Alexis is one of our new authors in our 155th anniversary issue.
Tell us about your story “A New Chapter”.
This story idea popped into my head during a 30-day writing challenge I was attempting. I was spending quite a lot of time in our local library with my youngest child, after school each day, so that was probably why I decided to make the main character a librarian. My character is a fixer, someone who notices other people and their struggles, and tries to improve things. It’s a gentle, uplifting story so I though it might be good for “The People’s Friend” and I was delighted when it became my first acceptance for the magazine.
How long have you been writing fiction?
I’ve been writing short stories for about 8 years now and have been fortunate to be published in various magazines and anthologies. I also have the first draft of a novel, which I might return to one day! I also write creative non-fiction and flash fiction stories.
What’s your writing background?
I’ve always loved writing and kept journals and diaries as a child. In my twenties, I started a couple of novels which fizzled out, but it’s only been in the last few years (middle age?!) that I started to submit my writing for publication. One big step was to join a local writers group, which is very encouraging. Since I started taking my writing more seriously, I’ve also taken different writing workshops and classes. Mostly online, there is so much out there. I’ve learnt something new in every class I’ve taken. Plus it’s been lovely to make some additional writing friends that I can exchange feedback with. I do also try to enter some writing competitions as I find a submission deadline helps to focus my mind. A few years ago I was lucky enough to win a four-day writing retreat which was an absolutely amazing experience.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I tend to read contemporary and literary fiction. Willy Valutin is one favourite, he writes about ordinary working-class people and I really enjoy his novels. I am a big fan of everything and anything by Elizabeth Strout, again she writes very character-driven novels and she’s probably my favourite author. Although I recently discovered Katherine Heiny and loved both her novels, finding them relatable and funny, so she is a new favourite of mine. I tend to like ‘quiet’ books which focus on emotions and character, rather than novels full of plot and action. Stewart O’Nan is another author I always enjoy reading. I am also a huge short story fan and have way too many favourite short story authors to mention…
What are your long term writing plans?
Just to keep writing and hopefully get more of my stories published in the future. At the moment, I feel like I have run out of ideas which usually means I need to go out and about, discover new places and see what’s happening in the world. Hopefully before too long an image or an item will catch my eye, and I’ll find myself trying to describe it. Or I’ll hear someone say something intriguing which will set off another story idea! I get plenty of ideas just from listening to people. Ideally I’ll get back into a daily writing habit as soon as possible because I find the more I write, the more frequently ideas start to appear.
What advice would you give someone trying for success in the “Friend”?
As I’ve submitted quite a few stories to the “Friend” with no success, I am probably not the best person to ask for advice! However, I would say that reading as many copies of the magazine as you can lay your hands on would be the best starting point. That way you will see the stories the publication accepts and get an idea of who the readers are and what they are interested in.
After my earlier rejections, I became a regular reader of the magazine and also got copies of “The Friendship Book” and the Annuals and tried to get much more familiar with the type of stories published. It was such a delight to hear that they had accepted my story and hopefully this won’t be my last “Friend” publication!