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Quality Women's Fiction Interview

Posted on 01 November 2004. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Sally Zigmond, assistant editor of Quality Women's Fiction magazine

Tell us something about your background.

QWF was founded in 1994 by Jo Good because she couldn’t find a small press magazine at the time that published the kind of fiction she wanted to read and write - literary fiction by women for women. It is still going strong – we are celebrating our 10th anniversary this year – all without any outside funding or grants, and people still say that QWF is unique. As a fiction writer herself who had received her fair share of blank rejection slips, Jo also decided that QWF would always give brief reasons for rejection. As its reputation grew, she found it impossible to do all the work herself, so she asked me to help share the load a few years ago.

How do you find new writers?

The usual ways. We have entries in The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook, The Writer’s Handbook and their American equivalent. We advertise from time to time and of course we have the website.

We welcome submissions from all female writers, whether they’re beginners or old pros. All we ask that is stories should not have been published anywhere else.

QWF also runs an annual short story competition – The Phillip Good Memorial Prize – which is open to men as well as women - and is one of the major UK annual short story competitions. I also like to think that our reputation goes before us!

What kind of writing are you looking for?

We are looking for ‘grown-up stories for grown-up women.’ In other words, we want stories about women’s day to day experiences, which of course can cover everything from time past to time future and anywhere in the world or beyond. Whilst women’s experiences vary from time to time and place to place, there is a universal ‘sisterhood’ and that is what we want to reflect. We want stories where character is paramount, where emotion is deeply felt - but without sentimentality or melodrama. It can be poetic or lyrical, but it has to tell a story. Something has to change. Every life is fascinating if the writer digs deep enough and doesn’t skim the surface. We also want the writer to show she knows how to use the English language and can create a whole world in a few well-chosen words and images - in no more than 4,000 words. That’s not much to ask is it?

Who are your favourite writers and why?

Where do I begin? Both Jo and I read voraciously and widely. If I had to name a few I would say that my favourite contemporary British writers are Helen Dunmore, Jenny Diski and Kate Atkinson because they have an amazing ability to use simple, yet startling vocabulary to create emotion. They can all make me gasp by the choice of a word or image. They also make me laugh. My favourite classic novel is Middlemarch and my favourite women writer of all time is Virginia Woolf. She positively revels in language. Some of the American writers I love are: Anita Shreve, Alice Hoffman, Sue Miller, Anne Tyler, Carol Shields. I find that American women writers are brilliant at conveying the tangled relationships between men and women, parents and children without being judgmental. They are also brilliant at conveying those meaningful gaps between words.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 11:11 on 01 November 2004  Report this post
I have read the QWF giudelines before and I'm afraid to submit to them for fear of getting it wrong! Saying that though, I like magazines that are specific about what they want.


anisoara at 11:52 on 01 November 2004  Report this post
I have also seen the guidelines posted at the QWF website, and I wanted to have a look at a copy of QWF. Fortunately a friend loaned me a copy recently, and I was really impressed. I think Sally Zigmond's description of what they're looking for fits the stories I have read very well. The stories were unique, yet fit the brief.


Anna Reynolds at 12:03 on 01 November 2004  Report this post
Elspeth, in response to your comment, Sally says: 'If her story is well presented, well-written and relates to women in any way, then I'll be happy to read it. Perhaps you could tell her that I may growl occasionally but I never ever bite - unless someone bites first, which has been known! '

Account Closed at 12:06 on 01 November 2004  Report this post
Thanks for that, Anna (and Sally)! I agree with Ani that the best way to get a feel for a mag is to read one first (My interpretation of her comment) - I'd definately do that before sending anything.


old friend at 04:06 on 02 November 2004  Report this post
Another avenue for women writers. What about we poor, hard-working members of the male variety?

No, I don't mean that... I welcome all and any magazine that embraces quality writing... particularly one that has a Competition open to all writers.

But I did notice the reference to 'all female writers, whether they are beginners or old pros'.
What about the young pros?

When I read this I had the vision of someone with a gun and a wounded foot. Anyway may the magazine prosper for many years to come.


EmmaD at 10:13 on 02 November 2004  Report this post
As well as reading their guidelines for submission, it's worth thinking about entering QWF's competitions (or anyone else's) and paying for the critique if they offer one. I did for QWF's Phillip Good Memorial Prize and got two helpful and perceptive pages back on each of two stories. But, bear in mind that the critique is only a guide to that market and to that (intelligent, informed) reader's tastes, not everyone's. The story that the critique-writer liked better has been shortlisted for the Phillip Good. The story that I realised from the crit. she/he fundamentally hadn't understood has won another, major prize elsewhere. So it's still horses for courses.

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