How We Value Our Writers

I’ve mentioned this before: that I have “my” regular writers, Alan, Tracey and Alison each have theirs, and we’re possessive of our own and covetous of each other’s!

But we’re all resigned to the fact that sometimes we’ll lose someone from our lists. For a lot of writers, their ultimate ambition is to write novels, and they use writing short stories and then, perhaps, serials or pocket novels as a sort of training ground. Which is fine. We’re almost as excited as they are when they tell us they have an agent, then – the big prize! – a book deal, and until then we benefit from some great stories. Most writers fully intend even then to keep writing for us. However, with only so many hours in a day and promotional events and social media to be taken care of – not to mention the writing of the next novel – it’s often impossible. And so we lose them, but at the same time we genuinely celebrate their success.

But then sometimes we lose a writer for sadder reasons. Just yesterday we received the very sad news that Mary Kettlewell has died. Mary K, as we called her here, was famous for her period love stories and we know our readers loved them and will miss her contribution.

It’s also barely a year since we lost Neilla Martin, writer of brilliant period serials, and Amanda Young who created “Wee Sadie Perjink” among other wonderfully lively characters. Both wrote with a particular pawky style of Scottish humour which I fear no other writer will ever bring back to our pages.

But more than that, we feel we lost friends. I used to get wonderful phone calls from Neilla, usually on a Friday afternoon, that would start off being about her latest serial instalment, wander off up all sorts of side alleys, and invariably end up with us both in stitches. She had a lovely way with her.

Amanda wrote, corresponding by emails and letters filled with such a wry humour that I could hear her voice in them and detect the smile.

I miss them both, as Alison will miss Mary K’s regular phone calls and emails and Alan misses Isobel Stewart’s reflective emails introducing her latest thoughtful, perceptive style of story. They were friends, all.

So when we stop hearing from a writer for the happier reason that they’ve moved on to the “big league”, we follow their career, buy their books, and celebrate their progress like good friends do.

Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.