After nearly 45 years in magazine journalism, Fiction Ed Shirley is retiring on Friday, February 14th. She sat down with Fiction Team’s Lucy for a chat about what she’s loved, what she’s going to miss, and her plans for the future.
How long have you worked for DC Thomson, and on which titles?
I started way back in 1975, on “Star Love Stories in Pictures”, a little pictorial book similar to “Commando”. In fact we shared an office and an editor. After that it was a letterpress fiction title, “Secrets”. Then “Annabel”, then a project which became a magazine called “I’m Pregnant”, then into “My Weekly” as Chief Sub. From there to People’s Friend Story Collection (forerunner of the PF Pocket Novels) and finally to the “Friend” itself. I had other little diversions along the way, but that’s the main route!
Which roles have you particularly enjoyed?
I loved “Annabel”, partly because it was my kind of magazine – I was its demographic. But also it was my first experience of working on features, of generating ideas and writing copy rather than just working with the stories that other people had written. I gained lots of different experience there, from organising photo shoots, interviews, travel features… and at the relatively leisurely pace of a monthly magazine with a big staff.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen during your time working in magazines?
Goodness, the biggest one is going from pencil and paper to everything being done direct to computer. The production processes have changed beyond recognition, too.
Have you written stories for the “Friend” while you’ve been on the team?
I have. I’ve written around 20 short stories, and seven serials. Not for a while, though, due to pressure of time. But it’s something I’m really looking forward to getting back to.
What are your retirement plans?
See above! I have lots of travel plans, but also lots of little plans that I just haven’t made time for while working full time, like catching up with friends and ex-colleagues, visiting local sites and places of interest, and of course spending more time with Mr Fiction Ed – who I’ll have to start calling by his real name!
What do you think you’ll miss?
I’ll really miss the vibrancy of the office, the fun chats about all sorts of things from favourite fiction serial killers to the space programme!
What’s been the best bit of being Fiction Ed?
I’ve honestly loved working with the writers and seeing their confidence and ability develop.
The “Friend” is now in its 151st year. What do you think is the reason for its continued success?
It knows itself and its readers inside out, and doesn’t try to do anything smart or clever or radical – it just keeps it simple and does what it does really, really well.