I believe anyone can write.
After all, if you can make yourself understood verbally, why not in written form as well? I’m not too fussed about the informality of e-mails or the impenetrable abbreviations of texts or the restrictive Twitter template and I can even cope (well, almost) with our American friends turning every noun into a verb. Nor can I be accused of being old fashioned as I relish the introduction of new words and phrases. What really irritates me is bad grammar, poor spelling, over-blown descriptions and clichés. It’s not that you can’t write, it’s just that you’re lazy. I’m not arrogant enough to claim that my writing is exceptional, but I write because I have to and I am blessed with an insatiable curiosity. These two characteristics have led me by the hand since I was eight when one of my stories ‘THE CAT WHO HAD A PARTY’ was published in the Berkhamsted School for Girls’ magazine.
‘Once upon a time there lived a cat who was very proud of himself. He had very long whiskers and a big fluffy black tail. He was black all over except for his four paws which were white. One day he decided to have a party. He went to his writing desk and took a pen and paper and, on the top of the paper, he wrote “A PARTY LIST” ….
You’re right, hardly Booker Prize material but, reading it now, I can see tadpole beginnings of an ability to observe and describe. And I still have a writing desk and use a fountain pen.
My first paid for writing began when I was a researcher on the television programme THIS IS YOUR LIFE (hosted by Eamon Andrews).
There I had to learn to write vivid biographies of unsuspecting subjects and find fifty different ways of saying ‘and you haven’t seen him/her for more than twenty-five years, come in …..’
An apparent ability to write clean, crisp copy got me a job as a reporter on London’s first commercial all-speech radio station LBC, where I not only had to interview people, but edit the interviews and write ‘in and out’ cues – the introduction and sign off that was read by the newsreader. Promotion (and demotion) was rapid in those early days of commercial radio and I was quickly elevated to the ranks of an on-air presenter, which not only required nerves of steel and speed of light adaptability, but also honed my skills to write arresting trails and links.
It was not to last. Not for the first time in its short history, LBC fell down the financial abyss and several of us were made redundant; looking back, probably one of the best things to happen to me in my professional life. My co-presenter, film maker Tony Palmer, and our producer (the late Jason Pollock) set up an independent radio production Company – Ladbroke Productions (which has just celebrated its 40th anniversary). From very small beginnings, we became the BBC’s first independent client, garnered several awards and earned me enough to pay an au pair while our two boys were very young.
Apart from a 1,000 word tongue-in-cheek annual Christmas letter, I did very little writing until I had formed Ladbroke’s sister Company, Electric Airwaves – which specialises in media and presentation training and speech writing. From those experiences, I wrote two ‘how to books’ – HOW TO TAKE ON THE MEDIA and EFFECTIVE PRESENTATION.
It is only in the past few years that I have been able to afford to make and take the time to write seriously. I’ve written two novels SLICE OF LIME and CROCODILE CLIPS, and am currently at the thinking stage of an ambitious story DAUGHTERS AND MOTHERS about three very different women and how they cope with their lives and their ageing mothers. I’ve lost count of the number of short stories and articles, but I was fascinated to discover, when I was collating the former, to see that they shared a common theme; how women survive (or not) in today’s world. My introduction to travel writing came when I kept a journal of a trip to Tanzania which resulted in ZEBRAS ON THE RUNWAY. I am currently half way through PLENTY MANGO – tales from the Caribbean – a humorous series of essays about living on the tiny volcanic island of Montserrat.
And, finally, just in case you ask – of course I’ve been rejected, many, many times, but that doesn’t stop me from writing!