Lydia Jones: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”

Lydia Jones, one of our most successful short story writers.

Lydia Jones joins me as guest writer for our story writing workshop in Manchester on Monday, 26th September, so I thought I’d invite her to guest blog here, too!

Hi, I’m Lydia Jones and I’m delighted to have been asked to write a guest blog by Fiction Editor Shirley.

I’ve been a “Friend” author for twelve years now but I’ve been writing since I’ve been breathing: diaries; stories; poetry. I write because it’s part of who I am and if I don’t do it I am miserable and horrible to live with (just ask my husband!).

If you’re writing for yourself you can write whatever you like, but if you’re writing hoping for publication, it’s a different matter altogether, which is why a “People’s Friend” writing workshop is such a wonderful opportunity.

When I was starting out trying to get published, I would have given several non-essential body parts to spend an entire day with the Fiction Editor of a major women’s magazine listening to her tell me what she wants.

I was lucky. I sold the first three stories I ever sent to “The People’s Friend”…then I sold nothing else for a whole year! Clearly I had a little talent but I needed to learn how to apply it.

Watching the Olympics recently I’ve been struck by a strange similarity between sport and writing. For every athlete standing on the podium with a medal, there is a back-story of heartbreak, disappointment and determination. During the barren twelve months when I was learning (the hard way) what made a good magazine story, I had to endure lots of kind and encouraging rejections from Shirley, and some pretty unkind ones from other people, but I tried my best to profit from them. I am (my family will tell you) a stubborn old stick and I was not going to give up.

“The People’s Friend” writing workshop offers a potential shortcut on the path to publication, so I’m thrilled to be participating in the Manchester day as a guest tutor.

I hope whatever advice I can give will help others experience the surreal satisfaction of seeing something that started as a spark in your head appear on the page as a published story.

I don’t know who said this (I’m sure some of you do), but I love it: “A published writer is just an unpublished writer who wouldn’t quit”.

So if you’re thinking about a joining a workshop…enrol now! And if you’re coming to Manchester, I’ll see you there.

To remind you of our other dates: Bristol – September 7, with Helen Yendall; Dundee – September 15 and York – September 22. Here’s the booking form. We’ve arranged some super travel options from Superbreaks, too: or call 01904 436030 quoting ref HB794.

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.