Monday 6 June 2022

In conversation with Sheelagh Mooney

When Sheelagh Mooney discovered our travels would take us near Ardagh, she invited us to visit the wonderful eco garden she and her husband Brendan have created. I took many photos! (If you'd like to see those of other places we've visited then follow me on Facebook and sign up for my newsletter.)

As well as talking about gardens, we discussed writing, particularly those things we've learned since starting out and which we feel might be helpful for newer writers to know. For example, not all rejections are equal. If the editor (or publisher) has taken the time to give any kind of feedback or encouragement then this is a positive thing. They simply don't have the time to think up something nice or helpful to say to every person who submits – much as some might like to. Their time and effort will be concentrated on those writers they feel have the potential to produce work they can use. 

Getting suggestions to rework a piece might feel as they you're way off the mark, but the complete opposite is true. The editor has seen something they really like and wants to help you turn it into a published story or article. If you're ever asked to make changes, it's a really good idea to try. Although there's still no guarantee of acceptance, you'll learn a lot in the process, both about what works for that market and about your own writing.

Many new writers can think that receiving nothing but rejections for weeks, months, even years must mean their work isn't good. That's not necessarily true. Check that you're following all the guidelines – if you submit work in the wrong form or genre, to the wrong address, at the wrong time, work of the wrong length etc then the magazine won't be able to use it no matter how good it is. 

It's tempting to think that once you've been published you've made it and rejections are a thing of the past. Sadly that's not true. Each story or other piece of writing will be judged on its merits, rather than your publication history. Perhaps there are womag writers out there who have every single submission accepted, but I still get rejections, and so does Sheelagh and every one of my writing friends and critique buddies. Please try not to be demoralised by what's a normal part of the process.

Are there things you've learned since you started, which you feel it might help new writers to know?

One thing we discussed wasn't specific to writing, but no less important because of that. We both feel it's important to make the most of life by finding ways to spend time doing things you enjoy. That could be travelling and having adventures, staying home and creating a garden, writing a poem, story, article, or novel.


Lindsay said...

Wise words with regards to the writing life and life in general.

Elizabeth McGinty said...

Thank you ladies for a lovely post, very encouraging, thank you for sharing your wisdom.

I've learned to write what pleases me in the hope it will please others too, and you know what, sometimes it does!

I love your photos too Patsy, what a beautiful garden you have Sheelagh. Can you or anyone else identify the plant in the second from top photo? I have these in my garden, but it's so long since I planted them I've forgotten their name! The bees adore them.

Eirin Thompson said...

What a lovely, uplifting post, Patsy and Sheelagh, with beautiful pics of Sheelagh and Brendan's gorgeous garden. I agree that rejections can be terribly demoralising, but should not be interpreted as failure: I mentioned before on this blog that, when I was starting out, I once had twelve stories declined in a single email - pretty much a total wipeout. However, this probably functioned as a fast track tutorial in what-not-to-do and definitely helped me hone my short story-writing craft. I would add that, as I had written and sent off further stories during the waiting period, I still had hope. That hope is essential, I feel, and the only way to keep it alive is to continue writing and submitting. When I have a story declined, it always hurts a bit, but much less so if I have plenty of work 'out there' to keep me optimistic. I'm not suggesting churning out stories - quality is still way more important than quantity. Rather, I suppose I am saying: Don't give up. And keep in mind that fiction editors genuinely don't seem to want to know what formal qualifications you have for writing - they are interested purely in what's on the pages you submit, so everyone really does have a fair chance of success. Going to look at those wonderful, soothing Ardagh pictures again.

Sheelagh said...

Yes it was lovely to meet up in person Patsy and chat about writing and gardens etc and thank you to you both for making the detour to visit. On the writing front I always find that it is really helpful to keep in mind that every story is a new story and even if it does meet all the criteria for a magazine it still may not resonate with an editor for a variety of reasons on the day. Still when you just receive a rejection it does always feel like well just that, a rejection. Bearing that in mind it is great when other writers share their successes and rejections so that you can put your own in perspective.
Ps Elizabeth, that blue flower is called Centaurea montana (mountain cornflower), it is great for attracting pollinators alright & so easy to grow.

Marguerite said...

What a lovely post! Thank you Sheelagh and Patsy. Gorgeous flowers and greenery!
I think the second from the top is the perennial cornflower, as opposed to the annual. They are pretty stalwart.
Advice to new starters-outers? I do have a very meticulously kept spreadsheet of titles, dates in/out etc..., but wish I'd done a one-liner for 'this story is about...' to remind myself - my next task :(
Echoing the above - keep sending them out so there is always hope :)

Marian said...

Thank you very much for such a helpful and inspiring piece.

Geraldine Ryan said...

Nice post, Patsy. I think you need a thick skin to be in this game!

Elizabeth McGinty said...

Thank you so much Sheelagh and Marguerite for naming the flower, it's been bugging me for ages!

Linda CASPER said...

Thanks for the motivational advice. Enjoy your travels.

wannabe a writer said...

Hi Patsy, Lovely photos and good advice. Yes a thick skin is needed as well as persistence.


New girl on the block said...

This was really interesting. Thank you.

KathrinS said...

This is a great post and such a good reminder to remain patient with yourself.

Since getting my first piece accepted, I have learned that the acceptance is only the first step. Then, you have to wait for the editors to place the piece in an upcoming edition of the magazine and go through the whole payment setup process. So much extra waiting. Although I now have a publication date, I am not going to truly believe it until they have actually published it.