Reporting Back on The ‘People’s Friend’ Writing Workshop!

workshopYesterday 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.

Good luck!

By spooky coincidence, I've just found out that D C Thomson was founded in the same year that my PF serial starts: 1905.

By spooky coincidence, I’ve just found out that D C Thomson was founded in the same year that my PF serial starts: 1905.

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16 Responses to Reporting Back on The ‘People’s Friend’ Writing Workshop!

  1. Glad that you found it useful, Helen. I’m hoping to attend one later in the year. I may even combine it with a visit to Dundee – I do like cake and marmalade!

  2. Wendy Clarke says:

    Knew you (and Arnold!) would enjoy your day, Helen. I meet up with Alisin quite a lot and told her you would be going x

  3. Glad you enjoyed the day, Helen, and the stories have changed a lot. Sometimes I’ll read a story in there and not recognise it as a People’s Friend story. Good that they publish so much fiction still, and looking forward to your serial. Don’t lose all you bumpkinness. That’s what makes us Midlanders special:)))

    • Absolutely, Susan! I think PF have realised that they’ve got to move with the times but equally, they’ve got to keep their loyal readership happy, so it’s a difficult balance to get right.

  4. Thank you for sharing Helen, it sounds like a fantastic day out, and as you say, what are the chances of meeting two men called Arnold in the same day, on a writing workshop? Bizarre I’d say.

    I do love a good workshop.

    • Funnily enough, I’ve just spotted one of the Arnold’s stories in the latest The Weekly News. He told me he had stories published in there and I’ve definitely seen his name before!

  5. ados123 says:

    Thank you for sharing, Helen. Good to know the workshops are useful to all levels of writers. I also hope to attend one, maybe next year.

  6. Patsy says:

    Sounds very worthwhile for anyone hoping to break into this market.

    • Yes, it was really illuminating, Patsy. But also made me realise how nice the people are at People’s Friend. They will give feedback whenever possible, for example and they’re very encouraging if they think you’re on the right (write?! lines!

  7. Keith Havers says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Helen. They really are worth attending if you can get to one of the venues.

    • Yes, it’s a great day out, Keith! One lady at the PF day had been to 2 – or was it 3 – PF’s days already! And she’s attended some WW workshops too, so she’s a real fan! But she lives near London so she doesn’t have the expense of getting there, which is one of the things that puts me off! (It cost me almost as much in train travel as the course costs).

  8. juliathorley says:

    I’m glad you had a productive day, but I don’t think I’m ever going to crack this market. 😦

    • Julia, PF is a bit of a ‘marmite’ market. Some people – such as Wendy Clarke – say they find it the ‘easiest’ market to write for and have great success with it, to the extent that they’re published almost weekly! But for the rest of us mere mortals (!) it can be tricky to get the tone and content spot on. Linda Lewis, a very successful womag short story writer, freely admits that it took her ‘ten years’ to crack PF but now they take quite a lot of her stories.

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