Tag Archives: Tracy Joy Holroyd

Tracy J Holroyd – DCT Writer

Tracy Joy Holroyd wrote short stories and articles for many DC Thomson publications,  including Shout magazine and the later Bunty and Mandy annuals. Tracy’s uncles Bill Holroyd, Albert Holroyd, George Holroyd and Ken Reid had previously worked as cartoonists at DC Thomson too. She has kindly answered some questions about her writing experiences.

Quick Link: Publication list

How did you get your start writing  for DC Thomson?

I’d been writing for years, though not having much luck getting published. Then, inspiredbunty 2009 by a book about writing for children (can’t recall who wrote it), I decided to try my hand at a kids’ story. I researched the children’s market, then telephoned Maria Welch, who was then editor of D C Thomson’s Shout magazine. Maria encouraged me to submit my first story, which I did, and she bought it immediately!

Did your families history in comics encourage your interest in pursuing such a career?

I’d always wanted to be a writer – simply because I loved reading so much. Four of my uncles had worked for D C Thomson as cartoonists, Bill Holroyd and Ken Reid becoming particularly well-known. However, all had retired some years before I approached Thomson. Prior to writing my first story for Thomson, I’d visited my Uncle Bill in Scotland, and we got along so well that he actually invited me to move in with him and my Auntie Betty so that he could teach me cartooning – an invitation I didn’t accept, because I didn’t want to leave home. However, we spoke regularly by telephone,so he was able to give me lots of advice and encouragement. I recall his delight on hearing that I’d sold my first story – A Watery Grave – which I set in his home village of Ferryden, Scotland.

What was your typical process for writing stories?

I only wrote text stories. My stories were strongly plot-driven and panned out between 600 and 1200 words – so the first thing I had to do was come up with a plot. The hardest part! I liked spooky stories best, so tried to stick to that genre. I always opened with a hook – an action scene – then wrote a flashback to explain how my characters had reached the opening situation. The story had to move quickly. because of the limited word count, and the vocabulary had to be kept simple.  With practice, I could turn out a complete story in under two hours.

You said you wrote short stories, articles and puzzles, had you a preference for one thing?

Short stories. I’ve always loved spooky stories, and seeing my own published and illustrated makes me very proud.

Have you any favorite or memorable stories/articles that you wrote?

My first proper sale, of course – A Watery Grave. But I was particularly pleased with my later work, such as Scaredy Cat,The Werewolf and The Fortune-Teller.

Did you know anyone else who worked on these comics and were you able to work in collaboration with any other creators?

Only my commissioning editors, Maria Welch (Shout), Ayshea Scharf (Animals and You) and Anne Kemp (Cool Girl, The Bunty Annual and The Mandy Annual). I became particularly friendly with Anne. Of course, any story I submitted was subject to editing or re-writing as per an editor’s specific requirements. Some were even rejected as ‘too scary’!  I didn’t mind the editing too much – I was only really unhappy on one occasion, when my story’ s ending was changed beyond recognition!

Only once did I collaborate on a story – when I failed to come up with a plot for a Bunty commission. (I was going through a hard time personally and simply dried up.) Finally, Anne gave me a plot, and I produced the text. That was one of my very few non-spooky efforts – The Christmas Box.

Interesting that you succeeded in getting your work credited in Bunty Annual, what was that like and did you have support from others?

No, I just requested the credit. I’d always been credited for my magazine stories – and wasn’t bothered about my articles and puzzles so long as I got paid. However, when I realised that my name wasn’t appearing on my stories in the annuals, I contacted Anne and asked for future bylines on the grounds of Moral Rights. Anne not only secured this on my behalf, she also sent me copies of past stories with my name added, although they hadn’t appeared that way in many of the annuals. D C Thomson was notorious for not crediting their writers and artists even during my uncles’ day. It also demanded copyright on the stories. It was a case of either accepting the terms or not getting published.

Suzy Plays a trick

You’ve gone on to write books, do you find the process quite different?

My first book was the Children’s History of Manchester, commissioned by Hometown World. It was written to strict guidelines to fit in with a series, and went into second print within weeks of release. I was quickly commissioned to follow with the Children’s History of Lancashire. However, I ran into problems: I’d done the research, but dried up with the actual writing. My brother, David C Holroyd, jumped in to help me, and we wrote the rest of the book together – although he wouldn’t steal my thunder by letting me add his name to the cover.

David then approached me to help with his project – a series of books entitled The perfect pairPerfect Pair Dolphin Trilogy, the factional story of Europe’s top performing dolphins and their psychic trainer, set in the 1970s. I literally typed the manuscript (which David had written in longhand) and helped him to edit and polish. However, despite winning a couple of awards and being used to teaching English and Creative Writing in a UK university, the books have proven very controversial because of their strong anti-captivity message.

So, yes, I found the process different. Heavy research for the history books, and limitations on content, language and style. As for The Perfect Pair Dolphin Trilogy, I didn’t have the stress of turning out a gripping text, because David had already done that. However, the writing, typing and editing took six years in all, during which time we were attempting to look after our poorly dad, whilst also dealing with hostility from those who were trying to block the story.

Unfortunately, I have a short attention span, so have trouble writing substantial amounts of text. I like the fast reward and feedback that comes with writing short stories. 

What stories/articles did you work on and any other comments?

I’m still trying to track a lot of it down – I know for sure that I published many more articles, puzzles and quizzes. Thomson tends to change titles, so some of these stories may have been printed with different titles. I actually didn’t know that Suzy Plays a Trick appeared in The Bunty Annual 2009. I notice that you mention an article entitled We Love Elephants! That’s probably mine, too, because I wrote an article about elephants for Anne, but didn’t know where it featured.

Just as a point of interest, as a little girl, I read Twinkle, then moved on to The Bunty,The Mandy and Tammy. The first thing I ever had published was a letter to The Mandy, telling readers how I got my dog. I was about 13, and the letter was called Tracy’s Trixie.

For a list of publications go to the next page.

Bunty 2009

bunty 2009This is the last Bunty annual, not including any ‘best of Bunty’ books that came out after it.  At a mere 80 pages including covers already it’s at a disadvantage for being 48 pages less than the older annuals. The cover shows a clear change in how they market the book. A cover girl appears but is mostly overwhelmed by flashy banners advertising whats inside and celebrity pictures.  Of course when this annual came out, the weekly issues had stopped for many years, so it may be understandable they are trying different methods to entice readers in with. Inside the annual, there is a table of contents, there are only 8 stories altogether; 4 picture stories, 2 text stories and 2 photo stories, the book is more feature heavy with 22 features. Some of the features  are factual articles, quizzes, posters and puzzle pages. The whole annual is full colour. (For just a list of contents click here)

Picture Stories

The Comp       (Pages: 19-25)

Art: Peter Wilkes

There are a lot of reprints in this annual, but this story I can’t confirm is a reprint,  it has some more up to date (for the time) references, like mention of the  X-Factor tv show, but it may have just updated the dialogue. At Redvale Comp there is going to be a concert for an end of term fund raiser. Laura, Roz,  Hayley and Becca are trying to think of an act for the concert and decide they will perform as  a tribute band – the Spice Girls, as they were when they started. They need a fifth person, they ask Nikki but she says her and Claire are more comfortable handling backstage stuff. Freddy volunteers to be Scary Spice. Stancee, Roz’s stepsister directs the group. They plan to mime and dance, but then the auditions take place and don’t allow any props. They try their best and luckily their routine and explanation means they barely make it, despite the bad singing. On the night of the concert in their costumes they are the hit of the concert, even if Jayne the Payne and Margaret aren’t impressed. The story is fine, nice to see the Comp gang again, although it may seem familiar to me because I think it was quite common for The Comp annual stories to revolve around some sort of concert!

Bunty_2009_comp

Strictly Dancing!      (Pages: 33-38)

Art: Andy Tew

This was first printed in the 1995 annual under a different name – The Perfect Partner. The story has also had a colour update. now in full-colour rather than the orange/black/white it was before. There are some other changes-  like the lettering is different, there are some alterations to the dialogue (mainly to reiterate the title strictly dancing) and the main characters names are changed. Danielle has her name shortened to Danni and Mark  becomes Nat.

The story itself has Nat and Danni as friends and dance partners. It isn’t until someone points out that they would make a great couple that Danni realises her feelings for Nat aren’t platonic. Unfortunately at the same time Nat gets a girlfriend, Zoe. When Zoe comes to watch their dance practices, Danni can’t concentrate and decides to dance solo for a while. Nat misses Danni though and he realizes he also has feelings for her so the resume their partnership and start dating. The colour update is fine, it doesn’t overwhelm the original drawing, so it works well. The forced extra dialogue can be a bit much though “We’re strictly dancing partners”  “It’s strictly dancing to him. Nothing more”.  Still the story holds up well enough and clearly isn’t outdated that it still works 14 years later.

Bunty_2009_strictly

perfectpartners_B95

The Four Marys      (Pages: 45-49)

Art: Jim Eldridge

This first appeared in the 1999 annual. The story is set at Christmas with the opening splash page of the girls and their class caroling around a Christmas tree. Later at a shop the other Marys tell Cotty that she is going to need to brush up on her French when she wins the Chrismas Card Art Competition, the prize of which is a trip to Disneyland Paris. Cotty modest as ever says others could win including Carol, a kind girl whose parents have fallen on hard times. Cotty notices that  Carol gives a little boy some extra money so he can afford to buy a present and get the bus home. Later at school the paintings for the competition are hanging. Everyone is agreeing Cotty’s is the best, but she no longer wants to win and would rather Carol did. Cotty looks at Carol’s knows how it could be improved. That night she makes some changes to both pictures adding a little extra to Carol’s picture and making hers a little duller. The next day Carol wins the competition.

Bunty_2009_4 marys

It is a nice gesture by Cotty but it does seem to diminish Carol’s abilities a bit.  Because of course no one could actually be better than Cotty! Not only does she have to make her own picture look less good she also has to improve Carol’s picture. Also while Cotty’s painting of the school is nice, it’s not very Christmassy compared to Carols.

Carly’s Cats!        (Pages: 57 – 63)

Art: John Armstrong

Another reprint taken from the 1995 annual. The lettering and the title style have changed, probably to fit in better with the rest of the book. There are some slight changes to the dialogue and little changes like the closing statement in the last panel was initially just a thought rather than spoken out loud. Also the main cat’s name changes from Griselda to Maisie.

The story is about  a girl Carly that works in a cat sanctuary but the cats home lease is up, so they have to try to find homes for each of the cats or the cats will be put down. She finds homes for a few, though she does run into a few problems like a fashion designer, who just wants an exotic cat, Tang, as a background ornament. Carly takes Tang back explaining cats are pets not ornaments, luckily on the way home  Tang escapes and runs into a man’s home who would love a new cat after his old one died. One of the cats Maisie keeps getting into trouble by exploring a neighbour’s property. This turns out to be a lucky thing when a fire starts and Maisie wakes up the owner. In gratitude, she offers the cat sanctuary to set up in her old outbuildings.

Bunty_2009_Carlys cats

This was one of my favourite stories when I read it first time around in the older annual, and it still as good now, this is in large part due to John Armstrong’s great artwork.

Text Stories

The New Girl      (Pages: 40-41)

Writer: Susan Elizabeth Issacs
Illustrations: Susannah Fishbourne

The text stories and their spot art are actually credited in this book! It is strange that sometimes text stories would be credited but they still didn’t like to print who was responsible for picture stories. Anyway this story is about a girl Lexi that moves to a new town. On her first day she makes friends with the next door neighbour Petra and her cousin, Dawn, that lives close by. Petra is going away on holidays, but Lexi is excited to make plans with Dawn. But then Dawn doesn’t call all week. When she sees her in town she ignores her. Then she literally bumps into her spilling drink on her, Dawn calls her an idiot and walks away. Lexi is upset but surprised when Petra returns and she still wants to be friends. It turns out Dawn’s been in hospital with appendicitis and it was actually Dawn’s sister Claire that Lexi ran into.

Suzy Plays a Trick      (Pages: 68-69)

Writer: Tracy Joy Holroyd
Illustrations: Susannah Fishbourne

I wonder is this the same Tracy J Holroyd that wrote Children’s History of Lancashire and Children’s History of Manchester? Suzy and her friend Amy decide to play a trick on the cast of the play their in. There is a ghost story about a twisted grey ghost appearing on the balcony of the old theatre. During rehearsal Suzy plans to dress up as the ghost, and then Amy will point out the ghost to everyone.  The trick starts off as planned, and at first Suzy is impressed at Amy’s acting skills, but then everyone starts panicking so she rushes down, to calm them. She meets the boys on the stairs they tell her they knew it was her playing a trick what everyone was scared of was the appearance of a ghastly twisted grey figure behind her! Nice little scary story and the spot art shows that Suzy is a person of colour, which is nice to see some bit of diversity as all the other protagonists in the annuals are white.

bunty 2009_suzy trick

Photo Stories

Two’s Company…      (Pages: 7-12)

Bunty 2009 twos companySally has some trouble in her school as she is being teased because her mum is temporary head. One girl, Lori, is the leader of all this and gets some boys to ask Sally about an upcoming dance, getting her hopes up and then walking away. Luckily Sally has her friend Jo to support her, so when she sees Lori’s brother, Al, waiting near her house she tells him she knows about jokes and cuts him off before he can say anything. Jo talks to him though and convinces Sally to listen to him, he’s not like his sister and really likes Sally and wants to go to the dance with him. I’m not a fan of photo stories but i will give it some recognition for making a more interesting, eye catching layout than normal.

Choices!      (Pages: 72-77)

This is the better of the two photo stories. Andrea is training to be top athlete, unfortunately it means she hasn’t a lot of time for her friends. She is excited when she is entered into county trials and wants to tell her best friend Jackie. It turns out Jackie has news too some friends have been challenged to an inter school bowling match, they want Andrea to play but she can’t because its the night before the trials. She is upset when Jackie doesn’t understand. During training her coach can tell somethings wrong, and Jackie tells her, she is torn between friends and athletics. The coach listen but tells her that Andrea has to come to her own decision about whats most important. She decides she wants to see how good an athlete she can be. But while athletics is the dream she wants to pursue she is also more conscious of neglecting her friends and realizes she can do more. Her and Jackie make up and Andrea says she’ll come to the bowling game to cheer them on for a little bit.

Bunty_2009_choices

Features

This annual is more feature heavy then previous annuals and there is also more focus on celebrities, but there is still room for quizzes, puzzles and crafts. While some of the articles have photos, the features with illustrations are actually credited.

A to Z of Things We Like!      (Pages: 2-3, 78-79)

Illustrations: Susannah Fishbourne

Inside the covers is a bright list of things that the readers may like such as Friends, Kittens, Reading, X-Mas.

Bunty_2009 AtoZ

Starscope      (Page: 4)

A short horoscope – as a Gemini mine was: A text or email might bring big news. Lucky Month: March, Lucky Number: 7 Star Birthday: Johnyy Depp (9th June)

Posters      (Pages: 6, 18, 39, 70)

A poster for every season of the year. These are photos of animals. Spring – Chickens, Summer- kitten, Autumn – Westie and Winter – Penguin. Each animal also has a funny thought or speech bubble.

10 Funky Facts About…      (Pages: 13, 28, 44, 51, 56)

The more celebrity based feature telling us about; Miley Cyrus, the ‘High School’ Guys (Zac Efron, Corbin Bleu, Lucas Grabeel), Ashley Tisdale, Emma Roberts, Dylan and Cole Sprouse

Quizzes:

There are several quizzes throughout the annual, 2 involve answering questions and seeing is full under the mostly a, b, c or d category. Those two quizzes are checking how good a friend you are and what starsign your personality matches up with. There is a also a flowchart quiz to determine what type of holidays do you like

  • How Do You Rate as a Mate?      (Pages: 14-15) [Illustrations: Wayne Thompson]
  • Home or Away?      (Page: 50)
  • Are You Really Like Your Star Sign?  (Pages: 54-55) [Illustrations: Wayne Thompson]Bunty_2009_Mate

 

Puzzles:

There are a variety of puzzles, including Take Five! which has word searches on topics like animals, British places, collectibles.  Other puzzles are crosswords, ladder puzzles and spot the difference.

  • Take Five!      (Pages: 16-17, 52-53)
  • Puzzled!      (Pages: 42-43)
  • Snakes ‘n’ Ladders      (Pages: 66-67)

All About….     (Pages: 26-27, 64-65)

Readers share a part of their life, first up is Alex  who likes reading, baking and helps her dad look after bees. The second is about Amelia, who likes acting, swimming and fortune telling.

We Love Elephants!      (Pages: 29-31)

Three pages dedicated to Elephants, which leads into the next feature…

Create Your Very Own Ele-Friend      (Page: 32)

Some arts and crafts with instructions to make paper mache elephant.

Chill Out!      (Page: 71)

Another factual article about animals, in this case – penguins.

Final Thoughts

The content of this annual is actually fine, there is quite a nice variety, but it does suffer in comparison to other annuals by having less pages. It’s funny that The Best of Bunty Annual that came out last year had a few less pages but seems more substantial (of course has to be noted that the target audience is different for that book). For me at least that is probably because it had more space dedicated to stories, 60 pages compared to the 42 pages in this annual. Another thing that I don’t like in this annual is the lettering, it’s most prominent in comparing it to the older stories that were reprinted. It’s less subtle, bigger and bolder and doesn’t always suit the story.  There is a consistency throughout the annual, which can be nice, I was also happy to see some people credited with their work.