Out And About

When people ask what a fiction editor’s job involves, I tell them, “Oh, I just sit with my feet on the desk reading stories all day!” And that’s true. Well, apart from the feet on the desk bit

But I get to do lots of other things, too. For example, just a few weeks ago I was invited to attend the Scottish Association of Writers annual conference, which meant spending the weekend at a nice hotel near Glasgow. Quite a treat in itself.

The conference gave me the chance to meet lots of “Friend” writers I’d only previously emailed or phoned it was lovely to put faces to names.

But even more than that, I was asked to judge the competition for a 2000-word short story aimed at a women’s magazine. And there were 76 entries a record, apparently. So I had the opportunity to read 76 cracking, top-notch and really entertaining stories written by the wealth of writing talent that attends Scotland’s various writing groups. Though all I had were pseudonyms I had no idea who the writers actually were.

The range of stories was amazing: some were humorous, others mini-thrillers; some were sweet romances, some family tragedies; an unusual one was set in a middle-eastern warzone. And I had to pick a winner!

It was a real challenge, but I used the criteria that I use for any “Friend” story: it had to entertain, it had to engage the reader’s emotions, it had to make the reader care about the characters

The writer of the winning story read it out to the gathered groups when it was announced, and you could have heard a pin drop. The assembly was totally absorbed in her tale, and there were sniffs and tears when she finished, until applause broke out. Looking back at my criteria, that reaction told me I’d picked the right story to win