Writing Articles with Sheila Grant – 7 March 2018

A writer has to start somewhere and for those who attended the club on Wednesday evening, there was no better person to give advice than Sheila Grant. Sheila became a member of Ayr Writers’ Club over twenty years ago, spurred on after publication of a children’s story in a magazine. Sheila admits this story had many flaws and now confesses to never having written or finished a children’s story since.

Enthusiastic and keen to learn, Sheila attended every workshop that the club offered but it was the Article Workshop where Sheila found her calling. Put to the task of writing a piece with a theme of Spring, Sheila created her masterpiece, one which has had several publications earning more than any other she has written. I’m not entirely sure if it was the diet content or the sexual aspect, but Sheila had us in fits of laughter as she read her article. Spring – for some members conjured ideas of lambs, Easter and, for someone thinking creatively, Zebedee.

Sheila put forth the question – Why write articles rather than a novel? We noted that articles are less time consuming, less formidable, great fun and addictive. You don’t need to be academically qualified, but Sheila advised to make sure research is thorough. Ideas for articles are all around and you only need to look, listen and be aware. There are publications looking for pieces of varying lengths and with research and persistence, there are opportunities to be published.

After six months research for a commissioned piece on the Laigh Kirk, Sheila was inspired by the design, manufacture and the craft of stained glass windows. Her investigations provided more than she bargained, including origins of street names and tales of many characters in Kilmarnock’s once industrial hub. Part of the Kirk tour is soon to be published in The Highlander, an American magazine. Even if you don’t use some of your findings, store them away as they are nuggets of gold for future writing.

Sheila offered an abundance of advice, too much to put into one blog.

Aspiration: You must want to write. How you do this and what regime you set is up to you.

Inspiration: Non-fiction inspiration is everywhere, even in your current manuscript or poems. An unusual subject might trigger a thought which will lead you to want to know more.

Motivation: When you lose the momentum or become stuck, put it away and work on something else. Come back to it later with a fresh pair of eyes.

Dedication & Application: Never give up. You will delight in what you find and will be encouraged by those who remark on it.

Presentation: Make sure your article is presented in the correct format before forwarding to the editor.

Imagination: Ask yourself questions such as ‘Why would this happen?’

Remuneration: Don’t give up the day job but enjoy any rewards you reap.

Sheila advised that we study articles in magazines that we’d like to write for and to keep yourself updated with staff and editor changes. Check word count and always make sure your article appeals to the theme of the magazine. Timing is also important as most publications work three months minimum ahead.

To end the evening, Sheila put us to task, asking us to use the name of a song to write an article. From ‘Send in the Clowns’ to ‘A Hard Days Night,’ we were all inspired to jot our thoughts and outline a piece to be worked on. Not letting us off lightly, Sheila took the opportunity to dish out subjects of interest and appoint writers for pieces to be produced for the Ayrshire Advertiser. We now look forward to reading these submissions and congratulating our fellow writers for their hard work and achievements.

It was a wonderful evening, packed full of learning, fun and much laughter. I’m sure, like me, all left enthused, ready to put pen to paper and try our hand.

Susan McVey

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