ABOUT FRIENDS ON THE SHELF
In early 2019 my old friend Vick and I decided to start an independent literary magazine. It would be one with a difference, based on our belief that people love to hear about other people's lives. Some of our favourite stories are the personal experiences that people share in a conversation amongst close friends: we wanted to capture these stories in print and bring them to a wider audience.
Bringing together our separate skills and backgrounds – Vick’s in graphic design and mine as a writers’ agent and working in TV comedy – we spent much of the year talking about exactly what we wanted this magazine to be, spreading out our ideas in cafes and on tables and floors.
When I discovered the book Can Any Mother Help Me? by Jenna Bailey, the concept really fell into place. Can Any Mother Help Me? is an account of a magazine published between 1930 and 1970 called The Cooperative Correspondence Club (CCC), in which ordinary women wrote letters to each other about their lives, recounting their experiences with an extraordinary honesty, resilience and humour. As well as great fun to read, it is a fascinating social history and, inspired by it, we asked friends, neighbours, friends-of-friends and family to contribute short autobiographical stories.
We were delighted with the wealth of material we received and launched our first issue in May 2020 during the first lockdown. The silver lining of publishing at such a peculiar time was that our first issue was welcomed by people isolated at home, missing social contact.
Three years and seven issues later, we are proud to have published nearly 200 original stories from over 100 different writers. The pool of people has grown and now we receive tales from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. They include established and well-known writers, as well as new writers who have never been in print before. Some of these have gone on to become some of our most popular regular contributors.
Since Issue 4 we have been holding gatherings where contributors read out their stories. They have proved really popular and all subscribers are invited.
We are completely independent and rely solely on selling subscriptions – only £16 (plus P&P) for two issues a year so if you enjoy the magazine, we need you to sign up! However, you are of course welcome to buy a single copy of any of our issues: the stories are timeless and the issues are designed to be collected.
We look forward to our community of writers and readers growing, as we seek out stories from more and more people of all ages and backgrounds. If you have a story to tell, we'd love to hear from you.
Rachel Swann, FOTS Editor
Issue 8 is out in October 2023.