We welcome Margaret Skipworth as our Writer of the Week chatting about her story in this week’s issue.
Your story “The Wedding Guest” is set in Philadelphia – do I remember you had a story about how that came about?
Yes, the idea came to me in a rather unusual way. I wanted to write a story set outside the UK but was struggling to find a setting and plot I could develop. Eventually, I decided to take a break and dust my collection of over 100 miniature bells. I was studying the inscription and crack on the replica of the Liberty Bell when it struck me that cracks also form in relationships. So, I had the setting – Philadelphia – and the basis for a story. Needless to say, I abandoned the dusting to get back to my writing!
You had already had a number of stories published in the “Friend” before you attended our short story writing workshop in York some years back. What did the workshop do for you?
The exercises were excellent for generating ideas. But, the main advantage, for me, was being able to chat with other “Friend” writers, whose names I recognised. I was thrilled to discover that one of those writers, Joanne Duncan, lives only about 7 miles from me. Since York we’ve met for lunch every couple of months to share our successes and rejections and to discuss works in progress.
You’re not our most prolific writer but your stories are always a bit different. Do you discard lots of ideas to concentrate on the good ones, or only have good ones?!
Well, of course, I only have good ideas – I wish! In truth, I usually discard my first ideas for a story. These are the obvious ones that readers (and editors) will have seen many times. I always strive to make my stories a little bit different. This means a lot of rewriting. But, it stretches me as a writer and, hopefully, the end result is an enjoyable, satisfying story.
Do you work on more than one story at once?
No, I concentrate on one story until it’s finished. But, I have other projects on the go at the same time. I write devotionals and do some critiquing and editing work.
Notebook and pen or laptop? Kitchen table or study, blank wall or inspiring views?
I work on a desktop computer in a lovely ‘bespoke’ office, designed and built by my joiner-husband in our spare bedroom. But, if I’m stuck on a particular scene I find scribbling ideas on a piece of paper can be helpful. I face a wall of shelves filled with reference books and family photos. When I’m writing I’m not aware of my surroundings – 20 years working in a noisy newspaper office taught me how to block out everything going on around me.
And a PS: Your one top tip for aspiring writers.
Just two words – be professional. By that I mean: submit only your best work; make sure it’s well-edited and presented; include a friendly but brief, business-like covering letter. And, always be respectful and polite towards your editor, even if you disagree with his/her comments.
Have a rummage about the Fiction section for more writer interviews, the Daily Serial, the Grammar Guru and so much more…