Welcome, Keith Havers.

It’s time for the September People’s Friend Author interview, and I’m pleased to welcome Keith Havers on to my blog this month.

Keith Havers.                              Digital imageWP_20140909_16_34_34_Pro


He’s the first male author to feature on here since I began doing this back in the springtime. And, hot off the press, I hear that he has recently had an email from People’s Friend editor Shirley Blair accepting another story, so that’s good timing for the interview.

This was the first story I read, and enjoyed with your name on…granny at bus stop
S/  I read about the lady at the bus stop story, and enjoyed it. There was no idea of the twist coming. What gave you the idea for this story?
K/ I can’t remember exactly where the original idea came from but it started out as a very different story. My first attempt had the old lady as a slightly confused individual who absent-mindedly collected various items from the people she spoke to at the bus stop. I think it was a scarf from the young woman, the business man’s mobile phone and the little girl’s doll. Although the main character was acting in all innocence, the idea of a befuddled old lady didn’t go down very well at The People’s Friend. Editor Shirley Blair liked the writing though and suggested I give it another try. So I changed it to the old lady recruiting people to help out in the village.
S/  Was that your first People’s Friend submission, and how long had you been sending them stories before your first acceptance?
K/ It certainly wasn’t my first submission. On looking through my records I see that I tried twice in 2008 followed by another three attempts in 2011 before achieving success in March 2012. I think I was having trouble hitting the right tone for People’s Friend so I was concentrating on other markets.
S/  I know you write for several other magazines, how does writing for People’s Friend differ from say, Yours or Woman’s Weekly?
K/ The Friend stories have to be upbeat and have a happy ending. You need a conflict, of course, in order to create a story but you have to tread a fine line. Yours magazine are very clear on the sort of thing they like. They’re not very far removed from People’s Friend in that they like nostalgia stories and those that involve relationships across the generations. I’ve had a few successes with them with ‘grandson’ stories similar to The Rainbow Baby.
Take A Break are very different. Their stories can be edgier and themes can include romance, the paranormal and even murder.
With their readership split between the sexes, The Weekly News also accepts a wide range of stories.
I’ve submitted to Woman’s Weekly several times with no success so I’ve obviously not figured out their exact requirements yet.


S/  Does your Grandson know he’s an inspiration for your writing, I loved the knitting story, and what does he think of his Grandad, the storyteller?
K/ Finlay is eight years old and he’s well aware of his influence. In fact I used his real name in one of my stories that appeared in Yours magazine. He’s pretty blasé about it though. He’s more interested in playing football with me.
S/  Do you have a set time for People’s Friend writing, and a target number for submissions; or do you write when you feel the mood?
K/ I have a part-time ‘proper’ job which means I can be called out at a day’s notice so I’m never sure when I’m going to have time for writing. I try to maintain a situation where I have several submissions to various magazines out there. However, since I have now accumulated the grand total of five successes with People’s Friend I’m thinking of concentrating a little more of my time in that direction.
S/  How does it feel to be a male People’s Friend writer in a world that is quite strongly female dominated; (not with dominating females, I hasten to add) And have you ever been tempted to write under a female pen-name?
K/ While The Friend readership may be predominantly female the stories can be about men. Also, many of my stories would work just as well with either a male or a female protagonist so I don’t really have a problem. I have found the womag community very helpful and the fact that I am a man doesn’t appear to matter.


I attended a workshop at Nottingham Writers’ Club where I am a member. The tutor was Bead Roberts, a name which I’m sure will be familiar to many of your readers. I asked her about using a pseudonym and she had no hesitation in advising me to use my real name. Soon after that workshop I had my first acceptance and I keep Bead regularly informed of all my successes.
It was quite a struggle to get accepted for People’s Friend but once I had made the breakthrough I found Shirley Blair to be extremely helpful. If your submission is good but not quite acceptable she will e-mail you and let you know where you’ve gone wrong. She allowed me to have three attempts at one of my submissions before it was accepted. In fact, she made a special point of congratulating me that The Rainbow Baby was the first time I got through at the first attempt. None of the other magazines have done this.
I think that the one strength I do have is perseverance. If I had been less determined I would have given up a long time ago. So my advice for those still struggling is to keep sending in those submissions.
Take a look at Keith’s Blog here – Dream it, then do it

You can find him on Twitter here @KeithHavers
Thanks Keith for agreeing to this, and since I put these questions together, I notice from the People’s Friend blog, that Shirley Blair is asking for more male writers. So, hope to see a lot more of your stories in our favourite story magazine Keith, and maybe I should be Steven instead of Susan…

Welcome Wendy Clarke.

It’s a great pleasure to welcome the writer who has taken People’s Friend by storm. Wendy has become a regular writer, with a story published in most issues, and the specials and seasonal issues of the Friend as well.



Hello Wendy, thanks for taking time to share some of your writing experiences with us on my blog.

It’s lovely to be here, Susan – thanks for inviting me.

S/ Have you always written short stories, or is this something relatively new you’ve started?

W/ Unlike a lot of People’s Friend writers, I would be lying if I said I had spent my life writing short stories. In fact, until I was made redundant and started an online writing course three years ago, I hadn’t written a story since I was in school. I was lucky to have an amazing English teacher who I wanted to please and he was very complimentary about my writing – my mother still knows him and recently gave him a pile of my magazines to read and he said he wasn’t surprised I’d become a writer – I was so proud! When I became an English teacher myself (in a primary school) I was always saying to the children, “Ooh, I wish I could write that…” whenever I set them a story. Now of course, I can’t imagine stopping – it’s part of my life!

S/ You have recently started writing under a different name. Is there any special reason for this?

W/ I write under my own name but my editor at The Friend wanted to use two of my stories in the Summer Special and they don’t like to have a name used twice, so asked if I’d have a pen name for this occasion. It’s only happened once so far but I felt rather pleased to be asked. The other magazines I write for are happy to have multiple stories by the same author using their own name (my record is three in one issue). The only downside of having a pen name is that if you particularly like the story, you feel as if your fictitious author has taken the glory!

S/ You are a great help to me, and other writers with your informative blog. How important is social media to you and your writing?

W/ Thank you, Susan – that’s lovely of you to say so. I started my blog, Wendy’s Writing Now, when I had my first sale at the end of 2012 and I wanted it to chart my journey from that day to wherever my writing career would take me. I also wanted it to be helpful to other new writers – when I first started writing, I spent a lot of time reading other writers’ blogs in search of answers to my writing questions and wanted to give something back. Also, writing can be a lonely business and without social media, I wouldn’t have been able to meet other lovely writers such as yourself . As for Facebook, I avoided it for ages and then succumbed in April of this year – but purely for writing purposes. I have to say it has been immensely useful for information. I expect I shall have to join Twitter soon as well. Anyone tell me how?

S/ How does writing for the People’s Friend differ from the other popular magazines that you write for?

W/ I write for Take a Break fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly as well as The People’s Friend and enjoy the different style of writing required for each. If I’m writing a twist story, I’ll probably send it to Woman’s Weekly and if I have written something more contemporary with say a teenager as my main character, then I would send it to Fiction Feast. Romances and historical stories, I always save for The Friend. Having said that, there is definitely a cross-over between the magazine. What I particularly like about writing for The People’s Friend is working with my editor. He has been like a mentor to me, encouraging and guiding, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that my writing has improved since I started working with him two years ago.

S/ I know you’re working on a novel. Do you see yourself writing a pocket novel for People’s Friend? If so, in which era would you set the story?

w/ Ha ha -don’t mention the novel… I haven’t started it yet! After saying on my blog that I was thinking about writing one, I started writing a serial instead… and then another one. I’m not good at doing two things at a time. I don’t think I would write a Pocket Novel because if I’m going to write that many words, I may as well write more and do a whole novel. If I did, though, it would be historical – probably set in the mid nineteenth century. What I shall be doing in the near future, though, is putting together a collection of my published stories – watch this space.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your lovely blog, Susan, and for being such a big supporter of my own.

It’s been a pleasure hearing more about your writing journey Wendy, and keep those lovely stories flowing….



Wendy on Facebook.