Nothing Fancy was the first story I had accepted by Woman’s Weekly.

Look at that title. Yet more abbreviations! It’s like I’m writing in code these days.

OK, if you haven’t worked it out, it stands for ‘Rest in Peace, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special’, for it has just been announced that the monthly fiction magazine (but not the weekly Woman’s Weekly mag) is folding.

I have to admit, I’m not surprised. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that it hasn’t happened sooner. But I am sad, not only for the loss of another womag market (and for my writing friends and colleagues who still write for WW) but also because I loved being published in WWFS, back in the day, before they insisted on taking all rights (at which point I ‘made a stand’ and stopped submitting to them).

Before they accepted my first story, I bought the magazine religiously every month, read and analysed the stories in depth (I even had a spreadsheet at one point! I kid you not), muttering things like, “I can write stories like this!”

And, in the end, it turned out I could.

It took a long time (and exhortations from my mum, who couldn’t bear the pain of every rejection, to ‘Give up, give up!’) but finally, in 2009, to be exact, they accepted the first story from me, ‘Nothing Fancy’.

But even then, it was a close call. They couldn’t get in touch with me to tell me my story was accepted because both the email address and the phone number on my cover sheet were wrong! (I know, I know. Rookie mistake! Still not quite sure how that happened, but one was because I’d changed my mobile or moved house or something, so not completely my fault).

Anyway, they could have just given up trying to get in touch but the lovely assistant fiction editor, Clare Cooper, wrote me a letter and asked me to call, which I did and we sorted it out. (But phew!)

I got the idea for the story when I walked past an ‘A board’ outside a gym, which listed all the beauty treatments they offered inside. The ‘I’ was missing from ‘manicures’ so it actually read ‘Man cures’ … ah ha! That was my starting point and I made my main character a woman who likes to point out mistakes to greengrocers (with their signs that read ‘potato’es’ and tomatos’.. you know the kind of thing).

When the story was finally published, I was slightly disappointed that it hadn’t got a lovely illustration with it (because the illustration was half the reason I wanted to get a story accepted!) but it was still very pleasing and now I think about it, as it had a little twist at the end, it might have been a difficult story to illustrate, without giving the game away.

The second story had a picture with it.

The next one they accepted, a couple of months later, ‘Love ‘em and Leave ‘em’ did have a bright illustration with it, so that was it: my ambition, for WWFS at least, had been achieved.

People, as we know, can be very ‘sniffy’ about magazine short stories (probably because they’re mostly written by women, for women) but writing for WWFS was an excellent discipline and grounding for what I’m doing now. You needed to have good, original ideas and achieve the right tone, pace and characterization, often in just 1000 – 1200 words (for a one pager). Anything less, just wouldn’t get past the fiction team or the magazine editor, who had the final say.

And funnily enough, I have even more reason to be grateful to WWFS because, now that I’m thinking about novel no 2 (I know, don’t laugh, I haven’t even finished this one yet), a historical short story that I wrote for WWFS is certainly in the running for my next idea….

Apples outside our local allotment. Nothing to do with WWFS. Just a nice picture!

This entry was posted in Magazines, Short Stories, Woman's Weekly. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to R.I.P WWFS

  1. Patsy says:

    It’s such a shame.

  2. juliathorley says:

    Sad, the end of an era. It sounds as though you owe Ms Cooper a lot. I wonder how many publications pursue new authors with such vigour these days.

  3. Sharon boothroyd says:

    It is sad, as we’ve lost That’s life, TWN and now this.
    But I’m hoping that Future net, who publish WW, Woman and Woman’s Own, may consider publishing the backlog of WW submitted fiction in these last 2 mags instead.
    It probably won’t happen, but you never know…
    Some published WW stories are re-published in Woman, so this could be an option for them to consider.

  4. pennywrite says:

    A shame, I agree. I think I had my first story there as well. (Long ago!) I thought of it ever after as ‘the One With Added Rabbit’ (like pet food?) because it appeared in print with an unexpected extra character. No idea why…. but the picture was very cute, anyway.
    Good luck with the novels, don’t let any ideas get away from you if possible!

  5. Kate Hogan says:

    Yes, very sad. ‘Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special’ was a beautiful magazine in its heyday – fabulous illustrations and many stories, which bordered on the literary. Like you, and many other writers, I made a stand and stopped subbing to them when they asked for all rights. I did write to them some years ago to suggest they tried harder with distribution of the mag, as it was very hard to get hold of a copy even in a big city, which wouldn’t have helped to keep it in publication. As for the lovely stories, I remember one of yours (Remember a few actually) which was set in the war, the women were ‘Loggers’ I always thought it would make a great novel – or even a film! Let’s hope short stories come back in fashion again. Good wishes Kate Hogan

    • Thanks for your comment, Kate! You have made my day, actually (it’s my birthday too, so double joy) by saying that was the story you remember and liked. Because THAT is the story that I’m planning to ‘develop’, shall we say. And that thumbs up was just what I needed! Thank you, thank you! x

  6. Kate Hogan says:

    Wow! Amazing coincidence – must be a sign. Here’s to the book and the film! Hope you have a very Happy Birthday, Helen. All good wishes Kate Hogan x

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