Let’s Write: in magazines – with Janice Johnston, 8 February 2017

‘Please bring along some magazines,’ was Janice’s request prior to her workshop. Well, we did and what a selection. Everything from Which? to Wedding turned up on our table, and others had Camping and Caravanning Club, Railway Modeller, National Geographic as well as magazines covering cookery, triathlon, Scottish culture, you name it.

Janice then explained to us, with great examples, how we could use the magazines to stimulate our writing. We could use an article or headline to inspire us, for example ‘Steamed up double glazing’ (!) and ‘Creative uses for Fairy Liquid’ (helping you get into your wetsuit, if you’re wondering!)

Or we could write something similar to the content of one of the magazines. Several members thought of writing to ‘Letters’ pages, or writing a short article.

Janice suggested we look through some magazines or papers and ask ourselves three questions.

  1. Could you write something appropriate? e.g. a submission to a letters page or readers’ comments. Perhaps an article or a piece of fiction?
  2. Could the publication be useful for you as a writer? e.g. to promote your book, your play or even yourself?
  3. Could you get an idea for a non-fiction or fiction piece?

I was inspired by a local author’s feature in People’s Friend where she wrote about her recently published novel and how it came to be written. Janice showed us Maggie’s excellent piece in the mighty Cumnock Chronicle, a sister paper of the Ayr Advertiser to which the club is invited to contribute every week. Janice encouraged all of us to take our turn and submit something for The Write Stuff and take pleasure in seeing our work in print with our name and photo alongside. Another member thought he might like to write football-related articles while Janice revealed that, early in her writing career, she enjoyed frequent publication in the (admittedly niche) Scottish Farmer, until she suggested they might like to pay her! My husband torments me every week when the Ayrshire Post publishes his report on Triathlon and even gives him his own by-line. (How’s the publishing business working out for you?’ he craws, every single Wednesday.)

The room was certainly buzzing with ideas and enthusiasm, the proof that Janice had done her job and done it well. Like all good teachers, she even gave us homework, asking us to complete three tasks. Janice challenged us to write three pieces, be it a letter, an article or a blog, for the next Let’s Write night on 5th April. We’re encouraged to submit them by that date, or in the case of a blog have it up and published. And she expects us to report on our progress that evening. No pressure, then.

Hang on, this is a blog. Does that count?

Pat Young


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