Alison Wassell, whose first ‘Friend’ story ‘A Special Place’ appears in this week’s issue, is our Writer Of The Week!
Alison, welcome, and congratulations on being our Writer of the Week! Your short story ‘A Special Place’, is the first story you’ve had published in The People’s Friend.
Tell us about the journey you’ve had to get here – have you attended writing classes or workshops? Is this the first piece of work you’ve sent to a magazine, or have you had other work published previously? Have you written in any other formats, such as novels or feature writing?
I only started writing seriously around eight years ago. I did the Open University Start Writing Fiction course. I’ve won, been placed, shortlisted and longlisted in many competitions over the years. I won the NAWG short story competition in 2016. I have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. Almost two years ago I attended a People’s Friend writing workshop. ‘A Special Place’ is my first foray into writing for women’s magazines. I have never had any yearning to write a novel.
‘A Special Place’ is set in the 1970s, in the times of three-day weeks and power cuts. In one part of the story, Denise is reading ‘Twinkle’ comic, which brought back a lot of happy memories for me! What are your memories of those days?
I suspect the seventies were more fun for children than for adults. Nothing better than your school closing early because of a power cut! My grandparents bought Twinkle for me every week. Then I graduated to Bunty, with those cut-out dolls on the back page. Then Jackie and the Cathy and Claire problem page. I remember my Dad trying to be trendy and buying a pair of platform shoes. And thinking we were so sophisticated because we had a colour TV and a ‘deep freeze’.
What was your inspiration for this story? And how and where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Like Denise in the story, I had a Dad who made things. That farmyard is real! And my mum really did give it away without asking me. It broke my heart. The rest of the story is fictional, although it would be nice to think that my farmyard found a loving home. I don’t drive, so I get a lot of my inspiration from overheard conversations on public transport.
Whose work do you most enjoy reading – do you have a favourite author, or a few favourites? And what do you hope to write next?
I love the short stories of William Trevor and Alice Munro. Other favourite authors are Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Strout and Isabel Ashdown. I just hope to become a better short story writer. Hopefully, my first “Friend” story won’t be my last.
Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I have a collection of pretty spiral bound notebooks where I write my first drafts, usually on the sofa with a slumbering cat on my knee. I type up and edit on my trusty PC in my study. Inspiring views are in short supply where I live. A blank wall is preferable.
What’s your one tip for aspiring writers?
Don’t listen to people who sneer and try to belittle what you do.
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