Monday 24 March 2008


I stumbled into journalism purely by chance, which seems to be the story of my life!

It was a number of years ago and I was doing a correspondence course with THE WRITERS' BUREAU, which I found extremely helpful, particularly my tutor MARGOT RANERI.

Anyway, I was doing the creative writing course, which consisted of about a dozen different detailed assignments involving all aspects of creative writing, so I was a tad surprised to receive an assignment about journalism, but reasoned that it must be part of the course so I spent some considerable time on it, as I did with all the assignments. AND I was doing everything long-hand because I didn't have a computer. I was, literally, one of those stone-agers who didn't even know how to turn one of the damn things on.

The final part of the assignment was to write a short newspaper article for a local newspaper. I decided to base mine on my friend, Prue Daniels, who had taught herself how to dress make and tailor so she could make clothes for her family. Word spread that her work was good and it developed into a small business that she operated from home. The 'hook' was that she made curtains for one of the exhibitors at The Ideal Homes show, which most people have heard about.

So, I interviewed Prue, which, to my surprise, I felt totally at ease with, as if journalism were my 'raison d'etre', and wrote the article and sent off the assignment to THE WRITERS' BUREAU. And they sent it back, unmarked, saying that it had been a mistake on their part, that the assignment wasn't part of my course. So, I sent it back again and reasoned with them that I had spent several months doing this assignment so could they please make an exception and have some-one look at it, which, to their credit, they did.

Then I sent the article about Prue to one of the local newspaper that I had researched but it was sent back: thank you but no thank you. So, I put it away and left it for about a year.

I can't remember what prompted me to dust it off and send it to another newspaper. It was probably because I was sorting out my writing, came across it and thought I'd try again with another newspaper: The Hampshire Chronicle.

This was just after the 9.11 atrocity and, hoping to entice the paper with the possibility of an article about a friend of mine, Kath Cocklin, who was very much involved in the aftermath of the Twin Towers destruction, I mentioned this in my accompanying letter. And I got a phone call! Yes, we'll have the article about Prue but we'll also have the 9.11 article! AND we need photographs.

I'm not a photographer but I was game to at least have a go.

Now all I needed to do was to ask my friend, Kath, if I could interview her!

Luckily, she agreed, so I went to her office in Winchester, interviewed her, took some photos on my little camera, wrote the article and sent it plus photos off.

I was really proud of that article - my very first - because it was centered around 9.11 because, like many people, I was deeply affected by that event. It seemed so monstrous an action that it was hardly believable and I felt sure that World War 3 was about to start if America retaliated immediately.

I was on my way to Forest Mere Health Farm when I heard the news on the radio, thinking at first that it was a hoax. Only one of the towers had been hit then. By the time I got to Forest Mere, the second tower had been hit, and later on, the third plane had crashed into The Pentagon and a fourth had crashed missing it's target because of the bravery of many of its passengers. So, I spent my days there, alternating between therapies, exercise classes and watching CNN news in my room.

Our family have a lot of relatives and business friends in America and the restaurant at the top of one of the towers was sometimes used for business meetings and we also have a friend who used one of those air-routes regularly, so it was a tense time checking that people were okay, which, thankfully, they were.

But for my friend, Kath, who runs a business helping business people re-locate from America to the UK and vice versa, she wasn't so lucky. The husband of one of her staff in New York State was lost in one of the towers, so she flew to New York to attend the funeral and offer support, at a time when most people were too frightened of flying, and that's what my article was about, entitled: New York - grieving city of courage and comradeship

After this first article, all my pieces were accompanied by photos I had either taken myself or set up and I'm really proud of that.

As well as the two articles I had published about SAUCY SHORTS FOR CHEFS and SEXY SHORTS FOR THE BEACH, which I have written about in my short stories section, I have had the following articles published in The Hampshire Chronicle:-

* Putting a prayer into every stitch - about my friend, Prue's, tailoring business.

* For Sally, well-being and beauty go hand in hand - about beautician Sally Tucker, who does the best facial I've ever had.

* Spreading the word on a three-week walk - about the vicar of my church, Christ Church, his beliefs and the special evangelistic event he and the church were part of.

* Cara's planning a men's fashion revolution- based on Winchester College of Art student Cara Craven, who specializes in creating textured details for men's clothing.

*B&B with the personal touch. Winchester has a number of B&B's but the one I wrote about - Wolvesey View, run by John Holder, is special because it was once the home of the mother of the actor, Alec Guinness.

The ones that got away:-

Unfortunately, I couldn't get these articles published , which I thought was a big pity.

* The Boys Who Rock . This was about a group of students from Eastleigh College who had formed themselves into a dance group, inspired by the film 'Billy Eliot.'Under the guidance of dance teacher April Inglis, who I used to teach, they were due to put on a show at Winchester University, with dance students from Bellemore School, Southampton, where the singer Craig Davies went to school. The article was to advertise the show and celebrate the positive things that school kids were doing, as opposed to all the negative media coverage. But the editor in charge of the education section of the Hampshire Chronicle wanted to re-write it under her own name and neither April nor I wanted to be privy to that. The show itself was tremendous and there was some genuinely serious talent and I was disappointed that I wasn't going to be the first journalist to record it.

* Rugby Fans Reclaim The Flag. I submitted this article about a first-hand account of the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia when England won in the dying moments because of Jonny Wilkinson's drop kick. I had watched the match and was elated when England won, inspiring me to write a short story - God, Girls and Saint Jonny (not published YET)- so when a family friend, Annitta Engel, a rugby fanatic who was at that match, visited us for the week-end, I just knew I had to write her story. I suspected that I had missed the boat time-wise but went ahead anyway and I had a superb picture of Annitta and her two friends decked out in the Union Jack colours. This was just before Christmas so I e-mailed a number of national papers and actually got a response from one (which one I can't remember but the editor was called John major, so I remembered that name), but once he realised that I didn't have a photo of Prince Harry at the match, he lost interest.

Now why do I suspect that newspapers aren't that interested in good news stories...

And finally:-

The Magical Music of Morocco. This was an article based on the blog I wrote for daftnotstupidabout the Xmas Night Lila in Essaouira, Morocco 2007. I also sent pictures of the Gnaoua musicians which were very good indeed (possibly because my husband took them!). I sent copies off to 7 daily and Sunday broadsheets and so far, 5 have returned. Either the papers are holding onto them or they've chucked them, despite the inclusion of S.A.E. I'm hoping for the former!

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