Writer Of The Week: Sareen McLay

Sareen McLay

Tell us about your story “Blooming Marvellous”.

The sense of community that exists in a town where there are shops with friendly staff, inspired me to write “Blooming Marvellous”. I see it as a celebration of all the amazing shopkeepers and their staff who welcome us and often, with a quick word, can make our day feel so much brighter. At the supermarket, I miss the chat you get at the tills when there are only self-service machines.

Every year I grow flowers in my own garden with the intention of picking them to have in a vase in the house but then I never do pick them because I love seeing them growing in the garden. The flower field on the A96 inspired me to think about buying flowers grown in the UK as Tom, in the story wishes to do. Of course, Louis Armstrong was a huge influence for me when writing this story. His song, ‘Wonderful World’, is an absolute joy to listen to, it’s so uplifting.A total fan of Commercial Fiction and rom-coms, I couldn’t resist adding in a little romance. As ever, it is not just one thing that inspires me to write a story, more often it is a random collection, which somehow seems to link together.



How long have you been writing fiction?

I’ve written stories and poems for as long as I can remember. As a child, I loved reading the stories in the magazines my mum bought. The sense of being part of a community who shared my passion for reading was a wonderful feeling. For me, to write a story that would provide a reader with the same joy I get from reading and writing stories would be an amazing achievement. I enjoy writing in many forms from short stories, to writing for children and poetry. Each genre seems to feed the into the others and although it takes me a long time to produce a piece of work, I feel that embracing my ‘Jill of all trades’ nature helps to improve my writing.

(Here’s a poem I wrote years ago which sums me up!)


Jill of all Trades

Jill of all trades

Master of none.

A lust for learning

Everything under the sun!


But when to stop,

When to find that focus?

The one thing to love

To leave the others behind.


Hope keeps me thinking

Optimism makes me try

Another class, one more go.

Perhaps this will be the one?


Then I will shine

Inspire others to share my interest

My new-found skills

Will drive me forwards


Like a train steaming on

My enthusiasm will guide me

At last, a focus, just one.

Will define me, find me.


Who are some of your favourite authors?

As a child I read so many books from the children’s library, I remember being asked if I’d like to try the books in the adult section at quite a young age. The Anne of Green Gables, Chalet School and many Enid Blyton books figured high on my list of reading along with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. From there I moved on to science fiction and crime stories. Today I would choose to read anything by Maggie O’Farrell, Maeve Binchy, Jenny Colgan, Kate Atkinson, or Elizabeth Jane Howard. As in my writing, I enjoy reading books of differing genres and am very grateful to be part of a fabulous book group, ‘The Worms’, where we all encourage one another to do just that. I am often to be found at the library selecting picture books, chapter and middle grade books to help with my own writing. Emma Carroll, Victoria Williamson and Justin Davies are a few of the authors whose books I would immediately turn to.



How did you celebrate Burns’ Night

I do love a good ceilidh dance! This year was a quieter night in with the traditional haggis, neeps and tatties family dinner, and a short ‘Address to a Haggis’ or the ‘Selkirk Grace’.


What are your future writing plans?

To keep on writing! I am very grateful to “The People’s Friend” for publishing my story and am feeling encouraged to continue writing and submitting short stories. I am a member of the wonderful Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and will continue working on my writing for children projects. A true ‘lover of learning’, I am always on the lookout for the next course I can take to improve my writing skills!

My blog is www.switchthekettleonlove.com where I write about writing, nature, books and I always make sure to include recommendations for books, films, places to visit, music or podcasts. I love a recommendation!



What advice would you give someone trying to have a story published in the “Friend”?

 First of all, read the magazine, as many copies as you can! Then read and follow the submission guidelines. Ask for help from friends and particularly writing critique groups to review your story. They are an invaluable source, not only for suggestions on how to improve your writing but also for encouragement. I would like to thank my good friend, the writer Rae Cowie, without whom this story would never have been submitted! The writing community is such a friendly world to be involved in. Finally, as everybody says, keep on trying and I wish you all the luck in the world.




Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!