Writer Of The Week: Mairibeth MacMillan

writer of the week

Our Writer Of The Week this time is debut “Friend” writer, Mairibeth MacMillan.

Mairibeth’s lovely autumnal story, “Alan’s Apples”, will appear in our next weekly issue out on Wednesday.

Can you tell us where the inspiration for your story, “Alan’s Apples”, came from?

The original idea for Alan’s Applescame from a writing prompt by the former fiction editor of a picture of some apples.

It was probably ages ago, but it stuck in my mind. I love autumn and autumn colours so it really appealed.

I set the story in a house that I walk past every day.

A couple of owners ago there was an argument about who owned what bit of the garden, and one lot did try to put up a fence — around the wrong part of the garden allegedly!

How did it feel to have your first acceptance for the “Friend”?

When I got the first email from Abbie saying that she was sending the story on to the Editor, I couldn’t believe it.

I had started to read the email assuming it was another rejection, and then had to read it a few times before it finally sank in.

Then I waited again and when the second email came, I really couldn’t believe it. But it felt great!

The People’s Friendhas been around all my life, first in my gran’s house in Largs and more recently my mum had a subscription to it.

Although before that I remember it was always added to the items on the counter of the local paper shop when I was wee.

Which writers do you admire the most, and why?

I’ve always enjoyed reading short stories and M.R. James’s ghost stories are particular favourites.

I also love crime fiction, and have recently enjoyed Jo Allen’s series set in the Lake District and Abir Mukherjee’s series set in Calcutta.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?

I have always written bits and pieces, and I still have some notebooks from when I was wee. They’re full of novels that I started but never finished.

I also have cassettes and video tapes of plays that I wrote and then persuaded my friends to read or act out.

I began to take it more seriously when I took a career break from teaching, and now I write something every day, even if it’s just a few words.

How do you make the time to write?

I’m trying to plan my time better at the moment to get more done.

(If I’m honest, I’ve been trying to do that for years!)

Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table, or study? Blank wall, or inspiring view?

Most of my writing is done on my iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard attached. It fits in my handbag and is not too heavy.

Sometimes I write or dictate onto my phone. I do also like to have a nice notebook for making notes in, but I rarely write a whole story that way.

And a P.S. – What’s your top tip for an aspiring Writer Of The Week?

My top tip for an aspiring writer of the week is to write for a specific person.

I write for my mum because I know she loved the stories in “The People’s Friend”. Keep asking yourself: would they like it? And focus on the character rather the plot.

My first story will be published the week of the second anniversary of Mum’s death, and I know she’d have been so proud and bought copies for all her friends.

For more from our Writer Of The Week series, click the tag below.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.