rethinking and perseverance it sometimes takes to get a womag story accepted for publication. 

Some writers can be precious about their work and refuse to change even a word, let alone the character's name or the main plot. I used to feel like that when I set out in 2010, trying to sell my work to the woman's magazine market. Over time, I changed my mind when I realised that in order to sell, I needed to adopt a more flexible approach.

This piece outlines my experience of how I re-drafted a story several times in order for it to be finally accepted.

I first wrote a story called 'Too Good to be True' around eight years ago. It was about a middle-aged hairdresser (Marion) who, on her day off at home, answered the door to an out of the blue caller – her twenty-something daughter's primary/ infant school friend, Lisa.

Marion hadn't seen Lisa for years, so hardly recognised her, but invited her in for a cuppa. Daughter Abbey was away on holiday. Over tea, Lisa spun Marion a story of woe. She was currently homeless and had been kicked out of a hostel because (apparently) they needed her room. She was unemployed, too. She asked if Marion would consider her as a live- in housekeeper.

Feeling sorry for her, and put on the spot, Marion said yes – but she came to regret her decision. Lisa didn't do any housework and played her music loud.

Mild-mannered Marion tried to confront Lisa, but nothing had changed. Lisa was taking her for a ride, with free food, shelter and bills. The loud music attracted a dishy male neighbour, Ken. He asks Marion out. They go on a date and work as a team, to come with options for Lisa. When they return to Marion's, they discover that Lisa has disappeared. As a parting gift, she's cleaned the house. 

And that was the end of the story. Marion found romance and the 'Lisa situation' had solved itself!

I subbed it around the magazines, but it didn't get anywhere. For a start, social problems aren't very womag friendly. No-one wants to reads about hostels and unemployment.

Marion's daughter didn't appear anywhere in the story, either. Lisa was the connection to Abbey, so Abbey ought to have made an appearance. And why would Lisa change her ways, then suddenly disappear?

I still liked the idea of a ID fraudster taking advantage, so put the story aside until I felt ready to begin version 2, called 'The two Lisa's.' The basic plot was the same as before, but I'd dropped the dishy neighbour. Marion arrived home from work to find Lisa had disappeared again (leaving the house in a mess). 

This time, Abbey rocked up early from her holiday, with yes, you've guessed it, her school pal, Lisa – she'd bumped into her at the airport. The real Lisa explained she knew Trina, who was also a childhood pal.

Trina had posed as Lisa, preying on the parents of her former school friends, in order to gain free lodgings and food. She found these friends online. It was around fifteen years since anyone had seen Lisa, so like Marion, the parents wouldn't recognise her – so she got away with it.

Lisa explained that Trina had probably run off to join a boyfriend in Paris, as this was her pattern of behaviour. Marion's head whirled (mine did too!) When Lisa left, they suspected them of being in cahoots. The last line was when Marion turned to Abbey and asked 'How do we know that was the real Lisa?'

How indeed!

Although I'd left the ending open, I was convinced it had a fantastic twist. With hopes high, I subbed it to suitable magazines again. Yet there was no joy. It was only with the distance of time that I could clearly see that the plot was too complicated.

It raised more questions than answers. If Trina and Lisa were partners in crime, what exactly did they get away with? Nothing was actually stolen. I didn't like the 'tracking down folk via a website' aspect, either. It was way too sinister. And as my womag writing critique friends said, certain parts of the plot just didn't ring true. 

Why would Lisa / Trina go to all that trouble, just for the sake of grabbing 2 week's free nosh? If she had a fella in Paris, why wasn't she with him? And why would the real Lisa help Trina scrounge like this? What would she get out of it? It was also bit of a coincidence that she'd bumped into Abbey at the airport. Surely, if Lisa was a rip-off merchant, she'd want to avoid her?

I couldn't think of a way around it that was less complex. I was seriously struggling. So I asked myself, what was the important angle, for me, with this story? Well, I wanted to emphasise the 'never trust a stranger' idea.

When inspiration struck, I ditched the whole 'daughter's fake school friend' set-up. But passive, polite Marion needed someone on her side, so I kept Abbey.

Version number 3 was called 'The Doorstep Stranger.' It had never occurred to me to bring in her job – Marion was a hairdresser. But this time, I did. 

The big question was – had Marion been conned by Linda, who called herself a market researcher? I'd try and keep the reader guessing whether Linda was genuine or not. 

Abbey made an appearance at the half-way point, to listen to her to mum's reservations – and to confront Linda. I also cut down on the words to make it short and snappy, plus to suit the mag's length.

The new plot involved Marion discovering that Linda had stolen her jewellery whilst pretending to need the loo. Linda turned out to be the daughter of Marion's new work- mate. Marion had found this new recruit difficult, and had given her a telling off. So the newbie and her daughter had cooked up a revenge plot!

I was hugely relieved when in early 2022, Take a Break's Fiction Feast accepted it. So the moral of the story is - don't give up on a tale you have faith in, even if it requires the art of re-drafting!

Monday 21 March 2022

Fiction guidelines for YOU magazine

Here are the guidelines for YOU magazine, reproduced with permission from the fiction editor.



Length: 1 500 words  


Genre: Any, including romance although we'd like to feature more whodunits and detective stories.   


Plot: General, but including contemporary issues such as the internet, email, family and social relationships, etc. The main criteria are that the story should be an entertaining, compelling read, and not too highbrow or morbid. Stories with an interesting twist always make for fun reading. Finally, there must be a definite storyline; sketches will not do.   


Target market: YOU is a family magazine and ideally we'd like our short stories to appeal to both male and female readers (young adults and adults).   


Presentation: Only emailed manuscripts will be accepted for consideration. Email them to  


To facilitate our production process please:  

  • Use double quotation marks.  
  • Use only one space after full stops, commas, semicolons, question marks, etc.  
  • Press the ENTER key only once to make a paragraph; do not use indents.  

    We pay: R1 950/story  


I invited the fiction editor, Illana Frantz onto the blog and she replied that she'd like to take me up on that offer sometime. If you have any questions you'd like her to answer, please put them in the comments. I can't guarantee she'll be able to answer them all, but I will pass them on.

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Over To You

Womag news

My womag news – Over the last week I've sold to My Weekly and Yours. All sales are good of course, but I'm especially pleased about these as it's been a long time since I had an acceptance with either of them. In the case of Yours that's partly because I didn't sub for quite a few years (due to them taking all rights during that period). With My Weekly I obviously just wasn't sending quite what the editors wanted.

Do you have any womag news?

Are you researching, writing, subbing? Had any acceptances or rejections? Any other news?

Feel free to use the as a picture prompt. If you'd like other writing prompts, short exercises and story/scene suggestions then you might find this book useful.

Free entry writing competition news

There's still (just) time to enter the BBC National Short Story Award. The prize is £600 – for runners up! Top prize is £15,000.  The rules refer to 'the extreme volume of entries' so our chances aren't high, but somebody has to win, don't they?

I have sent a few entries but no successes to report. 

I'd love to hear your competition news, if you have any.

Call for submission

The Black Spring Press are inviting poems for an anthology to raise money for Ukrainian refugees.

Other stuff

Do you have writing tips to share, questions to ask, or suggestions for this blog?

Wednesday 9 March 2022

I'm Finnished!

Sorry about the clickbait headline. I've not given up writing, or cake or anything drastic like that. What's happened is that a company who make language learning apps saw one of my published short stories and asked to buy it to help Finnish students through their english coursework. 

As I hadn't given up all rights I was able to agree to the sale. Had I given up all rights I wouldn't have been able to accept the fairly generous fee, even though whoever held the rights wouldn't have wanted to use the story in a learning language app. of their own. This is one of many reasons I strongly advise writers not to give up all rights to their work.

My womag news is that I have a story in the 11th March issues of Ireland's Own and the current People's Friend special. They're both gardening related, which I think totally justifies me sprinkling this post with photos of my garden.

If you're interested in the story behind some of my stories and other stuff about my writing life, take a look at the blog on my website.

Free entry competition news

Fusilli are continuing with their flash fiction competitions. You can use up to 200 words to write a story with a twist. Entry is free, but there's an option to get paid feedback.

Thanks to Dawn Brown for passing on the details of this competition from Bloodhound books. They want complete novels of at least 60,000 words from writers from a minority background – it's up to the entrants to explain how they qualify. The prize is a publishing contract along with editorial and marketing help.

Alli are offering a Kobo ereader and a self publishing package in this ten word story competition. I'm definitely going to have a go at that one!

Wednesday 2 March 2022

Be a winning writer with the Wergle Flomp Humour Poetry Contest

My guest today is Annie Mydia is joining me today to share information and tips about a fantastic free to enter poetry competition.

Hey funny poets, your humor poem could win $2,000 in the free Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. 

Entries can be on any topic, in any poetic style or format.

In these tough times, Wergle Flomp's mission is to bring side-splitting humor to the world.

Our contest is always free to enter in order to guarantee maximum accessibility. When it comes to humor, we want it all!

So, what makes a winning poem? 

Our judges share observations on past winners: 

"Make it unique, make it yours, make me jealous I didn't think of it myself." Lauren Singer, 2020 

"We try to give equal offense to all belief systems and genders, but not kick anyone when they are down." Jendi Reiter, 2016 

 "The pieces that always get high marks from me are finding the humor in the mundane… the observational glimpses inside the micro-universes we all live in day to day that just make being alive a comedy of absurdity and humanity." Lauren Singer, 2020

Meanwhile, some things that the judges don't appreciate are punching down or themes and satirizations they've often encountered before. You can read the full judges' comments in our past winners directory to get a sense of what we're looking for. 

Concocted a poem that's fiendishly funny?
Submit it on our website by April 1, 2022. 

Good luck, and good laughs!


Please do send in an entry – I'd love one of my blog readers to win this.