Last week I had a story 'Making the Grade' in The People's Friend. Inspired by my writing chum's (Wendy Clarke) posts sharing the inspiration behind her published short stories I thought I do the same for this story. Basically I stuck with the old premise of 'write what you know' and the story is largely
My teen son reached Grade 7 on the piano and much of his youth was spent at music recitals and festivals, all fun events. He still plays now. In fact he always plays when he needs to relax - so as he's in the middle of his A'levels right now he's playing daily, which is always a treat for us as he is a very good pianist. And I really did take my Grade 1 piano exam as an adult - my son's piano teacher at the time (he was already on Grade 3 by then) tutored me right up to the exam. But the exam was truly terrifying. In the waiting room I was surrounded by small children (all under ten) clutching the same Grade 1 book of tunes as me. At the grand piano my hands shook so badly I could hardly play. The lovely examiner, an elderly gentleman with an elaborate bow-tie, patted my shoulder and whispered it 'was all over now' and I could relax with a nice cup of tea. Something stronger would have helped more. I vowed my days of taking any exam were over - never again. Life was far too short to put myself through such stress.
The short story was an imagined event but containing several real experiences. It was written almost a year ago and the original feedback from the lovely Shirley Blair (Fiction Editor at TPF) was that she loved all the description, but wanted to know more about the mother's motivation for taking the exam in the first place. If I added this it would take the story over their minimum word count of 1200 words, as my original submission was only a 1,000. This point also demonstrates how important it is to read a magazine's submission guidelines! I hadn't checked them for sometime and didn't realise they had a minimum word count - lesson learned ...
The revised story was posted and after a couple of months I received another lovely email from Shirley (she is a joy to work with) buying the story. Another good thing about TPF is they reject stories quickly, usually within a week. This can be a bit of a shock, but is preferable to waiting the 3-4 months, or longer, (I'm not naming them) from many other magazines just to hear bad news. It means you can re-work and re-sub somewhere else quickly - always a bonus.
Okay, this is only the second story I've sold to TPF so my success is not exactly prolific, but I do wait until I have something I think will suit their needs as the editors really do know what their readers like. If you want to submit then read the weekly and monthly special editions to find out the range of stories they accept. You will notice Wendy Clarke's name in just about every issue. Read any of her stories to understand that TPF want a well-written story with great characters and satisfying endings.