Our Writer Of The Week this week is Jacqui Cooper, whose short story, “Love Locked”, appears in our June 1 issue.
Welcome to the “Friend” Writer Of The Week! Tell us how you got started writing for the magazine?
I was one of the lucky ones. I wrote my very first story in 2013 and duly sent it off to “The People’s Friend”. It was rejected, but I sold the next one. And then another three. “This is easy,” I thought. “What’s all the fuss about . . .”
I was soon jolted back down to earth. It was three long years before I sold another story. I didn’t have a clue what I’d done right the first time, so had no idea what I was now doing wrong!
I learned a lot in those years, not least that pride comes before a fall!
Are you a member of a writing group, or a blogger?
When I started out writing I was still working and I didn’t have time to attend a writing group. But I do belong to an online group of short story writers. Even after all this time, I’m still learning. And I’ve made some great friends.
I don’t blog, but I have friends who do. I know they often feel under pressure to come up with something original and interesting every week. To be honest I’d rather spend my time writing stories.
Your short story, ‘Love Locked’, appears in this week’s issue of the “Friend”. Tell us about the inspiration for this story.
I visited Rome for the first time last year ,and I knew straight away I wanted to set a story there. Then later in the year, on a biting cold December day, I was in Gdansk and saw hundreds of rusting padlocks fastened to a chain at the end of pier. The padlocks sparked the story — but rather than set it in the cold, I took my characters back to sunnier climes.
Who are your own favourite authors?
I like reading fiction set in places I’ve either visited or plan to visit soon. I read Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Lacuna” when I was in Mexico City. Because of the book I made a special trip to see the Diego Rivera murals, and also visited Frida Kahlo’s house.
For the same reason, Anne Cleeves’ Shetland books are on my Kobo for the summer.
Do you have any hopes for the future for your own writing?
I’m happy writing short stories. The unfinished novels on my computer attest to the fact I don’t have the discipline for anything longer.
We’re into summer now. Do you have a favourite season to set stories in?
Christmas. I love writing Christmas stories, and usually start writing them in January. Having said that, another project took up my time this year and I haven’t written a single one. Better get a move on!
How do you deal with having a story rejected?
Rejections were harder to deal with at the beginning. The crows of doubt would descend and I would vow to find a hobby that didn’t regularly trample on my dreams. Nowadays I am better at keeping things in perspective. There are so many reasons a story can be rejected, and I (hardly ever!) take it personally any more.
It helps to know that stories that were rejected years ago may still, one day, find a home. Recently I sold a story that had been turned down by all the magazines and failed in every competition. Then, miraculously, it landed on the desk of someone who liked it. I did the Happy Dance that day!
Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table, or study? Blank wall, or inspiring view?
My computer is in my bedroom. No other computer will do. If I have to write somewhere else, then it has to be a notebook and pencil. And it has to be the prettiest notebook and a new pencil. In fact, the buying of the notebook often takes priority over writing the story.
This year I discovered something a little bit wonderful. I can lie in bed with my wireless keyboard on my knee and the words I type will appear onscreen at the other side of the room. If that doesn’t add some magic to my writing, I don’t know what will.
And a P.S. – what’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?
Don’t write one story, send it off and continually refresh your email as you wait for a reply. You are playing a very long game. Six months to a year for a response isn’t unheard of. Write the next one. And the next. Just keep going.
We feature a Writer Of The Week . . . well, every week! Click here to read more from those we’ve featured so far.