Kate Blackadder Women’s Short Stories 3rd December 2014

Kate Blackadder 03 12 14 02We were delighted to welcome our speaker Kate, whose wealth of expertise in writing short stories for magazines, informed her very interesting and enlightening presentation. Kate is an experienced writer, who has been regularly published and is a former winner of the Muriel Spark Short Story Prize. Kate’s own writing is something she greatly enjoys, including a creative writing course which started her on the road to success. She likes to have a store of characters, settings and starts, many of which are inspired by visual prompts or real events.
Kate outlined how she had started with limited success, but has now had 41 stories accepted by a variety of magazines.
She has a clear insight into the pleasures and demands of writing for publications such as People’s Friend with its 300,000 readers, (feel good with soft edges) or Woman’s Weekly (more contemporary). Kate emphasised that although readers were usually women, this did not preclude male writers and all of us were encouraged to try our hand.
Her golden rules were to
• Research your market thoroughly by reading recent copies of magazines to see how trends were changing.
• Check websites for their policy on word count, grammar and style.
• Reading work aloud to avoid “clunky dialogue” and to see if the story flows.
• Always be prepared to act on advice and edit if required. Be ready “to kill your darlings” or your story may never be published.
• Don’t be surprised if they change titles or even characters’ names (Kate cited one instance where her central character’s name was changed, much to her disappointment).
• If sending by post, add word count and theme (if applicable), to the envelope, to help it climb the editor’s slush pile a little more promptly.
• Don’t give up on rejection, as Kate jokingly called “being Maureened”. Even regular contributors still face rejection. Just put the piece away, change the title, cut or expand and try again a few months later or with another magazine.
Kate followed up her talk with a group exercise which initially seemed fairly simple – listing words which sprang to mind from A-Z. The twist was that, from this selection of 26 words we were to create a story, adding joining words or phrases.
After tea break and an opportunity for questions, some highly amusing and fantastical stories were shared, showing that our writing muscles were up and working even if the results were more suited to fantasy than People’s Friend.
Kate’s invaluable advice has hopefully set many of us on the path to publication.

Y Jack

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