Writer Of The Week: Wendy Janes

Hello, Wendy, and welcome. Your short story, “Signs Of Friendship” appears in our Special 236, on sale December 28. What inspired you to write this story?

Hi, thank you for inviting me to be Writer Of The Week.

Soon after I began learning British Sign Language (BSL), I knew I wanted to share my enthusiasm for this beautiful language via my writing.

However, I’m not deaf and therefore it didn’t feel appropriate to tell the story from the point of view of someone within the deaf community.

So, I spent ages wondering who could my protagonist be, and why would they be learning BSL?

My lightbulb moment came when I pictured a child in a school playground watching a friend communicate with their mother using BSL.

My research came mainly from the BSL course, which in addition to teaching basic signs also included information about the history of sign language as well as explaining terms such as CODA (child/ren of deaf adult(s)).

I’m thrilled that the “Friend” is publishing this story, and I hope it might inspire people to start learning.

Your story is written from a junior point of view. Is this your first ‘junior’ story for the “Friend”? How easy/difficult did you find it, writing in a junior POV?

I’ve written a few stories from that POV for the “Friend”. In fact, my very first one was based on something my mum did when she was a child.

I enjoy writing from a child’s perspective – thinking about the language the character uses, and how they see and feel things.

And if I get a bit stuck I usually turn to my grandchildren, or I cast my mind back to my own sons when they were little.

“Signs Of Friendship” comes in at around 2500 words – a length featured in our Special, but not our weekly. Do you have a story length that you feel works best for your fiction?

I think the length depends on the complexity of the story I want to tell.

I have written some longer short stories of around 5000 words, and a few years ago I wrote a novel (80,000 words).

Funnily enough I’m currently working on a pocket novel, which I’m hoping to submit to “The People’s Friend” early next year.

What are the best books you’ve read this year?

This year I’ve read some wonderful novels by authors such as Salley Vickers, Clare Chambers, Kazuo Ishiguro, Louise Beech and Liane Moriarty.

However, two books stand out as my favourites this year.

The first is “Little Wing” by Freya North. It’s so tenderly and beautifully written. For me, it’s a perfect combination of family drama, romance, and a hint of mystery.

The second is “Yours Cheerfully” by A.J. Pearce, which is the sequel to the absolutely delightful “Dear Mrs Bird”. Set during the Second World War, you’re totally immersed in the era, but the story feels very relevant to today too.

What are your writing hopes for the New Year?

Well, first of all, I’m really hoping my pocket novel is accepted for publication!

I have quite a few ideas for some more short stories I want to write, and I’d like to start on another pocket novel before the year is out.

Are you a member of a writing group or online writing community?

A few years ago I was a member of quite a few online writing communities, but as with these things, they come and go.

I feel very blessed that some of the people I met in those communities are now my writing friends.

We beta read for each other, share ideas and generally support each other with our creative endeavours.

We know we can be honest with each other and any criticism comes from trying to help each other improve our writing.

Many of my “Friend” stories are run past my writing friends before I send them off, and I’m very grateful for their help.

And finally – do you have a tip for an aspiring “Friend” author?

I guess, leading on from what I said in reply to the previous question, my tip would be to reach out and find some writing friends, and create a supportive and honest environment in which to share your work prior to submission.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!