I began my working life as a typist. I left school at 16 with only shorthand typing certificates, a couple of CSEs and one O level. I worked for four years in a variety of office jobs progressing from office junior to personal assistant. But I always wanted more so I went to night school to get the Os and As I’d missed at school due to messing about/having too much fun. I was immensely fortunate to be born when I was, at a time of full employment and full grants. I took full advantage of both.
There were three blissful years of college at the fabulous Kingston Polytechnic, now University, where I studied social science – the media studies degree of those days in that it got a lot of stick and “what on earth’s that?” comments.
While at college I worked nights at the BBC World Service in the news department typing the news live as it happened. It was here, as well as editing the student newspaper, that I got the bug for journalism. When I left college and was taken on as cub reporter on my local paper The Surrey Comet there was much cheering and congratulating in the World Service newsroom that night as desk drawers were opened and bottles with various kinds of coloured liquids pulled out, BBC paper cups filled and I was toasted as joining their ranks. Misty-eyed reminiscences filled the rest of our shift.
I worked at the Comet for four very happy years going from cub reporter to senior reporter, feature writer and sub-editor. But, as ever, I wanted more. So I left to work on a national trade paper but as women’s magazines were my true love, I went freelance and apart from a few occasions when I’ve been persuaded to take a job, I’ve always returned to freelancing. Guess I love insecurity. There’s truly no other explanation for it.
I’ve written for all the top titles including (warning! list follows) Cosmopolitan, The Guardian, The Observer, The Mirror, Company, New Woman, Cleo, ELLE , Woman and Home, Mother and Baby, Tatler, SHE, Ms London and The Daily Record. I’ve been sold into 22 countries and translated into languages I’ve never heard of. After three decades in the business, the thrill of seeing my byline never goes, perhaps because of the way I started – typing other people’s words. Now I type my own. There might be a better way to earn a living. But I seriously doubt it.
I now earn most of my living working in communications and PR – or comms as it’s often called. I moved into this because increasingly it was what I was being asked to do. And I enjoy it immensely. It’s nice to have a change though I’ll still be working as a journalist too. You can make a living as a writer even in this vicious economic climate. But you need to diversify. And actually, that’s rather good fun. I’ve even started writing fiction; short stories to start off but we’ll see where it goes. Sold my first story to Take a Break Fiction Feast. Called Ground Control to Mum it ran in March 2013. No link as it’s not available online.
Be a journalist
I do realise that none of this is the slightest bit use to you if you came here to find out how you too can get into journalism. I came in the traditional way via a non-traditional start and it’s tough, though not impossible, to do that now. If you want to be a journalist you need to care about journalism so the first thing you should do is support the printed press. Buy a newspaper, subscribe to a magazine. Read read read. Then think about how and where you can make a contribution and who will want to read what you want to write. Start small, find stories others can’t get, turn your friends and family into copy. Okay so you’ll alienate them horribly but ours has never been a loved profession/trade. If you want to be loved, become an actor.
And if that hasn’t put you off, do see my FAQs which go into more detail about journalism.
Thanks for stopping by.