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.