Meet Alan, Tracey, Shirley, Sarah, and Lucy — the “Friend” Fiction Team.
Describe a typical week on the Fiction Desk.
Shirley: Monday I try to read story submissions and serial instalments and catch up with correspondence.
Tuesday I write the Sneak Peek and put it on the website. Wednesday I schedule the “mix” of stories for the next issue to go into production.
Thursday is the day I source the next two stories for “The Weekly News”.
Friday I write my Writing Prompt Story Starter. In between these scheduled tasks I do as much reading and correspondence as I can, and forward planning.
Alan: I predominantly work with writers on their stories and serials, and on producing digital content.
Lucy: Reading, buying and illustrating stories and pocket novels, and planning our poetry content. Writing blogs and serialising the Daily Serial.
Corresponding with contributors and helping readers with enquiries. And everyone on the “Friend” team helps with proofreading the magazine before it goes to press.
Sarah: I’m in charge of all the illustration needs of the magazine and the brand.
My week includes commissioning cover artwork and fiction illustrations to external freelancers, and creating artwork myself.
How long have you been part of the “Friend” team?
Alan: Since 2006 – before that, I worked on our sister magazine, “My Weekly”. When I left school I wanted to be a National Hunt jockey. My love of chocolate and cake soon put paid to that!
Tracey: I’ve been here 10 years. My first magazine job was on “Jackie”!
Lucy: Eighteen months. I worked with Tracey back in the day on “Jackie”, then moved to other teenage mags before freelancing.
Shirley: I joined the “Friend” in 2006. Before that, I worked on “My Weekly”, “Annabel”, “Secrets”, and the “Friend” Pocket Novels.
Sarah: Two and a half years.
Best parts of the job?
Shirley: I love working with the writers. I love the creative aspect of it, working with so many different personalities and styles of writing. We’re also all great mates on the team, and doing a job we all love, so it’s just fun.
Alan: Assisting the writers where I can, and seeing their storytelling gift develop.
Tracey: The stories and the authors. And when you find a new author and get in touch for the first time to say their story’s been accepted.
Sarah: I enjoy being asked to work on projects which involve coming up with creative solutions to visual problems. And I love all the interesting conversations the team end up having!
Lucy: The people! Working with writers, meeting readers, and being part of the Fiction team. And all the reading! Bliss.
Any tricky parts of the job?
Alan: Telling a writer his or her work has been unsuccessful doesn’t get any easier.
Shirley: We always do our best to be constructive in any criticism we make of a story, with the aim of bringing the best possible content to our readers. But sometimes a writer can take the criticism personally, and that’s difficult.
Tracey: There isn’t enough time in the day!
Sarah: When an illustration just isn’t working visually, and I have to think about portraying the story from a different perspective.
Any “Friend” connections within the team?
Shirley: When I was at school I used to babysit for the two daughters of a neighbour, Sinclair Matheson, who went on to become Editor of the “Friend” in 1989. He gave me a reference when I started my career in journalism in 1975.
Tracey: My mother-in-law adores the “Friend” and her own mum read it for years. She’s thrilled that I’m a part of it, and there’s not a single page in the magazine that she doesn’t love!
Lucy: My great-uncle was a “Friend” contributor in the 1930s.
In this milestone 150th Anniversary Year . . .
Alan: I feel immeasurable pride. Our stories are as diverse and topical than ever, yet we haven’t compromised on the family values that the readers expect of us. It’s my belief the original editorial staff of 1869 would be just as proud to be associated with the fiction in today’s “Friend”.
Shirley: I think the “Friend’s” fiction is better than ever, offering our readers a great mix of stories. They can be strong, emotional, sometimes fun, sometimes challenging but they’re ultimately feel-good. And for this I thank our writers who consistently offer us such terrific material.
Tracey: I really think we’re managing to move forward fiction-wise, yet maintain our traditional feel. It’s not an easy thing to do and it’s down to our exceptional writers and artists.
Lucy: As Judey said in the Production Team piece, the magazine belongs to the readers – we’re just looking after it for a while. The “Friend” is a link with loved ones, too – for many readers, it’s part of the family.
Sarah: Here’s to the next 150 years!
For more from the team, read our blog.
And click here to meet the unsung heroes, the team behind the team.