Yesterday I was at one of The People’s Friend‘s award-winning writing workshops, at the DC Thomson offices on Fleet Street. Get me! And amazingly, I managed to ‘work’ the tube this time and didn’t end up on the wrong line or heading in the wrong direction. (Perhaps I am cured of my country-bumpkiness?)
I really enjoyed it so if you’re thinking about signing up for one, then I can highly recommend it (NB: I think they are planning some more for later in the year but otherwise, they’re all, apart from Dundee, sold out at present).
There were writers of all levels in the group: people who’d never written anything, or who had written non-fiction but never tried fiction and then a few of us who’d had stories published with magazines, including The People’s Friend. Fiction Editor Shirley Blair promised there would be something for everyone and that was true. I’ve come back buzzing with ideas and feeling inspired.
As you’d probably expect, the group was mostly women BUT there were two (brave!) men amongst us and they were both called Arnold! What are the chances of that, eh? I don’t think I’ve ever met an Arnold in my life and I met two yesterday. Truth, as they say, is definitely stranger than fiction.
It was a very friendly, welcoming and relaxed day. Shirley stressed that the People’s Friend fiction team are ‘on our side’. They want us to write good stories, they want us to do well, so they can produce a great magazine but also because it gives them a buzz too, to tell a writer that his or her story has been accepted.
We did some writing exercises but no-one was forced to read out (phew!) and there was plenty of tea and coffee time, to have a chat with some of the other delegates. (In fact, my only complaint was that there wasn’t enough time for everything!).
It was great to meet Shirley again (I met her briefly once at Swanwick) and also Alison Carter, who was tutoring on the workshop and is an amazingly successful People’s Friend writer – one of her stories appears in the magazine every 8 days! Wow!
One interesting point that Shirley raised – and she talks about it on her blog here too – is that People’s Friend are gently pushing the boundaries of the kinds of stories they’ll publish (and in any case, it’s not all ‘slushy romance’ as a lot of people think).
Occasionally they get a letter from a disgruntled reader who believes she’s read some of the stories before. Of course, that doesn’t happen but it is perhaps a sign that some of the stories have been getting a bit ‘samey’. Shirley and her team want to stop that happening, so they’ll consider stories now that a few years ago would have been a definite no-no.
But still no sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll, folks..! (Well, the rock ‘n’ roll would be fine!). If you want your stories to be amongst the 600 that The People’s Friend publish every year, then they still have to be entertaining and upbeat, with that all -important ‘feel good factor’. Here are the latest submission guidelines, if you’re interested.