I finally met writer/journalist Annette Shaw at the World Book Night event I spoke at in Devon a few weeks back. She’s given my novel a tremendous boost, by making it Book of the Month in Devon Life last year.
I asked Annette about her writing and this is what she had to say…..
What form does your writing take? It varies tremendously from book reviews to features to specific PR projects. Have pen will write!
How often do you write? Pretty much everyday because writing is my business.
How does writing make you feel? Depends what it is – for a client or a publication. As a job there’s always a strong element of satisfaction and I love doing the research. If it’s a complex, yet concise, feature of say, 1500 words, it’s a bit like weaving a tapestry. For example, I had a commissioned piece recently whereby the editor wanted specific content in the introduction, it had to be spread across a geographical area in terms of case histories, cover several aspects of health care and I had to source the photographs. I love watching it come together as my fingers move across the keyboard! Then there’s the polishing. Over and over. Is there a better way of saying something? Is my word count on track? Is it interesting enough? Are all my quotes accurate? Sort of literary sewing topped off with elbow grease until it shines. That’s the practical/intellectual side.
Emotionally it means the world. As my life took unexpected twists and turns writing kept me motivated and was a reason to get up in the morning and do something interesting. For reasons which will become clear, I was housebound for the best part of 17 years. I had to use the time wisely or go bonkers. Reading and writing helped restore my self-esteem and rebuild self-worth as well as give me an income. With the benefit of 20:20 hindsight I can see books and words have always been a great part of my life. I feel at home. When my fellow school friends got weekend jobs in stores like Etam I approached the local library. My Saturday mornings were spent reading to children, stamping and stacking books.
Where/when do you write? My spare bedroom doubles as an office. Quite often I work at weekends and have Sunday on say, Tuesday – one of the more alluring sides of self-employment.
What do you write about? Gosh. It’s been incredibly diverse. So far, in the first five months of 2016, the list includes dementia, ageing, mental health, books, leisure, profiles of people and literary festivals. Over the years I’ve written NHS Annual Reports including one for the Royal Free Hospital, helped edit books and ghost wrote one that was serialised in the national press.
What’s the best thing about writing? Creativity. That’s central to it. Also, it’s terrific when a piece helps someone or makes them think, particularly with emotional intelligence work.
How long have you been writing for? A long time now! In the summer of 1987, age 30, I was at a crossroads – big stuff. I was trying to figure out how to stop taking repeat, long-term prescription tranquillisers and have a family. I’d read a lot of books by Norman Vincent Peale – his words had a profound effect on me. Each night I asked my mind to tell me what to do next. One morning I woke up and momentarily it was as if I’d seen a neon sign. START BUSINESS BECOME WRITER. Crikey. I was a tax manager and writing wasn’t exactly something that had surfaced in the family gene pool in any generation. But the pull of that moment was so powerful I did exactly that.
In 1988 I set up at home as a tax consultant. Then I did little PR pieces for the girls in a business network that I launched and sent those into the local paper. In 1993, between my own health nose-diving and filling in tax returns, I got work on Practice Manager – a magazine that goes to every NHS practice. By 1994 I was writing for the national press and secured membership of the Guild of Health Writers. When the phone rang I never knew whether I’d be talking to an Inspector of Taxes or an editor.
As a freelancer I’ve contributed to The Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Times as well as most of the women’s magazines. As a writer it’s been a privilege to interview to some amazing people from Anita Roddick to Terry Waite. Not bad for someone who still has mental health fall-out from tranquilisers. So, whilst many opportunities have sadly been lost forever – the family never happened, you could say the resultant agoraphobia opened doors that could have remained firmly closed. And that’s the magic of creativity.